Confused by all the university jargon? So are we at times. To help everyone out, we’ve put together a glossary that explains some of the most common technical terms you’ll come across at university.


Your go-to glossary

The following list explains some of the technical terms you might encounter as a future or current student – especially during application and enrolment.

You should know that this list is only for guidance. Some of these terms also appear in our handbook, policies, rules and/or regulations. When they do, those definitions take precedence.


Academic staff

A person who is authorised to undertake an academic role within the university, including a person who holds an adjunct or other form of honorary appointment.



If your course is designed to equip you for professional registration, it likely requires accreditation by the relevant professional or registration authority.

Course accreditation is typically done following its development, review and approval phases. The faculty makes a formal application to the relevant professional or registration authority.

The course’s accreditation status is then be published on our website and in our Australian Higher Education Graduation Statement (AHEGS).


Adjustment factors

Previously known as ‘bonus points’, these are additional points that may be used in combination with your Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) to derive your course selection rank.

Adjustments do not change your ATAR, but they do change your selection rank for a particular course or courses.


Admission pathways

These are any options available to prospective higher education students that allow them to meet the entry requirements of their chosen courses and gain admission.


Advanced standing

A form of credit for any previous learning (Australian Qualifications Framework definition).



If you apply for admission to a program of study with us, you are an applicant.


Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF)

The government framework for recognition and endorsement of qualifications and to provide education standards in Australia.

The AQF Council develops a number of policies and standards that we must comply with in order to maintain the standing of our courses.


Associate degree

A qualification requiring two years of full-time study, or part-time equivalent. An associate degree can count towards a full bachelor degree.



The process of measuring and developing student learning outcomes. Following an assessment, students receive feedback on their progress and are awarded a final grade or result.


Assumed knowledge

Some university courses assume that students have studied certain subjects at school. It’s best to do these recommended subjects at high school, so you can avoid falling behind.

If you haven’t done one or more of these subjects, you may be able to do a bridging course.



ATAR stands for Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank and is calculated by the relevant state’s tertiary admissions centre (TAC). It is based on your overall academic achievement in Year 12 and ranges from 30 to 99.95 (lowest to highest).

ATAR is a rank, not a score. It basically tells you what percentage of the Year 12 population you beat. For example, someone with an ATAR of 65 performed as well as or better than 65% of students in Australia.

Most of our undergraduate courses specify a minimum ATAR you will need in order to be considered for a place. This is called the course cut-off.



A degree, diploma, certificate or other qualification that is approved by our academic board and conferred (awarded) to you upon completion of all your relevant course requirements.


Bachelor degree

Also known as an undergraduate degree, a bachelor degree requires three to four years of full-time study, or part-time equivalent.

During your bachelor degree, you’ll attend lectures and tutorials for each unit (subject), with each unit relating to your major, minor, core curriculum or electives.

If you are studying your bachelor degree full-time, you will typically study four of these units per semester (six months).



The Australian Government assigns disciplines to various bands. This is to determine your level of financial contribution as a student.


Bridging course

If you feel uncomfortable with your preparation for university study, or don’t meet the assumed knowledge requirements, you can prepare yourself with the help of an intensive bridging course.


Census date

A date within each study period specified within the academic calendar where your enrolment in a unit of study is deemed final for that study period.

Please note: Your official enrolment status at the census date determines issues such as financial liability and use of student learning entitlement.



Any form of delivered teaching, learning or assessment activity such as: lecture, tutorial, seminar, laboratory, practical work or field work. Classes can be conducted face-to-face, online or via distance learning.


Commonwealth supported place (CSP)

A university place awarded to eligible students where the Australian Government pays for most of the cost. You pay a portion of the cost, known as the student contribution.


Core curriculum

A series of academic units providing a common learning experience across all our undergraduate programs.

Our core curriculum aims to teach you to think critically and ethically, and to be guided by social justice principles in your personal and professional lives.


Core unit

A subject you must complete as part of your degree.



An approved program of study that leads to an accredited higher education award.


Coursework degrees

Postgraduate coursework degrees are structured similarly to undergraduate degrees and involve going to lectures and tutorials.

You may also be able to undertake a small research project.


Credit points

The numerical value attached to a subject. To complete your degree, you need to attain a certain number of credit points.


