This glossary of key terms can help you break through some of the jargon in the education sector. Want to upskill or progress in your career? Career FAQs Education & training offers more than 650 courses to help you get ahead. Is there another study term you’d like us to define? Let us know. See our list of Aussie slang to learn more about colloquial Australian expressions.



Abstudy is a financial aid program offered by the Australian Government for Indigenous Australians. You may be eligible for Abstudy if you are a secondary or tertiary student or full-time apprentice.

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Advanced diploma

An advanced diploma is a tertiary education award that builds on the skills and knowledge gained through studying a diploma. Advanced diplomas offer a more in-depth understanding and analysis of complex concepts in a particular field.

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Advanced standing

Advanced standing is the ability to gain credit for your course from studies you have previously completed at the same or a different educational institution.

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Associate degree

An associate degree is an undergraduate degree offered by universities and colleges. It requires the completion of a two-year full-time – or equivalent – program.

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Austudy is a financial aid program offered by the Australian Government. You may be eligible for Austudy if you are aged 25 years or more and studying or undertaking an apprenticeship full-time in Australia.

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Bachelor degree

A bachelor degree is also called an undergraduate degree. It is an academic qualification that allows students to gain the skills and knowledge needed to pursue a professional career. Bachelor degrees allow students to combine a mixture of core subjects and electives to create a personalised education.

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BAS stands for Business Activity Statement. Businesses use BAS to report and pay their tax obligations.

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Basic English language requirements

A prerequisite of some courses. If English is your second language and you did not complete the last two years of secondary education in English, you are required to provide evidence of English language competence before enrolling, for example an IELTS or TOEFL score. If you are an international student looking to study an Australian qualification, you will need to have competent skills in all aspects of the English language. For more information see Study & work in Australia.

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Bridging units

Bridging units are courses that allow you to brush up on a subject or ease you into a new study area. They are not accredited units but help bring your level of understanding on a subject closer to the assumed knowledge of the course.

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Cengage Certificate

A Cengage certificate is a qualification offered by Open Colleges (formerly known as Cengage Education), a leading education provider. Studying a Cengage certificate will give you the skills and knowledge to get your foot in a range of industry doors.

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A Certificate I, II, III or IV is a TAFE qualification that provides you with hands-on and up-to-date knowledge in your chosen area. They are designed with input from industry professionals to ensure you are well prepared to enter the field. Certificate I and II give you a thorough understanding of the foundations and theories associated with the particular industry. Certificate III and IV further build on this knowledge and give you an in-depth understanding of the topic.

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Core subjects

A core subject is a mandatory unit for a particular course. You must successfully complete core subjects to pass the course.

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Correspondence is one way of studying a course by distance. Studying by correspondence, you receive your education coursework and study materials online or in the mail.

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Course provider

Course provider refers to the organisation that administers your course.

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Credit is the ability to gain credit for your course from studies you have previously completed at the same or a different educational institution.

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The Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) is a register of all institutions and courses that are offered to international students. The ESOS Act requires institutions to register their courses to ensure the quality of education services.

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A diploma is a qualification in the vocational education and training and higher education sectors, one level up from a certificate. Studying a diploma can help you gain the skills and knowledge to excel in your career.

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Discussion board

A discussion board is an online space where you can get in touch with fellow students or tutors with your concerns, questions or general thoughts.

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Distance education

Distance education refers to the method of studying by distance, as opposed to on campus. Having access to tertiary education institutions is no longer limited by physical access or geographical location. Many courses are offered online or by correspondence, meaning you can study in the comfort of your own home and still receive the same qualification as someone studying on campus.

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Elective subjects

An elective subject is not a mandatory unit of a particular course. You may choose between electives to fulfil your course requirements.

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FEE-HELP is a Government loan scheme to help students pay for their tuition fees. Eligible applicants can have their tertiary education paid in full by the Australian Government until they are able to start making repayments.

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Flexible learning

Flexible learning refers to study that is offered by a variety of delivery methods from which the student can choose, sometimes in combination. For example, many courses are offered by distance education – online or by correspondence – and this can sometimes be combined with on-campus classes. This enables students to take control over what, where, when and how they learn.

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A graduand is a student who has successfully completed all of the requirements of their course but has not formally graduated.

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A graduate is a student who has successfully met all of the requirements of their course and has formally graduated.

