Teenage male looking at a computer full of university terminology

University terminology: What do those words they use at uni mean?

Major study. Minor study. GPA. UAC. SSAF. ATAR. We know university terminology can look like its own language sometimes.

It kind of is – a language to a world that can open doors to your dream career. Being fluent in university related vocabulary means you can understand university communications, know when assignments are due and identify who to talk to. University terminology is definitely easier to learn than Dothraki, and (possibly) even more useful.

So, to make your life easy, here’s the Charles Sturt guide to university terminology – your very own university vocabulary list.


Alumni – an association for graduates and also for current and former staff.

Assumed knowledge – subjects we recommend you complete before starting your course.

ATAR – Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank. This figure is used by UAC/VTAC to calculate the entrance ranking for on-campus undergraduate courses.

Award – another name for a Charles Sturt University degree. Awards can be undergraduate or postgraduate, with titles such as Bachelor, Graduate Certificate, Master and Doctor. Charles Sturt University awards all comply with the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF).


Campus – the location where you study (and often live, as well).

Census date – the date by which you need to have finished your subject selection and also provide payment for a particular session.

Core subjects – the subjects in a course that all students have to complete.

Course – the degree or qualification you’re studying, either at undergraduate or postgraduate level. This can also be called a program.

Course director – a member of the academic staff in a faculty who handles administrative matters for students enrolled in a course.


Defer – to delay the start of an undergraduate course.


Elective – an optional subject selected in addition to the core subjects of the course.

Executive Dean – the member of academic staff responsible for managing a faculty.


Faculty – a department within a university devoted to a particular area of study. Charles Sturt has three faculties: Arts and Education; Business, Justice and Behavioural Sciences; and Science and Health.

Full-time student – a student enrolled in subjects that amount to 75 per cent or more of the normal full-time study load for a session. To clarify, a normal full-time study load is four 8-point subjects in each of two sessions a year.


GPA – your grade point average (GPA) calculated from the results in each subject completed within a course.


Intensive school – a short period of study, usually from three to five days, where online students come on campus to complete units and also assessment tasks for a subject. These may be compulsory or optional.


Lecture – a regular presentation given by a lecturer to a large group of students.


Major study – an area within a course that allows in-depth study in a particular field. A major usually consists of eight related subjects. You may be allowed to do more than one major in a course.

Minor study – a grouping of between four and seven subjects within a course, as a result letting you focus on a particular field.


Online education – a way of studying that lets you complete your course online from anywhere in the world.


Part-time student – a student enrolled in subjects that amount to less than 75 per cent of the normal full-time study load for a session.

Program – the degree or qualification you’re studying, either at undergraduate or postgraduate level. At Charles Sturt, this is usually referred to as a course.


School – a unit of the university that administers the courses in a discipline.

Session – a period of time during which classes are held; kind of like a school term. Charles Sturt has three sessions, each lasting around 10–12 weeks.

Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) – a fee we use to maintain and enhance the services and amenities we provide for students. These include, for example, counselling, advocacy, legal and financial support, health promotion, welfare, disability, childcare, social inclusion and many more. We calculate this fee based on the number of subjects you’re enrolled in for a session.

Subject – the individual area of knowledge you study each session, with a number of subjects making up a course. At Charles Sturt, most subjects are worth eight points and take one session to complete.

Subject points – a value we assign to each subject to reflect its relative weighting. At Charles Sturt, a standard one-session subject is worth 8 points.


Tutorial – the regular teaching session for a small group of students, involving discussion and also lots of participation.


UAC – Universities Admissions Centre (NSW and ACT) Pty Ltd. All students in New South Wales and also the Australian Capital Territory apply for full-time on-campus courses online through UAC.


Workplace learning – time spent doing hands-on learning. This may be in real workplaces in the community. However, it could also take place in Charles Sturt’s clinics and enterprises. Or even, moreover, in laboratories or specialist facilities on campus. If you’re an international student, check with us for visa restrictions.

University terminology sorted. Now, which course…?

Once you’ve got to grips with the university vocabulary list, you’ll be all set to start thinking about where you want to go next.