Credit transfer

If you have completed parts of a course at another university, you may be able to credit these results to your ACU course via credit transfer.

In order to qualify for credit transfer, your previous qualification must match your new qualification as defined by the AQF.



Deferral guarantees you a place at uni, but delays your enrolment for up to two years. You could use this time to take a gap year, volunteer, or work and save some money.



A qualification requiring two years of full-time study, or part-time equivalent.



A defined branch of study or learning.


Direct application

If you apply directly to us rather than through a tertiary admissions centre (TAC), you have made a direct application.


Domestic student

You are a domestic student if you are an Australian citizen, a New Zealand citizen or the holder of a permanent resident visa or a permanent humanitarian visa. If not, you might be regarded as an international student.


Double degree

Two degrees studied at the same time. Double degrees typically take less time to complete than if each degree was completed separately.


Early offer/entry

When we make you an offer of enrolment while you’re still at secondary school, before your ATARs or equivalent (eg OP in Queensland, IB) are released.

These offers are generally conditional on you meeting other requirements, such as successful completion of a Senior Secondary Certificate of Education or achievement of a specified minimum ATAR.


Elective unit

A subject or unit that counts towards your degree, but can be unrelated to your specialisation.


Enabling course

A course designed to provide students with skills needed for success in further study, and to assist in the transition to tertiary education – for example study techniques or English language skills.

Successfully completing an enabling course helps prepare a person to be admitted to a course that leads to a higher education award.



Once you receive an offer into a uni course, you will be invited to register your subject choices and pay or defer your fees. This process is known as enrolment.


Entry requirements

The minimum qualifications required for entry into a course, eg a minimum entry score, specific subjects or an audition/interview.



A central or school examination. Central examinations are conducted within the formal examination period, while school examinations may be held during the designated central examination period or at any other time specified for an examination in the unit outline.



You are excluded if you are prohibited from participating in any unit, program or university activity. You may also be unable to enter any site where we conduct our activities.



An academic department that specialises in a particular field of study, eg the Faculty of Health Sciences.



Any tuition fee, late fee or other charge or fine you might have to pay.


Fee-paying place

A place in a course for domestic students where the student pays tuition fees to the University without the Australian Government contributing to the cost of study.


Field of study

The complete set of concepts, terms and activities that make up a learning program.



To be regarded as full-time, you must be undertaking a load of at least 0.75 EFTSL (equivalent full-time student load or load). For example, in a course with the standard annual credit point load of 80 credit points, you must undertake at least 30 credit points per semester to be enrolled full-time.



If you have met the requirements for course completion but haven’t yet received your award, you are a graduand.



If you have successfully completed the requirements for your degree and received your award, you are a graduate.


Higher degree by research

A course in which the thesis component constitutes no less than two-thirds of the degree requirements.



An additional year of full-time study attached to a bachelor degree to allow for greater understanding and specialisation.


International Baccalaureate (IB)

The IB Diploma program is a senior secondary education curriculum and assessment offered by some schools as an alternative to the Australian National Curriculum. It is overseen by state and territory curriculum and assessment authorities.

Australian tertiary admission centres (TACs) convert IB scores to a notional ATAR or QTAC Selection Rank (not an OP), enabling IB students to be ranked for tertiary entrance alongside their peers.


International student

You are an international student if you need a student visa to study in Australia.

Maintenance of the visa is subject to numerous conditions prescribed by government, including a requirement to complete the course in the minimum duration as provided on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS).

You may take longer than the minimum duration if we have instigated a documented intervention strategy.



A formal (and usually large) class conducted by an academic lecturer.



A specialisation in a bachelor degree. A major typically comprises about eight subjects. You can tailor your major and can usually complete more than one in a degree.



A sub-specialisation in a bachelor degree – usually four subjects.



Study leading to an award that is not an accredited higher education award, for example a certificate or an advanced certificate.


Non-standard study period

One or more periods of study that fall outside the formal Semester 1 and Semester 2 study periods, including: Summer and Winter Terms, Professional Terms 1 to 8 and the Research Terms A to D.


Offer round

The series of dates throughout the year where we issue offers of higher education places to applicants, either through a tertiary admission centre or directly to you.



