GLOSSARY OF EDUCATION TERMINOLOGY
Academic advisor: An on-campus advisor who helps students select courses or programs that match their interests, career plans and academic qualifications.
Academic year: The time during which classes are taught. For example, in most colleges in the USA the academic year starts in September and ends in May and is divided into two semesters. The academic year may vary slightly from school to school.
Accreditation: A process of quality assurance. Accreditation means that the standards of education established by professional authorities have been met.
Adult education: Programs and schools that target students over the age of 18. Adult education may be for literacy, language, technical or professional skills, personal interest and more.
Advanced placement: Advanced placement courses at the secondary school level may count as introductory or first-year level courses at a post-secondary institution.
Advanced standing: The waiving of the requirement to complete a course, or unit of coursework, allowing the student to move on to higher level courses. Formal credit for this coursework is not usually given.
Apprenticeship: A workplace-based training program involving both in-school studies and supervised on-the-job training. Some occupations (such as electrician) may require a term of apprenticeship as a condition of licensing.
Associate's degree: A degree granted by many community colleges on completion of a two-year program. Often used as a transfer degree. In some cases, an associate's degree can give you priority admission to university programs in the same state.
Bachelor's degree: An undergraduate degree offered by universities, normally requiring four years of full-time study, or a set number of credits acquired in part-time study. See also: honors.
Bursary: A monetary award to help students pay for their university education. Students do not repay bursaries, and they are awarded on the basis of financial need and academic achievement.
Calendar: An annual university publication listing key dates in the academic year, admission requirements, program requirements, rules and regulations, and course descriptions. The undergraduate calendar can be obtained from the university registrar; the graduate studies office distributes the graduate calendar.
Campus: The grounds and buildings of a school.
Career college: A vocational school, providing education in trades and other career-oriented skills. Career colleges have a less academic focus than community colleges and universities.
Certificate: A qualification awarded upon successful completion of a post-secondary program which is usually 12 weeks to one year in duration.
College: In post-secondary education in the US, a college refers to both 4-year and 2-year institutions.
Community college: A post-secondary institution which offers both academic and technical or vocational postsecondary courses leading to an associate's degree, diploma or certificate, or academic university transfer courses that can be transferred to a university.
Continuing education: Courses designed to be taken by students--usually adults or mature students (over 18)--looking to complete a certificate or diploma program as well as those who are recreational learners. Many universities and colleges have Continuing Studies or Continuing Education departments. These departments often provide language courses and programs, among others.
Co-op program: A program allowing a student to combine academic study with work experience by spending one term on campus followed by another term working full-time at a job related to their field of study.
Credit: A unit attached to individual courses meant to measure learning or courses completed. Courses may provide one or more credits. There is a certain number of credits required for a certificate, diploma or degree.
Credit course: A course which provides one or more credits towards a chosen degree.
Curriculum: The program of study in a course or at a school. A school's curriculum defines what is taught and what courses are necessary for a program.
Dean: An administrator in charge of a division of a university or college. Each faculty of study will have its own dean (ex: Dean of Fine Arts).
Degree: A qualification awarded to a student by a university or college. Institutions must be given the authority to grant degrees by government authorities.
Department: A department is the basic organizational unit in a higher education institution, and is responsible for the academic functions in a field of study. For instance, within a Faculty of Science you might find the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Department of Physics, Department of Chemistry, etc.
Differential fees: May also be called the Foreign Student Fee. Differential fees are charged to international undergraduate and graduate students in addition to regular tuition fees and is why international students studying in the US pay more than local students.
Diploma: An academic credential awarded by colleges, universities and grad schools. It usually signifies the completion of a 1- to 2-year program. Diploma may also be used for the credential awarded at the end of high school.
Distance education: Involves the physical separation of teacher and student. Students and teachers communicate with each other by such means as correspondence courses, audiotapes, computer links, cable television broadcasts or satellite hook-ups. Online programs are one example.
Doctorate: A graduate degree ranking above the master's degree and usually awarded after three years' of study or more; the average for many is four to five years. The most common doctorate is the PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) which can be awarded for original research in any subject (not just philosophy). Doctoral degrees usually involve researching, writing, presenting and defending a dissertation, in addition to course work.
Dormitory: see residence
Equivalency: A term used to describe and/or determine a relationship of parity between course or credentials at different institutions.
Extra-curricular: Outside of the normal course of academic study. May describe clubs, sports or other activities.
Faculty: This term has two usages. It is used to refer to the teaching staff of a post-secondary institution (for example: the college faculty includes 17 professors with doctoral degrees). It is also used to refer to an academic subdivision of a university which is normally a larger unit than a department. For example, a Faculty of Arts might include the departments of medieval studies, classics and history.
Federated, affiliated, constituent institution: A university or college may be associated with another university, often called a parent university, as a federated, affiliated, or constituent institution. A federated institution is responsible for its own administration usually and has the power to grant degrees, but during the term of federation agreement it may suspend some or all of its degree-granting powers. An affiliated institution is responsible for its own administration but does not have the power to grant degrees. In both cases the parent university oversees instruction in the programs covered by the federation or affiliation agreement, and grants degrees to the students who successfully complete those programs. A constituent institution is an integral part of the parent university with respect to both administrative and academic matters.
Fellowship: A financial award to assist a graduate student with the costs of study. It is like a scholarship and does not need to be repaid.
General, honors: These terms are used primarily with reference to first (bachelor's) degree programs in arts and science. The general degree (also called a pass degree) is without a concentration in a particular field. The honors program is often a year longer, requires a higher standing for admission and for the maintenance of honors status and the student specializes in a particular field. See also bachelor's degree.
