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glossary - Glossary

Glossary of terms

A -level

The GCE Advanced Level, commonly referred to as the A-level, is a qualification offered by educational institutions in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A-levels are studied over a two-year period and are recognised as the standard for assessing the suitability of applicants for higher academic courses in English, Welsh, and Northern Irish universities.


The International Baccalaureate (IB) is an international education foundation which offers four educational programmes for children aged 3–19. In the UK, an IB diploma is most commonly studied as an alternative after A-levels.

Boarding school

A school where some or all people study and live during the school year with their fellow students and possibly teachers and/or administrators. Some boarding schools also have day students who attend the institution by day and go home to their families in the evenings.

Common Entrance (11+ and 13+ exams)

Common Entrance Examinations are taken by some children in the UK as part of the admissions process for academically selective secondary schools, most usually at age 11 for girls or 13 for boys.


Comprehensive secondary schools offer a full range of subjects across the academic and vocational spectrum. They are state sponsored and do not select their intake on the basis of academic achievement or aptitude. This is in contrast to the selective school system, where admission is restricted on the basis of selection criteria. About 90% of British pupils attend comprehensive schools.

Clarendon Schools

The Clarendon Schools were the subject of the Clarendon Commission of 1861 to 1864 and the consequent Public Schools Acts. They include some of the UK’s most famous public schools, including Charterhouse School, Eton College, Harrow School, Merchant Taylors’ School, Rugby School, Shrewsbury School, St Paul’s School, Westminster School and Winchester College.


Co-education, also known as mixed-sex education or mixed-gender education, is the integrated education of male and female students in the same environment. There have been many arguments and studies that compare single-sex and mixed-sex education. Many older institutions of higher education were previously reserved for one gender but have now changed to become co-educational.


The Latin word exeat (he/she may leave) is most commonly used to describe a period of absence from a centre of learning. It is used in Britain to describe weekend leave from a boarding school. Exeat is also used at certain colleges to define a required note to take absence from school either for entire days, or parts of a day for appointments, interviews, open days and other fixtures. Students at Oxford University and Cambridge University and other British universities must also obtain permission to leave college.


Flexi-boarding allows students to board for part of the week and to attend as a day pupil for the remainder of the week. This can fit in around modern family life and also gives students the chance to see if boarding is for them.


The General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is an academic qualification awarded in a specified subject, generally taken in a number of subjects by students aged 14–16 in secondary education in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The international version of the GCSE is the IGCSE, which can be taken anywhere in the world.

Higher education

Higher, post-secondary, tertiary, or third level education is the stage of learning that occurs at universities, academies, colleges, seminaries, and institutes of technology.

Independent school

In the United Kingdom, an independent school is also referred to as a private school, and in certain cases a public school. It is a school that is funded by private sources, predominantly in the form of tuition charges, gifts and long-term charitable endowments, and is not subject to the conditions imposed by accepting state financing.

Postgraduate degree

A postgraduate degree allows students to further explore a subject to attain a high level of proficiency, with an opportunity for independent study. A postgraduate is a student who has a bachelor’s degree and is taking courses to obtain a master’s degree or a Ph.D degree.

Public school

The term public school is commonly used in England and Wales to refer to a group of around 10 per centof the independent schools in the country which are members of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference. They are in general older, more expensive and more exclusive.

Russell Group
The Russell Group represents 24 leading UK universities which are committed to maintaining the very best research, an outstanding teaching and learning experience and unrivalled links with business and the public sector.

Secondary education

In the UK, secondary education usually takes place after the ages of 11 and finishes at age 18. It is compulsory to age 16.

SEN (Special Educational Needs)

Some children have needs or disabilities that affect their ability to learn. These may be behavioral issues, difficulty concentrating, reading or writing or physical needs or impairments.

Student loans

Student loans and grants in the United Kingdom are primarily provided by the government through the Student Loans Company (SLC). Most undergraduate university students resident in the United Kingdom are eligible for student loans.

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Undergraduate degree

This is a first degree. It’s a course of study that gives a thorough grounding in a field or subject and usually takes three years of full time studying. On successful completion, a Bachelors degree is awarded.

Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS)

All applications to UK universities for full-time courses are made through Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) and many colleges also recruit this way. UCAS offers a ‘clearing’ service between July and September. It lists courses which still have vacancies so people who didn’t get a place first time round have another opportunity for higher education.

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