The tertiary entrance rank used in Queensland. It is calculated by the Queensland Studies Authority. It is similar to an ATAR; however, students are placed in one of 25 OP bands – where 1 is the highest.

The OP is a rank, not a score. It shows how well you performed in comparison to other Year 12 students in Queensland.

Most university courses specify a minimum OP you will need in order to be considered for a place. This is called the course cut-off.



Your introduction to university life. Orientation activities can include touring our facilities, learning about your area of study before your first semester begins, and setting up your student card and computer access.



You’re a part-time student if you undertake a load of less than 0.75 EFTSL (equivalent full time student load, or load). For example, in a course with the standard annual credit point load of 80 credit points, a part-time student undertakes fewer than 30 credit points per semester.



A qualification that usually follows on from a bachelor degree, such as a masters or PhD. Postgraduate courses allow for more in-depth research and specialisation.


Prerequisite requirements

Prerequisites are designed to make sure you have the knowledge and skills needed for success in your studies. You must meet these requirements before you can enrol in particular units.

For example, some undergraduate courses need applicants to have successfully completed certain prerequisite subjects in Year 12 to be eligible for entry.

If you don’t have the right prerequisites, there may be alternative entry options such as completing a TAFE course or a university bridging course.


Professional experience

Also known as professional experience placement, this is any clinical, counselling, teaching or field practicum, or other assessable professional or practical experience unit.


Professional experience unit

This is any unit containing a clinical, counselling, teaching or field practicum component (or other assessable professional placement).



An umbrella term that includes any accredited higher education course and/or any non-award course of this university.


Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

RPL is an assessment process for recognising any relevant formal, non-formal and informal learning you might already have.

When you apply for RPL, we collect evidence and make judgements on the extent to which you satisfy the required outcomes. You can then gain entry to (and/or credit towards) your qualification with us.


Recommended subjects

These are Year 12 subjects that prepare you for your chosen degree. If you haven’t completed any, you may be able to do a bridging course instead.


Research degrees

Research degrees allow you to focus on your field of choice.

When you become a research student, you don’t usually attend lectures or tutorials. Instead, you conduct independent research activities under the supervision of a senior academic.



A department specialising in a particular field within the faculty (academic department) of a university, such as the National School of Education.


Selection rank

This is a ranking we use to assess your admission to a course. Your course selection rank can include your ATAR, any adjustment factors you might be eligible for, and any other contributions such as work experience or the results of a Special Tertiary Admissions Test.



A specialist discipline or field of study for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Your specialisation represents no less than half of the total credit points required for your award.


Standard study period

The standard study period comprises Semester 1 and Semester 2.



If you are suspended, you receive a temporary prohibition from participating in any unit, program or university activity. You might also be disallowed from entering any site where we conduct our activities.


TAC application

An application to study with us made through a state tertiary admission centre (TAC), namely QTAC, UAC, VTAC, SATAC, TISC and University of Tasmania.



When you can no longer progress academically, or participate in any unit or program.



A small class conducted outside of, but in addition to, lectures. Tutorials can feature discussions, academic exercises and questions. Your attendance of your scheduled tutorials may contribute to your final marks.



When you start uni, you are an undergraduate student working towards your bachelor or associate degree.



A subject within a course. Each subject or unit has a specified number of credit points that count towards a degree.


Work placement

Practical training in a work environment that may be a part of your degree.


You might also like

University handbook

The handbook is the definitive guide to ACU. Learn about our course rules, regulations and general information.

Read handbook

Policies and procedures

Discover all of our policies, procedures and statutes for students and staff in our one-stop policy hub.

Access hub

Contact international student support

Our international team is happy to help you with any questions about arriving, living and studying in Australia.

Talk to us

Contact us

Didn’t find the answer you were looking for? Get in touch with our AskACU team or search for your answer on our knowledge database.

Get answers

Have a question?

We're available 9am–5pm AEDT,
Monday to Friday

If you’ve got a question, our AskACU team has you covered. You can search FAQs, text us, email, live chat, call – whatever works for you.

Live chat with us now

Chat to our team for real-time
answers to your questions.

Launch live chat

Visit our FAQs page

Find answers to some commonly
asked questions.

See our FAQs