Grade point average (GPA): A measure of a student's academic achievement at a college or university. calculated by dividing the total number of grade points received by the total number attempted. Letter grades (A, A-, B, C etc.) correspond to particular grade points on the scale. For instance, on a 4 point scale, A = 4, A- = 3.7, B+ = 3.4, etc. Your GPA is calculated by adding up these numbers from your grades and dividing it by the number of courses you took.
Graduate/postgraduate Graduate programs, sometimes called postgraduate programs, lead to advanced degrees, diplomas and certificates for which a first degree is a prerequisite. Students in graduate programs are called graduate students.
Homestay: An arrangement wherein a student stays in the home of a local family, receiving either just a room or room and board in exchange for a small fee.
Honors: A bachelor's degree that demands a slightly higher standard and adds an extra year of study. Some honors degrees require the student to write a thesis.
International Baccalaureate program: International Baccalaureate (IB) programs at the high school level are designed to provide high school students with an international standard of education for entrance into post-secondary institutions world-wide. The program is currently run in over 130 countries. Schools may offer the Middle Years IB program or the IB Diploma Program. The program includes a diploma exam that is often recognized by colleges and universities.
Internship: Supervised practical training period for a student or recent graduate.
Intersession: A break between terms which generally serves as a vacation but in which accelerated full courses may also be offered.
Language proficiency: Demonstrated ability to speak a required language. Language proficiency may be required of international students or of students whose first language is different from the university's language of instruction.
Lecture: Teaching method wherein the teacher or professor presents information orally to the students who take notes and ask questions.
Major/minor: A type of degree program; a major indicates specialization with a number of courses drawn from one particular subject area; a minor indicates a lesser degree of specialization, with only a few courses drawn from one particular area.
Master's degree: A graduate degree of usually 1 to 2 years in length sought after the student has received a bachelor's degree. A master's degree involves taking courses and examinations and in some cases by conducting research and writing a thesis.
Meal plan: Most residences and some homestay programs come with a meal plan, where two to three meals a day are provided at a fixed rate as part of the larger accommodation.
Ombudsman/person: A university official empowered to investigate grievances.
Orientation: A program offered to new students at the beginning of the academic year to familiarize them with the campus.
Polytechnic: A technical school offering instruction in many industrial arts and applied sciences.
Prerequisites: Courses that must be successfully completed before taking specific higher level courses.
Principal: The head administrator of a primary, middle or secondary school.
Program: A program of study, e.g. one leading to a bachelor's degree in arts, is a patterned combination and sequence of courses in a variety of subjects. A program covers a period of one or more, usually three or more years and culminates in a particular academic credential.
Quota: A limit, upper or lower, on the number of students, or of a particular kind of student, permitted in a course or program of study.
Registrar: A university official concerned with keeping academic records, approving course selections, and sometimes, counselling. The registrar's office is responsible for student admissions, records and the university timetable.
Residence: On-campus housing provided and administered by the educational institution. Residences may be in dormitory style, offering single or double-occupancy rooms on a floor with shared bathrooms or common areas, or they may be in a more apartment or house-based style. They may be sex segregated or co-ed.
Scholarship: A financial award to help students finance their studies. Scholarships are awarded on the basis of outstanding academic achievement and do not need to be repaid.
School district: The administrative area of a town or part of a city, which administers the schools within it.
Semester: Half the academic year usually lasting between 15 and 18 weeks.
Seminar: A small discussion group made up of students and a tutor or professor who meet regularly. Discussion is usually based on the presentation of an essay or short lecture.This is the most common form for graduate level classes.
Student loan: Financial assistance in the form of a repayable loan tailored towards post-secondary students. Student loans are available from the federal and state governments, or from financial institutions. They usually do not earn interest while the student is engaged in full-time studies.
Study permit: A document giving an international student permission to reside in the US for the purpose of study at the indicated institution.
Teaching assistant:Also known as TAs. An individual, usually a graduate student, who are paid to assist a professor or instructor in the running of a particular class. TAs may be responsible for marking, assisting students with research, or for supervising seminars or discussion groups.
Thesis: A written document that presents the author's research and findings and is submitted in support of a desired degree or professional qualification. Honors, master's and doctoral students will most likely write and defend a thesis in pursuit of their degree. A doctoral thesis is often called a dissertation.
Transcript: A list of the courses taken and grades earned by a student throughout a course or program of study. Official transcripts are generally issued as sealed documents by the educational institution.
Transfer credit: The procedure of granting credit to a student for educational experiences or courses undertaken at another university.
Trimester: In which the school divides the academic year into three terms (semesters) of equal length, versus the normal two terms.
Tuition: The fee a student pays to their educational institution in return for instruction. May include fees for courses, for use of facilities or services provided, and in some cases textbooks or school supplies.
Undergraduate: Undergraduate programs of study include those leading to a bachelor's or first professional degree as well as to diplomas and certificates below degree level.
University: A bachelor's degree-granting post-secondary institution. Universities provide programs leading to undergraduate degrees, and may provide graduate/post-graduate degrees as well. Schools must be given the authority to use the term "university" by the government.
University transfer: A program offered by some colleges allowing students to take the first year or two years of their degree at a college and then transfer for full credit to a larger university.
Visa: Document allowing a foreign national to enter the country. See: Study permit.
Visa student: An international student taking academic or other courses at a school, college or university in the US on the basis of a study permit or visa.
Visiting student: An international student attending a US institution for a short period of time, usually one semester or less, in order to take particular courses as part of their program in their home country.
Vocational school: See career college.
Work-study: Paid, usually part-time, positions at a university designed to allow students to support themselves during their studies. Work-study students are generally required to demonstrate financial need.