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University terms explained

16 August 2023

These are some of the most common words and phrases you will come across at UC.


The first degree you study towards at university is called an undergraduate qualification eg, bachelor's degreescertificates, and diplomas. An undergraduate student is someone who is studying for their first degree, certificate, or diploma after secondary school.


Graduate and postgraduate

A graduate is a person who has completed and been awarded a degree from a university (sometimes known as an alumnus).

Postgraduate qualifications are for students who have already completed an undergraduate qualification (ie, graduates) and involve more advanced study in the area of your undergraduate qualification. They include honours degreesmaster’s degreespostgraduate certificates and diplomas, and doctorates (such as a PhD).

Graduate qualifications normally involve study in an area other than the area of your first qualification. They allow you to change subject areas, and some prepare you for employment in a certain field eg, teaching. They include graduate certificates and diplomas.


Domestic student

You are domestic student if you have any of the following:

  • New Zealand citizenship (this includes New Zealand citizens born in the Cook Islands, Niue, or Tokelau, and New Zealand citizens by descent)
  • Australian Citizenship (only eligible for domestic fees only if residing in Aotearoa New Zealand for the period of your study)
  • New Zealand Residence Class Visa (only eligible for domestic fees only if residing in Aotearoa New Zealand for the period of your study)
  • Australian Permanent Residence (only eligible for domestic fees only if residing in Aotearoa New Zealand for the period of your study)

Please note: if you hold a New Zealand Residence Class Visa, or have Australian citizenship or Australian Permanent Residence but you are residing outside Aoteroa New Zealand while studying at UC, you will be charged international fees.


International Student

You are an international student if you are a citizen or a residence class visa holder of a country other than Aotearoa New Zealand or Australia.



A qualification (or degree) is an award you receive after completing a programme of study. There are several types of qualifications varying in level of study and length of time.

UC's preparatory programmes are pre-university qualifications that prepare you for university study, especially for those that still need to meet University Entrance requirements. After completing a preparatory programme, you can enrol at UC into an undergraduate qualification.

After completing an undergraduate qualification (bachelor's degrees, undergraduate certificates and diplomas), you can carry on to a postgraduate qualification (postgraduate certificates and diplomas, honours degrees, master's degrees, PhDs and doctoral degrees), or change study direction with a graduate qualification (graduate certificates and diplomas).

Explore your qualification options:


Subjects are areas you can study in your degree. Some subjects you can continue from secondary school such as Music, Geography, English, while some you can start new at UC eg, Social Work, Linguistics, Marketing. 

Other subjects eg, Counselling, Fire Engineering, and Secondary Teacher Education are only available at graduate or postgraduate levels since they require background skills and experience.

Browse undergraduate subjects and graduate/postgraduate subjects to explore your study options and get an idea of everything that is on offer.



A major is the subject you choose to develop expertise in and study all the way to the final year of your bachelor’s degree. For example, a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Psychology. 

You can sometimes choose two subjects that you’re interested in (double major). These can be completed in the same time as a single major without the extra workload.



A minor is another subject you choose to focus on within a bachelor's degree, but you will only study this up to your second year. 

For example, a Bachelor of Science majoring in Physics with a minor in Astronomy. 



Specialisations combine different subjects together into a central theme. They allow you to specialise in multiple subjects all the way into your final year. These are offered within the Bachelor of Arts.



Courses (sometimes known as 'classes' or 'papers') are specific topics within a subject, for example an American history course within the History subject. This involves lectures, assignments, and other forms of study. Degrees are made up of multiple courses. 

Some courses are compulsory (ie, must be taken by all students in that degree), and some are electives (ie, you can choose your courses from a list of approved options in that degree).


Course codes and course occurrences

Each course has a code of four letters and three numbers. The letters show the subject, and the numbers show the level (or year you usually study this in your degree).

For example, MATH101 is a Mathematics course at 100-level (usually first year), ENGL201 is an English course at 200-level (usually second year), and ECON310 is an Economics course at 300-level (usually third year).

Courses can be offered through Semester 1 (S1) from February–June, Semester 2 (S2) from July–November, over the whole year (W), over the summer months (SU) from November–January, or can be started anytime during the year (A).

Find out more about Course codes.



Each course has a points value (similar to credits from NCEA) that reflects the workload for the course. All courses have a point value of 15, or multiples of 15 (eg, 30, 45 etc.).

When you pass a course, the points are credited towards your degree. You will need to complete a certain number of points overall to successfully finish your study.

Courses will also have an EFTS value, or Equivalent Full-Time Student, that indicates the overall workload of that course.

15 points = 0.1250 EFTS
30 points = 0.2500 EFTS
45 points = 0.3750 EFTS
60 points = 0.5000 EFTS
90 points = 0.7500 EFTS
120 points = 1.0000 EFTS



The academic year is split into two periods of study known as semesters. One semester is the equivalent of two terms at secondary school. 

Semester One begins in February, and Semester Two begins in July.

Find out more about key academic dates.

For a full list of terms, see the Glossary of terms.

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