Do you know your PG Dip from your PhD?


30th Jul 2020


Online study


Higher education can be a daunting prospect, and that isn’t made any easier when you suddenly encounter a bunch of new and confusing terms.

This handy guide lists several of the most common higher education abbreviations and will help you understand the different types of qualifications available. By the end you’ll know your PG Dip from your PhD, as well as the difference between an MPH and an MSc.


A-level GCE Advanced Level

The A-level is a qualification that is generally worked towards over two years, and can lead to further study, training and work. Obtaining A-levels or equivalent qualifications is usually required for entrance to many universities.


APL – Accreditation of Prior Learning

Students with certain relevant qualifications may be exempt from some modules on our courses. This reduces the time needed to complete your University of Essex Online qualification, as well as reducing the full course fee you will be asked to pay.


BA / BSc – Bachelors

An undergraduate qualification representing a course of higher education academic study. The two most common are the BA (Bachelor of Arts) and BSc (Bachelor of Science). Many of our graduates use their Bachelors degree to get into a job or profession. Some go on to further postgraduate study, such as a Masters degree..


CertHE – Certificate of Higher Education

A CertHE is the basic qualification that can be gained in higher education and shows that you are capable of studying successfully at university level. It is equal to 120 credits at level 4 — or the first level of a degree course. This can be achieved as a stand-alone qualification or used as a stepping stone towards further education.


FdA – Foundation degree

A foundation degree is equivalent to the first two levels of a Bachelors degree (out of three). These provide a platform for candidates to access higher level jobs without the full commitment of an undergraduate degree. Students can later finish their undergraduate study by completing a Top-up degree.


GCSE General Certificate of Secondary Education

This qualification is awarded in specific subjects to pupils in secondary education in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. GCSEs are often required if students wish to study for a higher education qualification. GCSEs are usually taken at the age of 16.


(Hons)  Honours Degree

You will often see BA or BSc followed by (Hons), which means the degree is an Honours degree, as opposed to an ordinary degree. This normally indicates the qualification is of a superior academic standard.


IELTS International English Language Testing System

IELTS defines itself as the world’s proven English language test and continues to set the standard for English language testing today. If English is not your first language your English ability should be equivalent to IELTS (Academic) 6.0 for our undergraduate degrees or IELTS (Academic) 6.5 for postgraduate degrees.


LLB Bachelor of Laws

An LLB is an undergraduate degree in law. The LLBs offered by University of Essex Online are recognised as qualifying law degrees (QLD) in England and Wales and meet the requirements for the academic stage of legal education, putting you on the path towards a professional career as a solicitor or barrister.


LLM Master of Laws

An LLM is an internationally recognised postgraduate law degree. Usually, LLM students need to first obtain a professional degree in law (e.g. the Bachelor of Laws) before studying for the LLM, although the course may be relevant for non-lawyers such as those who work in international businesses or government agencies.


MA / MSc Masters

A Masters degree is a postgraduate qualification usually earned after the completion of a Bachelors degree. The two most common titles are the Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MSc). Students gain advanced understanding in a particular field and gain the skills to solve complex problems and think independently.


M.Ed. Master of Education

An M.Ed. is a postgraduate qualification aimed at qualified teachers and those currently in a teaching role, which allows them to improve their practice and reflect on their teaching experiences. On its own, it is not normally sufficient to qualify a person to teach.


MPH Master of Public Health

An MPH is a postgraduate qualification that provides students with a systematic and critical understanding of the key concepts underlying public health. University of Essex Online’s MPH programme is aligned with the Public Health Skills and Knowledge Framework and prepares students to enter an array of roles in professions revolving around public health.


NSS National Student Survey

An independent and widely recognised annual student census completed by final-year undergraduate students at all publicly funded higher education Institutions in the UK. It measures aspects of each course through multiple-choice questions and student comments. We achieved excellence for teaching, learning and academic support in the 2023 National Student Survey.


NVQ National Vocational Qualifications

NVQs are recognised qualifications related to a particular industry or sector. There are five levels of NVQ and these work-based awards are granted in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and achieved through assessment and training. A level 4 NVQ is equivalent to a CertHE (or the first level of an undergraduate degree) and a level 5 NVQ is equivalent a foundation degree (or the first two levels of an undergraduate degree).


OfS – Office for Students

The OfS is an independent regulator of higher education in England. They aim to ensure students have a fulfilling experience of higher education. Their work covers all students whether undergraduate or postgraduate, full-time or part-time, studying on-campus or online. University of Essex Online is registered with OfS.


PG Cert Postgraduate Certificate

A PG Cert is a qualification at postgraduate level. It provides students with specialised knowledge and also offers them the opportunity to progress on to study for a Postgraduate Diploma and a full Masters. It is a shorter course, equivalent to 60 credits or the first third of a Masters degree.


PG Dip – Postgraduate Diploma

A PG Dip is another kind of postgraduate qualification. A postgraduate diploma typically represents 120 credits, whereas a full Masters degree is usually 180 credits, and it is again possible to progress onto the full Masters degree after completion.


PhD – Doctor of Philosophy

This is a doctorate award, granted by many universities around the world. A person who attains a doctorate of philosophy is automatically awarded the academic title of doctor.


QAA – Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education

The QAA is an independent body that safeguards standards and quality in UK higher education. They check that students get the higher education experience they are entitled to expect and we’re proud to be one of their recognised members.


THE – Times Higher Education

This weekly magazine is the UK’s leading publication in the field of news and issues related to higher education. In 2018, the University of Essex was awarded the title of University of the Year by the Times Higher Education Awards.


UCAS Universities and Colleges Admissions Service

This organisation operates the application process for British mainstream universities. They say, “as a centralised admissions service, we encourage students to consider courses and learning opportunities across the UK and promote choice.” To apply to study at University of Essex Online, you should apply directly rather than through UCAS.


VLE – Virtual Learning Environment

A VLE is an online teaching tool now used by many educational institutions as a method to manage and deliver learning activities and content. University of Essex Online has a state-of-the-art online learning platform which provides students with 24/7 access to lecturecasts, Q&A sessions, seminars, discussion forums and resources.


UoEO University of Essex Online

That’s us! We offer undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses online to both UK and international students that enable them to benefit from a flexible approach to study, while maintaining the quality and support you would expect from a top UK university.


Something piqued your interest? Download our prospectus today.