This glossary describes terminology in use at the University of Sydney. Select a letter to display entries beginning with that letter.



Academic year

The time during the year when we teach. In Australian universities, this is generally from February to November. The academic year is broken into two semesters. There are variations on start and end dates, depending on what session you are enrolled in.


Undergraduate admission to most courses is based on performance in the HSC with applicants ranked on the basis of their ATAR. Other criteria such as a portfolio, interview, audition, or results in standard tests may also be taken into account for certain courses. An applicant who receives an offer of admission to a course may apply to defer enrolment in that course for a semester or a year.

Advanced standing

Credit given for previous studies (usually from TAFE or another university) which shortens the length of your studies at Sydney.

Associate diploma

A two-year undergraduate qualification (bachelor's degrees take three years). At Sydney we offer an associate diploma in the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

Assumed knowledge

For some units of study, a student is assumed to have passed a relevant subject at HSC level, and this is called assumed knowledge. While students are generally advised against taking a unit of study for which they do not have the assumed knowledge, they are not prevented from enrolling in the unit. (See also Prerequisite.)


This is your Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) – the number that indicates your ranking among other students completing their HSC. If you are a recent school leaver, your ATAR is used by universities to assess your application.

Attendance mode

Refers to whether a unit of study is taken by the student internally (by attending classes on campus) or externally (remotely by correspondence or another distance education method).


Bachelor's degree

The highest undergraduate award offered at the University of Sydney. A bachelor’s degree course normally requires three or four years of full-time study (or part-time equivalent).


A bursary is a payment you don’t have to pay back which we offer to help you out if you have trouble paying for study and living expenses while you’re at uni.


Cadigal Alternative Entry Program

The Cadigal Alternative Entry Program is a University-wide access and support scheme for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.


The grounds on which the University is situated. There are eight main campuses: Camperdown, Darlington, Camden (Agriculture and Veterinary Science), the Conservatorium (Conservatorium of Music), Cumberland (Health Sciences), Mallett Street (Nursing), Rozelle (Sydney College of the Arts), and Surry Hills (Dentistry).

Census date

The census date is the date by which all your enrolment requirements must be finalised.

The main census dates for each semester are:

31 March – for units of study offered for the full duration of the February semester.
31 August – for units of study offered for the full duration of the July semester

Units of study offered in non-standard semesters (such as Summer or Winter School) have their own census dates which vary from those mentioned above. If you are enrolling in any units offered in non-standard semesters, make sure you are aware of the relevant census dates.


The non-executive head of the University – an honorary position. Among other duties, the Chancellor chairs meetings of the University’s governing body, the Senate, and presides over graduation ceremonies.

Commonwealth-supported student

Most students who study at the University of Sydney are Commonwealth-supported. These students have most of the cost of their education paid by the government but must also contribute themselves (an amount called the ‘student contribution’).


A unit of study that must be taken in the same semester or year as a given unit of study (unless it has already been completed). These are determined by the faculty or board of studies concerned and published in the faculty handbook.


A prescribed study plan comprising subject and level (eg Bachelor of Information Technology, Master of Information Technology).

Combined degree program

A combined degree program (also called a double degree) allows you to earn two degrees from two different faculties. For example, if you complete a combined Arts/Law degree program, you will be awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Laws degree.

Course alias

A unique five-character alpha-numeric code that identifies a university course.


Students admitted to a course at the University may be granted advanced standing based on previous attainment in another course at the University, or at another institution. The credit points granted count as credit towards the course.

Specified credit

The recognition of previously completed studies as directly equivalent to units of study.

Non-specified credit

A 'block credit' for a specified number of credit points at a particular level. These credit points may be in a particular subject area but are not linked to a specific unit of study.

Credit points

Credit points are a measure of value indicating the contribution each unit of study provides towards meeting course completion requirements. Every unit of study has a credit point value assigned to it, normally in the range 3 to 24.



The head of a faculty or the principal or director of a college (such as the Conservatorium of Music or the Sydney College of Arts).


An applicant who receives an offer of admission to a course may apply to defer enrolment in that course for one semester or one academic cycle.


A university qualification, such as bachelor's degree, master's degree or PhD.


A department is the academic unit which is responsible for teaching and examining a unit of study. It may be called a school, a department, a centre or a unit within the University.

Domestic student

A domestic student is either an Australian or New Zealand citizen, or Australian permanent resident visa holder. New Zealand citizens, and most permanent resident visa holders (except permanent humanitarian visa holders) are required to pay their student contribution upfront and are not eligible for HECS-HELP.



A unit that you can do towards a degree, usually an option within a course. Electives allow more detailed study of a particular subject.



A faculty, consisting mainly of academic staff and headed by a dean, is a large department that is responsible for administering all the courses in a particular subject area.


An eligible student (that is, an Australian citizen or permanent humanitarian visa holder) in an undergraduate or postgraduate course of study can apply for this loan program for assistance in paying all or part of their tuition fees. Please note that there is a 25% loan fee for undergraduate courses of study only, however this loan fee does not count towards the FEE-HELP loan limit. The lifetime FEE-HELP limit is $100,000 indexed annually ($120,002 in 2014) for students studying a medicine, dentistry or veterinary science course that leads to provisional registration to practise in one of those fields, and $80,000 indexed annually ($96,000 in 2014) for all other students.

Fee-paying student

Students who are required to pay tuition fees to the University for their undergraduate or postgraduate studies. These students are not considered as Commonwealth-supported and the government does not contribute towards the cost of their education. Annual fees vary between the faculties. Students pay fees each semester.


Graduate-entry degree

A bachelor’s (undergraduate) degree that requires another undergraduate degree as a prerequisite of entry. Examples of graduate-entry degrees at the University of Sydney include the Bachelor of Dentistry, Bachelor of Laws (graduate-entry) and the University of Sydney Medical Program.



