A complete list of terms and definitions used on the bestCourse4me website.

1994 Group

A band of about 20 universities that have a smaller usually more specialised research focus than the better-known Russell Group.They attract a lot of money for research and have high teaching standards. There are also other so-called 'mission groups' such as Guild HE and Million+.

A levels

A levels are the exams most students take at the end of school or college (further education) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Usually, students heading for university take three or four A levels. They're usually taken over two years with the first year leading to an AS level (worth half an A level in terms of university entry qualifications). You can stop there or top it up with an A2 to make a full A level. Some other qualifications are often treated as an equivalent to A levels, including Highers in Scotland, the International Baccalaureate or qualifications such as vocational A levels. For the purposes of bestCourse4me, we've grouped these other qualifications under the heading of A levels. Even though they're not. But, believe us, it's simpler this way. In short, we've grouped under 'A levels' anything that UCAS gives tariff points for. When the difference matters we'll show which we mean.


The admissions office of any university or college handles the applications and enrolments. That's the department to ask for if you phone up to talk about getting a place. The admissions tutor is the member of the academic staff within a uni department that's in charge of who they decide to give a place to.

Average earnings

bestCourse4me provides results of two different types of earnings, depending on whether a result is drawn from the HESA or the LFS data. Which type of average earnings is specified with each result displayed in bestCourse4me. See average hourly pay and average graduate salary below.

Average hourly pay

Earnings as recorded on the LFS.  The LFS is a survey of all people in a particular occupation, not just recent graduates.  For example, it will include the earnings of a 58 year old policeman with a degree and the earnings of a 23 year old policemen without a degree.  By averaging earnings across the whole group of policemen, the LFS provides an average of earnings across a career as a policeman.  It is shown as average hourly pay before tax is deducted.


...of Arts, Science, Education, Engineering, etc. At English and Welsh universities, this is the degree most undergraduate students are heading for. When you get it, you can put BA, BSc, BEd, BEng or whatever else is appropriate at the end of your name.

Campus The area of land on which a collection of college buildings are built. So, a campus university is one built entirely or mainly on a single campus. A civic campus is a campus in a town. And a greenfield campus is not. Just to confuse things, some universities use 'campus' to mean a site on which any part of the university is based. So it could mean anything from a single building to an almost entirely separate college.

See 'Occupation'.


Each year after the A levels are published, many students find they haven't got the place they wanted and many universities find they haven't filled their courses. Clearing is the sometime frantic process during which those students and unis try to find each other and pair up.


A vague word that could mean (a) a sixth form college where students do A levels, (b) a semi-self-contained unit in a collegiate university, (c) an institution of higher education that isn't allowed to call itself a university or (d) any university, college of higher education, its buildings and/or its administrative authorities.

Combined honours

An undergraduate degree course that involves several subject areas - usually three - in approximately equal parts (to start with at any rate).


See 'Subject'.

Data source

The analysis and results displayed on bestCourse4me use source data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and the Labour Force Survey (LFS). See the Data Sources section of the users' guide. At least 52 incidents of a particular scenario must be available in the data for a result to be displayed. For instance, in order that we can list conservation as a career that geology graduates go on to pursue, there must be at least 52 people who studied geology and went on to become a conservation professional.


A higher education qualification of a certain level. They split into undergraduate degrees or first degrees which are usually Bachelorships degrees (masters, doctorates, and various postgraduate PGCEs and so on). A university isn't a university if it doesn't teach degrees although some do other higher education qualifications too like Higher National Diplomas (HNDs). Degrees are also sometimes taught at places that aren't fully fledged universities.

Degree class

The mark the student is awarded at the end of their degree, in descending order 1st, 2i, 2ii, 3rd.


Most universities break down different subject areas into departments and students 'belong' to whatever department teaches their course. It gets more complicated if they study more than one subject, because they may end up in several departments. Some universities don't have departments, they have schools or faculties instead (or even as well - faculties are often groups of departments), but they're basically the same thing.

Destination of Leavers from Higher Education Institutions survey (supplied by HESA)

bestCourse4me uses 'Destination of Leavers' survey data collected by HESA.  This survey provides information on the activities of students after they leave a university (or other higher education institution, HEI). The data is collected approximately six months after students leave their uni. It details the type of work a graduate has entered and in which type of industry sector. Much of the data is also linked to data from the HESA Student Record which allows for the analysis of destinations by students' attributes such as gender, subject of study and qualification obtained. It only contains data of people who completed their degree course.

Doing other things (including study)

Graduates who are neither employed nor unemployed and are not seeking work.  These people may be involved in further study, although this is not specified.


People in employment. This includes full time, part time, self employment and people who are due to start work within the next month.


A specific grouping of departments, subjects and courses as defined by each university on an individual basis for its own activities. The social sciences faculty at one university may not be a direct parallel with a faculty with the same name at another university, as each will vary in the range of departments it has and the courses it runs. The faculty name may also not completely match up with a subject area (see below) with the same name. Therefore results for a faculty should not be compared with results for a subject area with the same name.  The term faculty is only used in bestCourse4me in the context of research ratings.  These are provided at faculty level for each university as well as an overall score for each university as a whole.

Foundation degree

These are employment-related courses studied over two years (if taken full-time, but part of the lure is the flexible approach). While a university might offer a foundation degree, its content might be planned and even taught by an employer.

