A-Z glossary


Academic year - also refers to the University year, which runs from 01 August to 31 July the following year; within this there are two teaching blocks which make up the academic teaching session.  Students' actual period of study will vary according to their course.


Bachelor degree - an undergraduate course of academic study and usually takes three years to complete.  It leads to a qualification such as a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BSc), or Bachelor of Engineering (BEng). See also the University credit framework.

Blackboard - the University of Bristol's centrally supported online learning environment. Blackboard gives you access to study materials for units and programmes, and allows student-to-student and student-to-academic communication. Help with using Blackboard.


Calendar - by logging on to MyBristol you will be able to access the University of Bristol Calendar, detailing term dates and key University dates.

Campus - the central grounds and buildings of the University. Find your way around using the campus and city maps.

Co-requisite - a unit which you must take in the same academic year (or concurrently) with another unit.

Consultation hours - see open door.

Course - a formal structured course of study which leads to an award, such as a degree, diploma or certificate. The structure of each taught course is available in the Unit catalogue. The University also offers you access to a wide range of free study skills training workshops.

Credit points - denote the notional amount of time (formal classes plus private study) allocated to a unit of teaching. Credit points are awarded to a learner in recognition of the verified achievement of designated learning outcomes at a specified level.

Curriculum - describes the learning opportunities which are organised in a particular learning situation e.g. unit or course.


Dean - the head of a faculty, each dean is a senior member of the academic staff.  There are six faculties at the University of Bristol and each faculty is divided into schools, departments and/or centres. More about the roles and responsibilities of deans.

Degree - the standard qualification you study towards at University. Students can obtain either a undergraduate or postgraduate degree.

Department - the University is organised into six faculties, contained within each faculty are a number of schools. Some schools are also divided into subject-specific departments, for example the School of Arts contains the following departments: Archaeology and Anthropology, Drama, Film and Theatre, Music, and Philosophy.  


Element - a course structure is made up of a number of 'elements' which may range from an introductory session, lectures, project, placement, to a piece of individual extended work.

Extenuating circumstances - events that affect your performance in assessements. They are normally unexpected or unavoidable and outside your immediate control. The regulations and code of practice for taught programmes describes the extenuating circumstances policy and process. The Students' Union provide a guide to explain the extenuating circumstances part of the code.


Faculty - the University has six faculties: Arts, Engineering, Medical and Veterinary Sciences, Medicine and Dentistry, Science, and Social Sciences and Law.  Each faculty is made up of several academic schools. Every student belongs, for administrative purposes, to one faculty only - even if s/he studies in more than one faculty. You will usually belong to the faculty based on the subject listed first in your degree title, eg a student studying Mathematics and Philosophy will belong to the Faculty of Science, not to the Faculty of Arts. 

Faculty Education Director - a senior position within the Faculty, Education Directors report to the Dean and work closely with the Pro-Vice-Chancellor responsible for Education and Students. There are two Education Directors for each faculty, each takes a role in relation to undergraduate or graduate affairs.

Faculty Quality Enhancement Teams (FQET) - Faculty Quality Enhancement Teams play a key role in quality assurance and enhancement of the student experience; they are teams of academic staff and students who consider and review school/departmental mechanisms for monitoring and sustaining academic standards and educational experience.

Fieldwork - many courses in subjects such as Biological Sciences, Geography and Archaeology incorporate work outside the classroom, such as study trips to field stations and digs.

Fresher - an informal expression used to describe a new undergraduate student.


Graduate - a person who has met the requirements for a degree and been awarded it.


Head of School/Department/Subject - the person responsible for the management of an academic school or department or subject area.


Intercalated degree - a one-year programme which gives students enrolled on Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary Sciences programmes the opportunity to study related subjects in greater depth.

Integrated Masters degree - an undergraduate course of academic study spanning several levels that usually takes four years to complete.  It leads to a qualification such as a Master of Engineering (MEng), Master of Science (MSci).  See also the University credit framework.

Introductory week - see Welcome week.


Joint Honours - these courses offer students the opportunity to divide their time between two subject areas.  Joint honours programmes will usually include the word 'and' in the degree title, eg Philosophy and Mathematics.


