Kent & Medway Progression Federation (KMPF) HE Jargon Buster

The aim of this jargon buster is to help staff and students in England wade through all the higher education (HE) acronyms and terminology. Spotted any jargon missing? Please email


Access course: Access courses are designed to prepare mature students without other qualifications for entry into university or college.

Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning (APCL): This is where credit is awarded for learning that has already been assessed and certified.

Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL): A process that enables learners to receive formal recognition for skills and knowledge they already possess.

Alumni: People who have graduated (i.e., completed a course and gained a qualification) from a particular university.

Bachelor of Arts (BA): An undergraduate academic degree awarded to a student typically after three to four years of studying.

Bachelor of Engineering (BEng): An undergraduate academic degree awarded to a student typically after three to five years of studying.

Bachelor of Science (BSc): An undergraduate academic degree awarded to a student typically after three to five years of studying.

Blended learning: Refers to a mixing of different learning environments. It combines traditional face to face classroom methods with computer mediated activities.

Department for Education (DfE): The Department for Education is responsible for children’s services and education, including early years, schools, higher and further education policy, apprenticeships and wider skills in England.

Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC): An assistant to the Vice Chancellor, usually with a specific role (e.g., learning and teaching, or research).

Doctor: A title which graduates may use once they have obtained their doctorate of philosophy.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD): A postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities.

Foundation Degrees (FD): A vocational qualification in higher education, intended to give a basic knowledge of a subject to enable the student to go on to employment or further study. They are often offered by universities and further education colleges working in partnership.

Further education (FE): Post-compulsory education for learners over 16. Primarily taught in further education colleges, work-based learning, and adult and community learning institutions.

Higher Education Academy (HEA): A national and independent organisation, funded by the four UK HE funding bodies and by subscriptions and grants to support the higher education community in order to enhance the quality and impact of learning and teaching through recognising and rewarding excellent teaching, bringing together people and resources to research and share best practice, and by helping to influence, shape and implement policy.

Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE): Funded by the English Government to distribute funding for higher education to organisations and institutions in England.

Higher education in further education (HE in FE): Higher education courses delivered by further education colleges.

Higher education institution (HEI): Bodies that deliver higher education – universities and higher education colleges.

Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA): The central source for the collection and dissemination of statistics about publicly funded UK higher education.

Institution: Usually used to refer to a higher education institution.

Low participation neighbourhoods (LPN): A key measure used in UniConnect areas for widening access activity.

Massive open online courses (MOOC): Classes that are taught online to large numbers of students, with minimal involvement by teaching staff.

Master of Arts (MA): A postgraduate academic master’s degree.

Master of Research (MRes): A postgraduate academic master’s degree, undertaken by research.

Master of Science (MSc): A postgraduate academic master’s degree.

National Union of Students (NUS): The national voice of students in the UK.

Office for Students (OfS): The independent regulator of higher education in England.

Peer Assisted Student / Study Support (PASS): An initiative used in many universities in the UK, where students support fellow students with settling into university life, developing study skills, and discussing course content.

Peer Assisted Learning (PAL): Schemes which foster cross-year support between students on the same course. It encourages students to support each other and learn cooperatively under the guidance of trained students (usually from the year above).

Peer learning: Where students learn with and from each other as fellow learners.

Professor: An academic rank above ‘Reader’ for academics following a research career pathway.

Pro Vice Chancellor (PVC): An assistant to the Vice Chancellor, usually with a specific role (e.g. learning and teaching, or research).

Quality assurance (QA): The systematic monitoring and evaluation of learning and teaching, and the processes that support them, to make sure that the standards of academic awards meet UK expectations, and that the quality of the student learning experience is being safeguarded and improved.

Quality Assurance Agency (QAA): Reviews the performance of universities and colleges delivering higher education and provides guidelines on standards and quality in the Quality Code publication.

Quality enhancement (QE): Efforts to improve cultures, strategies, processes, or practices, to increase levels of student attainment, development and learning. Linked to enhancement themes.

Reader: The title denotes an appointment for a senior academic with a distinguished international reputation in research or scholarship. It is an academic rank above senior lecturer.

Recognised Prior Learning (RPL): Includes the Accreditation of Prior Certified Learning and the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning.

Russell Group: A group of the 24 most research-intensive universities in the UK.

Sandwich course: Degree courses which include an extra year ‘sandwiched’ between the years of study. During the extra year, students usually go on work experience with an organisation or department in their subject field.

Sector Skills Council (SSC): Independent, employer-led, UK–wide organisations designed to build a skills system that is driven by employer demand. 6

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM): The acronym is often used to refer to the study of subjects in the categories of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Student engagement: A term used to describe the various ways institutions get students involved in their learning experience such as course reps, surveys, focus groups, students on committees etc.

Student learning experience: Refers to all elements of a students’ experience during their time at their institution. There are a range of different elements including: curriculum, learning resources, teaching and learning, assessment and achievement, student progression and outcomes and, quality and standards.

Students’ union (SU): An organisation to represent students at a particular institution.

Summative assessment: The formal assessment of students’ work, contributing to the final result.

Uni Connect: Uni Connect brings together 29 partnerships of universities, colleges and other local partners to offer activities, advice and information on the benefits and realities of going to university or college.

Universities UK (UUK): Represents the interests of higher education institutions in the UK.

UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF): Used by higher education institutions to apply to their professional development programmes and activities, demonstrating that professional standards are being met. 7

Vice Chancellor (VC): The head / chief executive of a university.

Virtual learning environment (VLE): An education system based on the web that models real-world education by integrating virtual concepts for tests, homework etc. Common virtual learning environments are Blackboard and Moodle.

Widening Access (WA): Increasing opportunities for people from a diverse range of backgrounds to benefit from higher education.

Work based learning (WBL): Refers to any formal higher education learning that is based wholly or predominantly in a work setting.

Lucy King

11 Jan 2023

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