Academic Terminology

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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 degree programs directly from high school or as a mature student.

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 Outline or Syllabus

A course outline (or syllabus) is a summary of the topics that will be covered in your course for the year, and may include:

  • 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 course outline 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  4 to 6 years to complete after a master’s degree.

During a PhD, you focus on an area of study, are supervised by a professor or university researcher, and defend your research at the completion of your program.

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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 and have their own staff who may provide academic advising services or other student services.

Professors are also called faculty members.

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Master’s Degree

A master’s degree takes 1 to 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 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 first-year chemistry course.

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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 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.

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Registrar’s Office

The registrar’s office at a university handles student records and class registration. It 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. Usually, you will be asked to choose your subject of major interest when you apply for a general degree program.

For example, a university might have a degree called “Arts”, but through that program, you can study several subjects of major interest, including History, Drama, Economics, English, French, Sociology, Philosophy, etc.

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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A transcript is a copy of your academic record and includes all the grades and courses you successfully and unsuccessfully completed, including courses you withdrew from after the registration deadline.

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Tutorials and Labs

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

In a first-year course of 300 people, there may be 15 to 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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