Australian citizens and permanent humanitarian visa holders are eligible for HECS-HELP. This can mean either deferring their student contribution to the taxation system by obtaining a HECS-HELP loan, or, paying the contribution upfront with a 10 percent HECS-HELP discount. It is possible to vary these payment options from semester to semester. Eligible students are also able to make a partial upfront payment of at least $500 (with the 10 percent discount on the paid amount) for the semester, while obtaining a HECS-HELP loan for the unpaid proportion.


Some degrees may be completed with honours. Honours differs depending on the faculty and usually involves either:

  • the completion of a separate honours year
  • additional work in the later years of the course or
  • high-level achievement over all years of the course.


International student

International students are citizens of any country other than Australia and New Zealand, and not Australian permanent residents.



A major is a defined program of study, generally comprising specified units of study from later stages of the award course. Students can choose and transfer between majors according to their selection of units of study. One or more majors may be prescribed in order to satisfy course requirements. (See also Award Course, Minor and Stream.)


At the University of Sydney, this description means you will be 21 years or older on 1 March of the year in which you want to study, and have not completed the high school qualifications you would normally need to gain entry.


A minor is a defined program of study, generally comprising units of study from later stages of the award course and requiring a smaller number of credit points than a major.


MyUni is a personalised space for students on the University’s website. MyUni delivers information and services directly through a central location, while also allowing users to customise certain information. Students are able to access services such as exam seat numbers, results, timetables and enrolment variations.


On-time applications

On-time applications are the first round of UAC applications. You can apply after the closing date for on-time applications, but extra application fees apply.


Orientation is a transition program designed to introduce new students to the University of Sydney, and to equip them with the necessary practical knowledge and academic skills, to prepare them for a successful start to their tertiary education. Orientation is an integrated program of a diverse range of lectures and activities, presented by student services of the University including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student Support, Careers Centre, Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Disability Services, Information and Communications Technology (ICT), International Services, Learning Centre, Maths Learning Centre, the University’s libraries, Scholarships and Financial Support Service, and Student Accommodation Services.

Each faculty and many schools offer welcome events and other first-year support activities during Orientation, including ongoing first-year support, peer mentoring and an introduction to administration and academic policies.

The University of Sydney Union (USU) O-Week runs parallel to the Orientation Week program, where students have the opportunity to take part in social and extra-curricular events and activities, and join student clubs and societies.

For more information, visit the Orientation website.



A term used to describe a course leading to an award such as graduate diploma, master’s degree or PhD, which usually requires prior completion of a relevant undergraduate degree (or diploma) course. A ‘postgraduate’ is a student enrolled in such a course.


A prerequisite is a unit of study that needs to be completed before another unit can be attempted.


Units of study are the building blocks of your program. To earn your degree you need to have completed certain units of study. The way these are put together for your degree is called your 'program'.



The number that indicates your position among all other applicants for an undergraduate course. This is calculated by the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC), based on your secondary or tertiary results or a combination of these.

Recommended subject

A recommended subject is not a prerequisite or assumed knowledge. You will not be disadvantaged if you have not completed it.



Australian citizens and permanent humanitarian visa holders residing in Australia who are enrolled in an award course (or a bridging course for
overseas-trained professionals) can opt to defer the payment of their Student Services and Amenities fee through to the tax office by obtaining a SA-HELP loan.


At the University of Sydney, ‘school’ can mean the same thing as a department or may cover several departments grouped together.


Scholarships are financial or other forms of support made available to help students to concentrate on their studies at the University. Scholarships are sometimes called bursaries, if they are granted to students who are struggling financially.


A semester is the academic teaching period of about 14 weeks in duration. They usually run from March to June and July to November.


The Senate is the governing body of the University.


A session is a defined teaching period. The two major sessions each year are called semesters.


A defined award course, which requires the completion of set units of study as specified by the course rules for the particular stream, in addition to the core program specified by the course rules. A stream will appear with the award course name on degree certificates, for example: Bachelor of Engineering in Civil Engineering (Construction Management).

Student ID card

All students who enrol are issued with an identification card. The card includes the student’s name, ID number, photograph, and a barcode for borrowing from the library.

Student Services and Amenities Fee (SA Fee)

This is a fee that permits universities to charge students to support student services, amenities, advocacy, representation, and similar activities. Eligible students can defer payment of this fee with an SA-HELP loan (see above).

Sydney Student

Sydney Student is an online self-administration service for current students, used to update personal details, enrolment information, manage finances and many other candidature-related tasks. You can access Sydney Student by logging into MyUni.



The Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) receives and processes applications for admission to undergraduate courses at recognised universities in NSW and the ACT. Most local undergraduates (including local undergraduate fee-paying students) apply through UAC. Interstate equivalents to UAC include QTAC (Queensland), VTAC (Victoria), SATAC (South Australia) and TISC (Tasmania).


A term used to describe a course leading to a diploma or a bachelor’s degree. An ‘undergraduate’ is a student enrolled in such a course.

Unit of study (UoS)

This is an individual subject that you study as part of your degree. It is also the smallest stand-alone component of a student’s course that can be recorded on their transcript. It is essentially an individual ‘subject’ and is usually worth 6 credit points towards the degree.

Unit of study level

Units of study are divided into junior, intermediate, senior, honours, Year 5 and Year 6. Junior units of study usually act as prerequisites for intermediate and senior units of study. Most majors consist of 32 senior credit points in a subject area.

University medal

A faculty may recommend the award of a University medal to students who have qualified for the award of an undergraduate honours degree or some master's degrees, whose academic performance is judged to be outstanding.



The chief executive officer of the whole University, responsible for its leadership and management. He or she is head of the academic and administrative divisions.