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HECS-HELP is a Government loan that can assist with your tertiary education tuition fees. Eligible students will have their debt paid by the Australian Government in full, until they qualify to start making repayments.

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Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS)

HECS was a Commonwealth Government loan scheme that allowed students to defer their tertiary education fees. This terminology changed in 2005 – see Higher Education Loan Programme.

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Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP)

The Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) is a loan programme to help eligible students pay student contributions (HECS-HELP), tuition fees (FEE-HELP) and overseas study expenses (OS-HELP).

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Hosting university

Hosting university refers to the university which a distance education course is offered through.

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Master’s degree

A master’s degree is a postgraduate academic degree which students usually undertake after they have completed an undergraduate degree. To qualify for a master’s degree you need to demonstrate an advanced understanding of a specific field of study or area of professional practice.

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Mature age student

A mature age student is someone who undertakes tertiary education following a gap after finishing school. Generally it is someone who is 21 years or older as at 1 March in the year they intend to take on tertiary studies. This definition varies from institution to institution.

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MYOB stands for ‘Mind Your Own Business’ and is a company that provides accounting, payroll and retail software and web hosting to small and medium businesses.

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Online course

An online course is one that is available to study online, by distance via the Internet, and is an alternative method to studying on campus. You have access to your study materials and course work over the Internet, and interact with tutors and other students via email, forums and discussion boards.

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OS-HELP is a loan scheme to assist undergraduate students wanting to undertake some of their study overseas. You must be an Australian citizen or hold a permanent humanitarian visa and be enrolled in an undergraduate course with an Australian higher education provider. Your OS-HELP debt is added on to your accumulated HELP debt.

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For some industries your talent and skills are more important than the number of degrees that you have. In this case you may require a portfolio of your work (for example, designs you have created or articles you have published) to showcase what you have done. Make sure that your portfolio is up-to-date, especially when you are applying for new jobs. A portfolio is also a great way to keep a record of your work and progress.

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Postgraduate refers to a person who continues with academic study after the successful completion of their undergraduate degree.

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Prerequisites are skills or knowledge that must be obtained in order to qualify for a course.

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Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

RPL is the process of assessing and acknowledging a student’s skills and understanding that have been previously acquired. This prior learning is compared to the requirements of the course to determine whether advanced standing can be given.

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Residential school

Residential school is a component of some distance education courses. It requires the student to attend a block of classes on campus or at an allocated location. It gives students the chance to meet lecturers and fellow students, undertake practical work and take advantage of the campus resources.

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A scholarship is money awarded to a student based on academic achievement, socio-economic factors, or rural or Indigenous background. Scholarships can be used to cover tuition fees and textbooks, and can also include work placement arrangements.

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Statement of Attainment

A statement of attainment is a statement of official recognition that you have learnt certain basic skills and knowledge for your chosen profession. A statement of attainment can be put towards further study in the same or similar field, leading towards a formal qualification.

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Student forum

A student forum is an online meeting place for prospective and present students and tutors. Forums allow you to discuss any problems or enquiries you have about the coursework or assessments. Student forums are available to both distance education students and those attending classes on campus.

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Student support

Student support refers to the assistance provided by an education provider’s administration and academic staff. You are usually able to access support via phone, email, mail and in person, as well as through student forums.

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Summer school

Summer school refers to an academic session held over the summer break. It is usually held for remedial or supplementary study.

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TAFE stands for ‘technical and further education’ college. TAFE is a vocational education and training institution.

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TESOL is short for ‘teaching English to speakers of other languages’. Studying a TESOL course allows you to teach overseas as well as to international students and migrants in Australia.

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Undergraduate refers to a student who is studying towards a bachelor’s degree.

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University qualification

A university qualification is a formal qualification gained at university following a period of study, which acts as acknowledgment of the knowledge and skills acquired. These include bachelor degrees, graduate/postgraduate certificates, graduate/postgraduate diplomas and master’s degrees. These qualifications provide you with the skills to progress in your professional career. If you are an international student interested in studying an Australian qualification, see Study & work in Australia for more information.

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VET FEE-HELP is an extension of FEE-HELP. It is a government loan that assists students undertaking certain vocational and education training (VET) courses with an approved VET provider. The Australian Government will pay your tuition fees in full to the course provider until you are able to start making repayments.

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Work placement

Work placement refers to work experience undertaken by a student during their study. Placement is usually with a business in a relevant field.

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