Academic Terminology

Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree, also known as an undergraduate degree, generally requires 3 or 4 years of full-time university study to complete. You can enter this degree program directly from high school or as a mature learner.

There are many different types of undergraduate degrees. Some common examples are a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BSc) and Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA).

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Course Syllabus

A course syllabus (or course outline) is an outline of the topics that will be covered in your course for the year, and can include the following:

  • An overview of the weekly readings
  • Course assignments
  • Course expectations
  • Deadlines
  • Exam information
  • Contact information for your professors and teaching assistants

Professors usually distribute the syllabus on the first day of class.

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Doctor of Philosophy Degree (PhD)

A doctor of philosophy degree (PhD), also known as a doctoral degree, usually takes between 4 and 6 years to complete after a master’s degree.

During a PhD, you will focus even further in an area of study and will present and defend your research at the completion of your program. You can pursue a PhD in various disciplines, both in the arts and sciences, and in professional fields, such as law, medicine and engineering.

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Faculty

A faculty is a grouping of similar university programs or departments. For example, a Faculty of Science may include departments of Biology, Chemistry and Kinesiology, while a Faculty of Arts may include History, English and Global Studies.

Faculties are usually headed by a Dean. Each Dean has his or her own office and staff who may provide academic advising services or other student services. Professors are also called faculty members.

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Master’s Degree (MA)

A master’s degree (MA) takes between 1 and 2 years to complete after a bachelor’s degree.

A master’s degree requires you to specialize and undertake research in an area of study, often supervised by a professor or university researcher. Some common examples are a Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MSc) and Master of Education (MEd).

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Prerequisites

Prerequisites are courses that you must successfully complete before you can register in a particular program or course. These are usually listed in course calendars so you can plan your courses for the next year.

For example, the prerequisite to take a second-year chemistry course might be a specific chemistry course offered in first year.

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Professional Program

A professional program is a program of advanced learning that leads you to an occupation governed by a mandatory regulatory body. Members of the profession must complete a licensing exam before they can actively practice. They must also keep their credentials current through additional education mandated by the regulatory body.

Professional programs include medicine, law, teacher education, rehabilitation sciences, dentistry, optometry, pharmacy and nursing.

Medical school leads to a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and teacher education leads to a Bachelor of Education (BEd).

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Registrar

The registrar’s office at a university handles student records and class registration. The registrar provides services, such as guiding first-year class registration, processing your request to graduate and printing transcripts.

At some universities, the registrar’s office also includes the financial aid office.

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Subjects of Major and Minor Interest (Program or Major)

A subject of major interest is a specialization within a general degree program. For example, a university might have a degree called “Arts”, but through that program, you could study a number of subjects of major interest, including History, Drama, Economics, English, French, Sociology, Philosophy, etc. Usually you will be asked to choose your “subject of major interest” when you apply for the general degree program.

You can also have 1 or 2 “minor” subjects of interest, which require fewer course credits. For example, you could major in History and complete a minor in Political Science.

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Tutorials and Labs

Tutorials are small weekly classes where teaching assistants (TAs) hold discussions on topics covered in lectures, as well as offer advice for completing assignments and preparing for tests or exams.

For example, in a first-year course of 300 people, you might expect between 15 and 30 students in your tutorial.

Labs are also led by TAs. In these, you complete hands-on experiments to apply what you learned in a lecture and undertake research that is relevant to your class.

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