Student Support/Wider Access…

Studying for a degree: your questions answered.

Here are some quick answers to the most common questions new students ask.

Are lectures compulsory?

Some courses will insist you attend, others might be more flexible.  However, they are generally regarded as essential for giving you a starting point for your private studies. Persistent non-attendance could well affect your degree performance.

How many hours of lectures will you be expected to attend?

This will vary between programmes and between institutions. Check with your prospective department for an up to date timetable.

I’m a new student but I won’t be starting in year 1 of my course.  Will there be information on what was covered in previous years of the course?

You should check with your new tutors.  Students who started the course in year 1 might also be helpful.  You will also get a CD-Rom before you start that will include details on what each course covers at every stage so look out for that in late August.

Will there be information available on past lectures?

Not always, although you could check whether or not the lecturer on your chosen module has tutor files, online lecture notes, or can put you in contact with a student who did the module previously.

Where would additional information on modules be available?

Talk to the module leader/co-ordinator, ask the programme director for a handbook, or attend an open day and ask other students.

How many hours of private study should you put in?

Private study is an important part of studying for a degree.  As a rule of thumb your independent study should match the lectures and seminars you attend.  However, you should always allow additional time for completing coursework and revision.

How much coursework will I be expected to do?

The amount of coursework will vary between modules and across programmes. The type of coursework will vary. Some will be essay based, others research based or perhaps a report linked to fieldwork or an experiment. It is a good idea to ask fellow students if you can look at similar work they did in previous years. This will help you gauge what is expected of you.

What will the exams be like?

Start by checking past exam questions. These are generally available on the portal intranet site. Past exam questions will give you a clear idea of what to expect. In some instances, lecturers might also be able to provide you with sample answers to have a look at.

How is coursework marked?

The tutor who sets the coursework also marks it.  In most instances a selection of coursework from any given assessment is marked by a second person to ensure continuity and consistency of marking.

How will my work be marked?

Your work will be marked against a set of criteria covering content and presentation. Criteria sheets will be available and you can ask to see them. In some instances tutors will provide samples of work that you can look at to gauge what is needed to gain a good mark.

What about referencing?

When you refer to other people’s published work in your essays and reports, you need to use the way of referring to it required by your course.  Most use the Harvard reference system, although yours may not.  Check the university website to see which system you are required to use.

Is there support for IT and study skills, and if so, where do I go?

Yes.  The IT trainers have a helpdesk on the ground floor in the library for computing help.  The Student Academic Support team who are also based in the library, can help you to improve how you study.

Where would I go for help with disabilities?

Student Service’s has a team to help students with disabilities.  Contact the Disabled Student Adviser, Claire Allan, to start getting help – call her on 308051, or by email book a first appointment.  The students’ union welfare officer is also there to offer assistance.

How do I go about getting a student loan, or sorting out fees?

Visit the finance department and ask for advice, or visit student services whose job it is to advise students with any problems, financial or otherwise.  Also check the Student Award Agency for Scotland website at

What is the social life like?

The student centre is where you will find information on how to join the many clubs and societies at university. You may also find your department has a student society that will help you meet students with similar interests.

The jargon:

Universities are terrible at using words that mean something to staff but not explaining them to students.

Here is some of the jargon that you’ll face in the next few months.

  • Articulation: finishing an HNC or HND and moving on to the second or third year of a degree course.
  • Bridging: activities laid on to help students moving from an HNC or HND to the second or third year of a degree course.
  • Credits: points earned as you complete each part of your course. Normally, degree students have to earn 120 credits each year.
  • Direct entry: coming on to a degree course but not on to its first year. This might be because your qualifications (such as an HNC) or experience mean that you have equivalent skills and knowledge as students who have taken the first year of the course.
  • Induction: one or two weeks of administration and orientation activities before teaching starts.
  • Lab (laboratory): a practical exercise in either a computer room or a science lab.
  • Lecture: a lesson with possibly more than 100 students where the lecturer will speak and you are expected to take notes. Lectures should be just the start of your learning about a subject, not the main way you study.
  • Level: the position on the SCQF (see below) of the qualification you are studying for. For example, HNC courses are level 7; HNDs are at level 8.
  • Matriculation: the process of signing up when you start each year of a university course to get your ID card.
  • Modular scheme: used by most universities to structure their courses, modular schemes break down each year of the course into (normally) at least four separate units-modules.
  • Module: a unit of a course covering one specific topic, such as web authoring, statistics for business or research methodologies.
  • Personal tutor: member of staff responsible for checking how you are settling in to your new course.
  • Practical: active work, possibly in the lab or involving fieldwork, such as surveying a building.
  • Pre-induction: the period before the start of teaching used for administration and orientation activities.
  • SCQF (Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework): a guide to how qualifications link together, from Standard grades to postgraduate degrees.
  • Semester: half the academic year. Modules normally take one semester to complete.
  • Seminar: a cross between a lecture and a tutorial. A chance to discuss a topic in depth in a small group. Often, the students will take turns to lead the discussion each week.
  • Stage: one full year’s worth of study. So if you’re a part-time student, each stage of the course will take two years.

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