Further education

Further education is what comes after primary and secondary education. In other words it's usually what 16 to 18 year-olds do. In yet other words, it's A levels, Highers and the like. And in other, other, other words, it's what you have to do to be qualified to go on to higher education (universities and the like).


Someone who's completed a degree course.

Graduate salary

What a graduate earns as recorded in the HESA Destination of Leavers Survey.  This provides a snapshot of earnings six months after graduating so provides a specific picture of graduate entry earnings. It's shown as annual earnings before tax is deducated to the nearest £1k for a full time position.

Guild HE

An organisation that represents a number of Higher Education colleges, specialist institutions and some universities.


Higher Education Institution - in other words a university, college or other similar institution.


Higher Education Statistics Agency - the official agency for the collection, analysis and dissemination of quantitative information about higher education.

Higher Education

After primary school, there's secondary school, then further education and, finally, higher education which takes place at universities, colleges of higher education and so on. HE includes undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, higher national diplomas (HNDs) and a few other things like certain vocational qualifications (such as LCPs for lawyers, for instance).


In Scotland, students take Highers as the equivalent of A levels. For the purposes of bestCourse4me, we've grouped Highers under the heading of A levels. Even though they're not. We really apologise to Scotland, but, believe us, it's simpler this way.

HND The Higher National Diploma is based on vocational studies, generally aimed at prepping students for a particular career or industry. It can lead on to, or count towards, a degree course.
Honours degree Most degrees are honours degrees and, depending on how you do in your exams or coursework, are split into: first class honours (or firsts), upper second class or 2.i (pronounced 'two-one'), lower-second class or 2.ii (a 'two-two') and third class honours, or a third. If a student does badly, but not quite badly enough to fail, that's when they might not get an honours degree, but an ordinary degree instead. There are other types of degree too, such as postgraduate and foundation degrees.
JACS The Joint Academic Coding System is used to classify subjects on bestCourse4me and elsewhere. The System groups degree courses into topics or subject areas used by HESA. This doesn't refer to a specific course at a specific university, but refers to a group of courses in a particular subject area.  JACS classification is most detailed at Level 4 (eg marine chemistry). bestCourse4me uses the broader JACS Level 2 and Level 1 codes, e.g. Chemistry (Level 2) or Physical Sciences (Level 1), because data is more complete and this allows more results to be shown.  There are 156 groups at Level 2 and 19 groupings at Level 1.
Job See 'Occupation'.
Joint honours degree A joint honours degree, like a combined honours degree, is a course involving more than one subject. In this case, two subjects.
LFS The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is a quarterly sample survey of households living at private addresses in Great Britain. Its purpose is to provide information on the UK labour market. It's conducted by the Government's Office for National Statistics. It includes data on occupations and earnings for the entire workforce, including graduates and non-graduates.
LFS subject areas The system for classifying the subject areas that were studied by the people who completed the LFS (Labour Force Survey), which is used for bestCourse4me's career information. The LFS groups all areas of study into 17 subject areas.
Mature students Mature students are 21 or over when they start their degree. As such, generally, they're older than most other students and are probably returning to education rather than being fresh out of school.
Million+ A group of universities - mostly newer ones with a track record of admitting a wide range of different types of students to do vocational courses. It describes itself as a 'think tank', which explains why the member unis have chosen to group together.
Modular courses A sort of pick'n'mix course comprising a number of components (modules), either within just one department or across a range of subjects.
Non-continuation A measure of how many students don't continue into the second year of their degree course, because they dropped out during - or at the end of - their first year.
Non-graduate Someone who hasn't completed a degree course.
Occupation On bestCourse4me, we don't talk about specific jobs. Instead 'career' refers to the relevant occupational group, using the nationally recognised SOC classification system for categorising different careers or occupations into groups (see SOC below). An example of an occupational group is 'Nursing', which incorporates a wide range of specific nursing jobs.
Postgraduate Someone doing a degree who already has (at least) one degree. Postgraduate qualifications include masters, PGCEs and PhDs.
Russell Group A band of 20 universities (including Oxford and Cambridge) that like to think of themselves as the leading universities for research. It's true they've cornered a big share of the research funding and they tend to attract high-flying students. See also the 1994 Group.
Qualification The highest qualification someone's achieved, such as a first degree, a post graduate degree, an NVQ, or an A level.
SOC The Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) is the nationally recognised system for categorising occupations into groups - for example 'teaching', which covers a number of professions within that group.  bestCourse4me uses SOC Level 3 groupings where careers are grouped into 81 different occupational categories.

A particular field or area of study, eg. chemistry. It does not refer to a particular course, but is a way of referring to groups of courses which share a common subject area. HESA and the LFS use different subject area groupings.  See JACS and LFS subject areas above.

Tuition fees Students on most higher education courses have to pay towards the cost of teaching the course. For most students this doesn't mean they have to fork out up front, but that they'll be charged a bit each month once they start earning a decent salary.
Undergraduate Someone doing their first degree.
Unemployed Out of work and seeking work. Those who are unemployed but aren't looking for a job are classified in the 'other' category (see Doing other things above).
University Not nearly as easy to define as you might have thought, although, officially, a UK university has to be founded by Parliamentary Statute. There are plenty of places like certain higher education colleges and places like King's College London (and other colleges of London University) that deserve the name as much as many of the places that have it. The long and the short of it is that a university is a place to get a higher education.