Laboratories - lab classes usually run for two to four hours and are common in science subjects. You will get the chance to carry out experiments and tasks, and write up lab reports using your findings. Like tutorials, they are smaller groups where you can ask questions and put your new knowledge into practice.

Learning outcomes/Intended learning outcomes - these apply to both units and courses and are a statement of what a learner is expected to know, understand and/or be able to demonstrate after completion of a process of learning and the end of the unit/course.  They can be found in the Unit/Course Catalogue.

Lecture - a discourse on a particular subject usually given to a large group of students and with the aim of providing an introduction to or exposition of a topic or subject area.

Level (of study) - each unit has a level of study; this is based on the outcomes and attributes of the learning within the unit. The University uses a credit framework to show the level of its awards and the amount of credit required at each level for each award.


Module - see unit.

MyBristol/Portal - MyBristol is the University of Bristol’s web portal, a gateway to web-based services within and beyond the University.


Open door/Office hour - lecturers and tutors all offer office hours during term time where you can drop in without an appointment.  Office hours are a great resource for you to keep in touch with your tutor, ask questions, or to clarify any problems or difficulties you are having.


Part-time study - offers students a more flexible approach to learning, allowing students with other (outside) commitments to complete their studies over a longer period of time. The degree will take longer to complete part-time but the end qualification will be the same. 

Pathway - a route through a course, incorporating a particular combination of units which leads to a variant of the main award, for example the BSc in Geography has human and/or physical geography pathways.

Personal tutor - a member of academic staff in the student's school who is his/her first point of contact for any personal or academic problems. All taught students are assigned a personal tutor (except for MB ChB students, where different arrangements/terminology apply) and are expected to have meetings with him/her at regular intervals.

Practical sessions - practical work may be lab-based or computer based, or it may involve dramatic performances, clinical practice or fieldwork. The format will vary depending on the course of study. 

Portal - see MyBristol.

Postgraduate degree - postgraduate qualifications can only be taken by students who have already completed a bachelor’s degree, ie graduates.  They involve more advanced study and include master’s degrees, postgraduate certificates and diplomas, and doctorates (PhDs).

Preliminary year of study - the University offers some degree courses with a preliminary year of study. These are suitable for applicants who wish  to improve their level of attainment in the subject area or are mature students wishing to re-enter the education system.

Preparatory programmes - or Foundation programmes are non-credit, catch-up courses that can help prepare students for first-year of undergraduate degree study.

Pre-requisite unit - a unit that you must pass before you can do another, usually more advanced, unit.

Pre-sessional - denotes an activity which takes place before the start of the session, during the summer vacation, e.g. pre-sessional English language courses for international students.

Programme/Programme of study - see course

Programme Director/Convenor/Coordinator - the academic staff member responsible for the management and coordination of a course of study within a Department or School.

Programme specification - a document containing core information about degrees and other programmes of study.  It outlines the intended knowledge, understanding, skills and other attributes that will have been developed by students on successfully completing a specific programme of study. Programme specifications are available within the Course Catalogue and also provide details of the teaching, learning and assessment methods.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor - a role which provides support to the Vice-Chancellor in providing academic leadership to the University, and works in partnership with senior administrators to help drive strategy and policy development. See the University's Senior Management Team.


Registration - registration for new students is a two-stage process: online registration before you arrive, and attendance at your faculty registration event after you arrive.  You will also be required to register at the start of each academic year.

Rules and Regulations for Students - these set out the terms and conditions that will form the basis of the relationship between you and the University, which starts when you accept our offer of a place on your course. Rules and regulations for students include students' rights and responsibilities, and cover academic matters as well as the use of facilities.


School - an academic section of a faculty dedicated to a specific discipline, e.g. the School of Chemistry within the Faculty of Science.

Seminar - these are usually less formal than lectures, providing the opportunity to ask detailed questions and debate themes and ideas.

Student card - the University card (UCard) is issued to all students.  The UCard is both your identity card and your library card. The UCard identifies you while you are on University premises and allows you appropriate access to buildings, services and facilities. 

Student handbook - offers a guide to University life. In addition to the student handbook, course and unit handbooks will be offered by schools/departments which provide key information about your course and school/department processes and procedures.

Student number - a unique number assigned before arrival to each student, for administrative purposes. Students retain the same number throughout their university career.

