Academic terminology glossary

Academic terminology glossary

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It can be hard to get your head around some of the academic jargon you’ll hear on campus, especially if you’re a new student. If you don’t know the difference between breadth and a capstone subject, or between FEE-HELP and HECS-HELP, we explain it all below.

  • Academic transcript — an official record of a student’s enrolment history and academic activities, including subjects taken and results. You can usually access this online but can also ask your institution to issue an official printed copy, generally at a cost.
  • Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF)— Australia’s national framework of qualifications, which helps students to plan their education, training and career pathways. This also ensures that qualification durations and outcomes are consistent no matter where you study.
  • Breadth subject— a subject taken in a different discipline to a student’s chosen field of study, intended to offer students a more well-rounded education.
  • Capstone unit— a unit taken in the final year of study that aims to bring together content learnt throughout the degree to prepare students for graduation and the workplace.
  • Census date — the last day students can withdraw from subjects without academic or financial penalty.
  • Commonwealth Assistance Notice — a notice containing information about your enrolment, HELP debt, student contributions you have made and any loan fees incurred. CANs are sent after the census date each teaching period.
  • Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP) — a government-subsidised place available to domestic students in all undergraduate programs at public universities, as well as select postgraduate courses and in some fields at private colleges. CSP students pay a student contribution rather than full tuition fees (see below).
  • Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) — an online confirmation of a student’s enrolment that details subjects and fees.
  • Elective — a non-compulsory subject that is chosen from either a list relevant to a certain course or from a wide range of subjects offered across different faculties or schools (see Breadth subject).
  • FEE-HELP — a government loan scheme that allows full-fee students to defer the repayment of their tuition fees until they are earning at or above the minimum repayment threshold ($51,309 in 2013–14).
  • Grade Point Average (GPA) — a score used to evaluate a student’s academic performance for admission into a postgraduate course or other program such as student exchange. A student’s GPA is their average grade for all subjects completed in their program so far. The GPA can also dictate whether or not you graduate with ‘honours’ or ‘distinction’.
  • HECS-HELP— a government loan scheme that allows CSP students to defer the payment of their tuition fees until they are earning at or above the minimum repayment threshold ($51,309 in 2013–14).
  • Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) — government loans that assist students with the cost of their tuition, including HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP and VET FEE-HELP. Students are not required to pay back these loans until they begin earning above the repayment threshold.
  • OS-HELP— a loan scheme to assist CSP students who want to undertake some of their studies overseas with expenses such as flights and accommodation. In 2014, students can borrow $6250 for a six-month study period or $7500 if travelling to Asia.
  • Prerequisite — a subject that must be completed before you are eligible to complete another subject due to assumed knowledge requirements.
  • Registered Training Organisation (RTO) — an organisation that is accredited to deliver VET courses. RTOs include private colleges, private companies, TAFE institutes, industry bodies, secondary schools and community organisations.
  • Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) — a process that allows students to earn recognition and credit for their previous study, employment and life experience, reducing the time required to complete the course.
  • SA-HELP— a loan scheme that assists eligible students with the payment of their student services and amenities fee.
  • Student contribution— the amount CSP students are required to contribute towards their fees (the government pays the remainder). Courses fall into one of three bands, with institutions able to charge up to a maximum amount in each band.
  • Student exchange— a program where a student swaps places with a student at an overseas partner institution for one or two semesters. Students continue to pay their normal fees to their Australian institution and credit from overseas study usually counts towards their course in Australia.
  • Study abroad— a program that allows students to study at an overseas institution that does not have an agreement with their home institution. Students are usually required to defer their Australian course for the duration of the overseas study period and pay fees to the overseas institution upfront.
  • Technical and Further Education (TAFE) — TAFE institutes are government-funded RTOs. They are located around the country and offer mostly VET courses, although some have begun offering bachelor degrees in select areas.
  • VET FEE-HELP— a government loan scheme that allows eligible Vocational Education and Training (VET) students to defer the payment of their tuition fees until they are earning at or above the minimum repayment threshold ($51,309 in 2013–14). VET FEE-HELP is available to students studying at diploma level or above, and in some certificate courses in South Australia and Victoria.
  • Vocational Education and Training (VET) — courses that have a focus on providing practical skills that prepare students for occupations that require qualifications at certificate and diploma level. These courses are offered by RTOs, including private colleges and TAFE institutes, and some universities.
  • Work-integrated learning — work experience, such as an industry placement or internship, which is integrated into a course and forms part of the course assessment.

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