When you start your studies, you’ll probably find that there are several terms associated with Australian tertiary education that you may never have heard before. So, to help you navigate local jargon, this glossary explains some pretty common study terms you’re likely to come across. After all, we don’t want you to miss out on something important (or fun!) just because you didn’t understand a certain word!
ATAR stands for Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank. It is a ranking based on academic performance given to students who have completed Year 12 in Australia, and is the criterion for entry to undergraduate university degrees. The ATAR won’t affect you as an international student, but you may hear local students talking about it.
The Census Date is the last day to withdraw from a course without having it listed on your academic record and the date by which you must finalise your enrollment before fees are charged.
In Australia, this term can either refer to a type of tertiary education provider (which tends to be smaller than a university, run independently, or as part of a university) or to a residential college, which is accommodation for students that is on or nearby the campus.
As a student, you are eligible for certain discounts. This may include cheaper public transport or student deals at shops and cinemas. This discount is sometimes referred to as a ‘concession’ price, and your student ID card is your ‘concession card’, which enables you to get a discount. Make sure you carry it with you as proof of your concession status.
Just note that some states require you to apply for a dedicated concession travel card. If that’s the case, your student ID can’t be used as proof of your concession status.
A type of grade given upon completion of assignments/units/modules. Generally, it indicates good performance and is given for a mark between 65 and 74.
Deferring is delaying the commencement of your course. As an international student, this may affect your visa, so check with your education provider before ‘deferring’.
Degree (Undergraduate or Postgraduate)
Undergraduate degrees (such as bachelor degrees) are usually three to four years, and postgraduate degrees are completed after someone has completed an undergraduate degree (these can be a Masters, PhD or Doctoral program).
A Diploma is a qualification in the vocational education and training (VET) and higher education sectors. It generally takes one to two years to complete a Diploma.
A type of grade given upon completion of assignments/units/modules. Generally, it indicates superior performance and is given for a mark between 75 and 84.
A unit, subject or module that you can choose to study, rather than a compulsory subject.
At the end of a course, you may be required to complete a test within a specified time frame – this is known as an ‘examination’ or ‘exam’. This may take place off-campus and can take between one and three hours.
Faculties are the largest organisational divisions within educational institutions, with responsibility for academic programs. Universities only have a handful of faculties containing several schools within them. Examples include the Faculty of Art & Design or the Faculty of Law.
The number of units to be considered 1.0 EFTSL (Equivalent Full-Time Student Load). International students in Australia generally have to be enrolled full-time.
Grade Point Average (GPA)
This score is the average of the results you receive in your program, taking into account different unit values of courses.
High/Higher Distinction (HD)
A type of grade given upon completion of assignments/units/modules. Generally, it indicates outstanding performance and is given for a mark between 85 and 100.
This can refer to an extra year of study that is additional to a bachelor degree, or the outcome of an honours program that is studied concurrently with a normal degree. For example, you may add an ‘honours year’ to your existing bachelor degree, or you may graduate from your honours degree with ‘first-class honours’.
Regular formal presentations of the course material that are delivered to a large number of students by an academic staff member.
A Major is an area of specialisation (you must complete a certain number of units to fulfil your university’s requirements for a Major), and a Minor is a series of four units in the same subject, including at least two units at second-year level or higher.
An academic postgraduate degree for students who want to further their knowledge of a specific subject. You are usually required to have already completed an undergraduate degree to undertake a Masters.
Starting your studies ‘mid-year’ (in June/July), rather than at the start of the academic year (February/March).
Orientation (a.k.a. O-Week)
A week of activities and information sessions to welcome new students.
A type of grade given upon completion of assignments/units/modules. Generally, it indicates acceptable performance and is given for a mark between 50 and 64.
You may also come across a ‘conceded pass’. This means the student performed below the level required to pass but the marker took into account their general performance when assessing their mark.
An alternative academic method of getting into your goal study area. For example, if you do not meet the prerequisites of the university degree you would like to enter, completing a diploma in a similar subject could be a pathway to your degree.
A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is the highest university degree offered in Australia and is a standard prerequisite for a career in research or academia.
Practical (a.k.a. ‘Prac’)
Regular sessions where students participate in exercises or experiments after a brief presentation and explanation from a tutor.
A place where students will go to eat, drink and socialise.
Tutorial (a.k.a. ‘Tute’)
An often compulsory small discussion group, led by a tutor, to discuss the material presented in lectures.
The academic year for most students will be divided into two semesters. Semester one runs in the first half of the year (Feb-July) and semester two in the second half (Aug-Dec). Some educational institutions run on a trimester system (three study periods per year).
Standing for ‘Study Without Teaching Vacation’, SWOTVAC is a study period free of classes, giving you time to prepare for your exams.
TAFE (Technical and Further Education)
These vocational education providers cover a range of subjects and offer various levels of certificates and diplomas. Students receive practical and vocation-oriented education.
Transcript (Academic Record)
Official academic transcripts cost money to get from your Student Centre, but graduating students are given one free copy. Unofficial records can usually be printed from your student portal.
Vocational Education and Training (VET)
VET providers help students gain practical and industry-ready skills on a range of specialised subjects. For example, TAFE is a type of VET provider.