Student representative - the student representative system runs within each year group in every school/department at the University at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Representatives feed student opinion on their course back to the school/department and help enact changes and developments within the course.

Student-staff liaison/Consultative committee - student-staff liaison committees are held in most schools/departments, they are meetings between staff and student representatives.  They are your opportunity to feed back your opinions on your course and school/department and to share ideas.

Students' Union - the University of Bristol's Students' Union is here to help you have a world class student experience, develop new skills, meet new people and have a lot of fun in the process, UBU:

  • represents your voice and views;
  • provides social, cultural, sporting and recreational opportunities through many events, clubs and societies;
  • supports you by providing advice and representation;
  • develops your skills, leadership and engagement through student-led activities;
  • helps you to engage with the local community via fundraising and volunteering.

Study abroad/Year abroad - these are programmes where students retain their enrolment status at the University but study abroad for a year, usually in their third year.  For more information about studying abroad with an exchange partner or working in Europe see the year abroad webpage.

Subject/Field - a recognised academic area of work normally bounded by common intellectual subject matter and disciplinary approaches.

Suspension of studies - in certain circumstances (e.g. extended periods of ill health) students may need to take a formal break from their studies. If you feel you may need to do this you should first speak to someone in your department/school; usually your personal tutor or director of teaching and learning. Your department/school handbook may give you more information about who to consult; or you could ask your school office who to speak to.


Teaching block - Teaching on taught programmes is delivered in two teaching blocks over the academic year.

Temporary withdrawal - see suspension of study.

Tutor - a member of the academic staff responsible for teaching and/or providing academic advice.

Tutorials - generally small classes and often more interactive than lectures. They give you the chance to discuss material covered in lectures, go over assignments and seek help if you need it, sometimes involving group work or presentations.

Timetable - you will be provided with a personalised timetable for your teaching, this is available via the MyBristol portal and will detail all your teaching times and locations for the units you are registered on.


Undergraduate degree - the first degree you study towards at university is called an undergraduate degree, eg Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Laws.

Unit/modules - are the building blocks for all taught courses. A unit is part of a programme and has its own learning outcomes, syllabus and assessment scheme.  Units are assigned to a level of study and usually credit bearing. A unit may be mandatory or optional and must be capable of being separately assessed. A unit may consist of one or more elements.

  • Mandatory unit - a core unit on a course which must be studied by a student.
  • Optional unit - a unit chosen by a student from a specified list of units available on a particular programme.
  • Open unit - some undergraduate courses offer students the opportunity to take open units: units in subjects not necessarily related to their main subject of study. These open units generally have no defined pre-requisites and so are suitable for students with no prior knowledge of the subject.
  • Prerequisite unit - a prerequisite is a unit that you must pass before you can do another, usually more advanced, unit.

Unit code - an identifying number allocated to each unit, for example 'POLI11101 Political Concepts'. The first four letters of the code identify the subject discipline, eg 'POLI' identifies a politics module. The first of the five digits tells you the level.


Vice-Chancellor -  the University’s academic leader and chief executive. See the University's Senior Management Team.


Week 0 (zero)- the first week of the autumn term, see also Welcome week.

Welcome week -  also sometimes known as Introductory week, Freshers’ week or week zero, this is a time for academic preparation and acclimatisation. No formal teaching usually takes place during this week you should have time to:

  • complete key administrative tasks;
  • attend various welcome and induction events;
  • take part in a variety of social events;
  • visit the Welcome Week’ Fair organised by the Students’ Union and join student clubs and societies;
  • start finding your way round the University campus and the main buildings you will be using.

Workload - the amount of time spent by students on university study, including both scheduled contact time (lectures, tutorials, practical sessions, etc), any placements and individual (or group) study.  Even though there are some structural differences between taught courses (and excluding the professional degrees), student workloads are based on an average of 40 hours per week student input over a 30-week academic year (including reading week, revision and examination periods). This is the approximate amount of time per week an average student needs to work to be successful in their course.  The average workload is linked to the University’s credit framework, where ten credits are equivalent to 100 hours of student input (which includes time-tabled classes, independent study, and all types of assessment).


Year in industry placements - sometimes known as sandwich placements, these are programmes where students retain their enrolment status at the University but have a placement in industry for a year, usually in their third year. They provide a great opportunity for you to gain practical experience in a field relating to your degree.

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