Starting at a UK university this September? Here are a few phrases that are indigenous to UK university life!

Don’t worry if you find these slang terms and strange phrases confusing at first, in many cases even British students don’t know what ‘Harvard Referencing’ or ‘plagiarism’ means until their second week…

Freshers’ Week

This is the first experience you are likely to have at university – it refers to your very first week!

Your university may officially refer to this as ‘intro week’, but amongst students it’s very much freshers’ week. Freshers’ week is a time for getting to know your way around, signing up for societies and generally making friends with your course mates and housemates.

Your first few weeks can generally be a very friendly time and it is perfectly common for fellow students to strike up impromptu conversations around campus.

There aren’t really any subject based lectures in freshers’ week and it’s more about meeting your tutors, getting your timetables and choosing any optional modules. Each night there are usually union activities on too – but don’t worry if going clubbing isn’t for you, there’ll be so many societies to choose from that it’s almost impossible not to find a group of like-minded people!

Don’t worry if you feel a little lonely or homesick during freshers’ week, not everybody forms lifelong friendships in their first few weeks and there’s plenty of time to settle in. If you are finding things hard after a few months however, your university will have a dedicated counselling service to help.

Russell Group

There are 24 UK universities in the Russell Group and it is fair to say that these are deemed very prestigious universities. Russell Group universities are essentially committed to academic excellence within public research universities.

According to the Russell Group website, RG universities have some of the highest percentages of undergraduates progressing onto postgraduate courses. Russell Group graduates are also said to attract a salary ‘top up’ of 16% over their lifetime (16% for male graduates, 9% for female graduates).

However, there are numerous universities that surpass Russell Group universities in the league tables, so it doesn’t mean your university isn’t prestigious just because it isn’t in the Russell Group.

For example, whilst The University of Sheffield is a Russell Group university, The University of Bath (not in the Russell Group) outranks Sheffield for 2015.


UCAS stands for ‘Universities and Colleges Admission Service’ and you’ll become very familiar with this when you’re applying to university! In almost all cases, students wishing to apply for a course at a British university will have to apply through UCAS.

UCAS is an online service which allows you to apply to universities and manage all of your applications in one place. You can apply for up to five courses through UCAS (four if you’re studying Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary Science) and deadlines do apply. Your college will be able to support you with the UCAS application process and the UCAS website has a selection of helpful videos and guides.

Personal Statement

A personal statement or statement of purpose is essentially an essay which you submit with your university application. It’s your chance to sell yourself and show your passion for the course you’re applying for.

The content of your personal statement may vary depending on the type of course you’re applying for and Studential have some useful advice and links to example personal statements to help get you started. Your college careers department should also be able to proof read your personal statement before you send it off.

Harvard referencing

Harvard referencing is basically a way to credit resources you have used to carry out an assignment.

Harvard referencing is a crucial part of university assignments that we can almost guarantee you’re going to hate! It’s boring, it’s meticulous, but in most cases you’ll have to get the little blighter cracked. Your university or course handbook will teach you all about how to correctly reference (i.e. academic citations or research) and your tutors are likely to mention this A LOT in your first few months.

Harvard referencing is precise and you may never learn to completely remember it off the top of your head. So keep a guide close – it’ll help when you’ve got one hour to finish that essay before the deadline!


Plagiarism is essentially passing off someone else’s work or ideas as your own, but the concept isn’t quite clear cut and has varying definitions.

Plagiarism is taken really seriously in universities. Like really seriously. The best way to stay safe is to reference meticulously using your course guidelines and check with your tutor if you’re unsure.

Universities check every piece of work you submit for any instances of ‘copying’ or passing ideas off as your own and this is something you can’t get away with under any circumstances.

We’re sure there are many more phrases that you’ll hear and wonder what in the world your fellow students are talking about! If you’ve heard any unusual phrases, please comment or let us know on Facebook or Twitter… it may be regional, it may be a ‘new’ craze, but either way we’ll figure out those student idioms!

Victoria is a blogger for IEC Abroad, an international education consultancy based in Manchester.