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Glossary - Definitions & help information

This glossary for the course and unit catalogue provides a range of definitions relating to your course or programme, and relevant general information.

The list of definitions & general information below is all arranged in alphabetical order. Should you have further queries, please contact Academic Registry.


Academic administration calendar

Provides a summary of academic administration activities within the University including the production of the programme and unit catalogues. See the Academic Administration Calendar web pages for further information.

Academic year

For specific academic year and semester dates please see the Academic Year Dates web pages.


This section of the unit catalogue describes what the unit aims to cover. In more recently approved units the aims section has been replaced by synopsis.


All changes to units and programmes of study (as well as new units and programmes) must be approved by the relevant committees before any changes can be made in SAMIS or in the web-based catalogues. Please refer to the Quality Assurance Code of Practice for further information.

Assessment (of units)

How a unit is assessed. There are a number of different ways in which assessment may be carried out. A full list can be viewed as part of QA3 (See also Supplementary assessment below).

Assessment patterns and data in SAMIS

The assessment pattern data in the web catalogues is taken directly from the assessment information set up in SAMIS. The Web catalogue is refreshed periodically from updated data in SAMIS. Please email Academic Registry's SAMIS support team if you believe the assessment data shown on the catalogue is incorrect.

Availability (of units)

The availability of a unit to an individual student, whether or not it is included in their programme of study, is subject to a number of constraints, for example: staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors. The inclusion of a unit in a course year does not necessarily mean that it will be available to all students on the programme.

A unit may be available in one or more period slots.



The Programme & Unit Catalogues (also known as the Course and Unit catalogues) contain details of courses and units offered to undergraduate and taught postgraduate students.

Changes to Courses/Units (information for staff)

Changes to existing courses and units (as well as details of new courses and units) are approved by the relevant department/Faculty/School committee. Please see the Quality Assurance Code of Practice.

Please note that it is the responsibility of the owning department to ensure that all relevant departments and students are informed of any course or unit changes.

Codes, Course

Each code is specific to an individual course of study and provides information such as the department the course belongs to, the level of the course (undergraduate, taught-postgraduate, research postgraduate, non-credit), etc.

There is a different code for each different variant of a course. For example: the full-time MEng in Mechanical Engineering has a different code to the MEng in Mechanical Engineering programme which includes an industrial placement course. Please check to make sure that you have found the correct course within the catalogue.

Codes, Unit

Each unit code is unique to an individual unit. The code includes information on the owning department and the level at which the unit is taught. Within SAMIS units are labelled "Modules" and these terms can be used interchangeably.

See the unit codes page for further information on how units are coded.


A compulsory unit is a unit which must be taken by all students on a particular course of study. Units which are compulsory for students on some courses may be optional for students on others. NB. Compulsory units may be referred to as 'mandatory' in some documentation.

Content (of units)

The content section of a unit description gives details of the unit syllabus.


This refers to the course of study, e.g., BSc Economics, MSc Computer Science. This may also be referred to as a Programme.

Course availability

This section of the unit catalogue lists the courses on which the unit is offered.

Course description

A course description is a document, usually provided alongside a course specification (see below), which shows the structure of a course, i.e. which units are being taught in each period slot, whether they are compulsory or optional, and how the assessment regulations apply to the course (including any Designated Essential Units/Must Pass Units).

Course specification

The course specification provides full details of a course of study including final awards, modes of attendance, educational aims, learning outcomes and accreditation. Course specifications data is held in SAMIS.

Course structure

A description of the compulsory and optional units which make up each year of a course of study.

CPA (Curriculum Planner Approval)

Also referred to as “Curriculum Planner”. This is the online tool which facilities Faculties and the School of Management to approve changes to units and courses. See the Curriculum planner for more information.


ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) credits are used to illustrate how units fit together within a course of study. The workload for a typical undergraduate year comprises 60 credits (usually split equally into 30 credits for each semester). For postgraduate students the number of credits making up a year's workload varies according to the type of course being studied. A typical full-time postgraduate masters course comprises 90 ECTS credits, a postgraduate diploma 60 ECTS credits and a postgraduate certificate 30 ECTS credits. See the Course Structures for further information.

CATS (Credit Accumulation Transfer System) credits have been adopted for some postgraduate distance-learning/online courses. A typical full-time postgraduate masters course comprises 180 CATS credits, a postgraduate diploma 120 CATS credits and a postgraduate certificate 60 CATS credits. See the Courses Structures for further information.

Credits, level

Students must complete a certain number of credits at specified levels in order to receive the final award for their programme of study. The QA3 Approval of new programmes of study, annex b provides further details.


Description (unit catalogues)

The description section in the unit catalogues gives information on the aims, learning outcomes, skills and content of a unit.


This is a SAMIS term used to describe a collection of units which make up a year of a course.

Director of Studies Approved Options

More information can be found in the Director of Studies approved options.

Dissertation period

This is a period slot specific to postgraduate taught masters courses. The dissertation period is a period in which students complete their masters dissertation. It usually begins at the end of Semester 2 and continues over the summer period.

Distance learning

A number of courses are offered via Distance Learning, i.e. students do not study on campus at all or only attend for short periods of time (e.g. for summer schools).


Exit awards

A possible alternative award if a student is not eligible for the intended award for the course. Exit awards have specific requirements., for example: Certificate of Higher Education, or Diploma of Higher Education.

Extra units

Students are permitted to take one six-credit unit, or five credit unit for a transformed course in an academic year, outside the requirements of their programme. In choosing to enrol on the extra unit, the student is committing to undertake the assessment. Undergraduate students are not allowed to enrol on a unit and not undertake the assessment. An extra unit will not count for progression in their degree programme, or towards their degree result. However, the fact that they have taken it, and the result they have obtained, will be recorded on their transcript of results, and indicate that extra work has been done. These units will be available subject to constraints such as minimum and maximum group sizes, staff availability, timetabling factors, and the ability to meet the pre-requisites. This type of unit is known as a free/extra-curricular unit.



A full-time undergraduate course is normally considered as a course in which students are required to complete units making up 60 ECTS credits during the course of an academic year and are either studying or on a placement for the entirety of the year. Full-time taught postgraduates normally complete 30 ECTS credits in each of two semesters and a further 30 ECTS credits for a dissertation.


Generally available units

A generally available unit is a unit which is offered to students across all departments of the University and may be taken in addition to the requirements of a specific course (see the Extra Units) or may be taken as part of their degree if listed in the course catalogue.


Learning Outcomes (of units)

The Learning Outcomes section of the unit description states what a student should be able to do after completing the unit.

Level (of units)

The level of a unit is indicated by the first number in the code it is assigned (see the unit coding table for further information). Unit levels are also given in the unit catalogue. Students must complete a specified number of credits at a given level in order to complete their course/programme of study. See the QA3 Approval of new programmes of study, annex b for further details.



See Compulsory.

Mode of Attendance (programme)

This indicates how a programme is studied: e.g. full-time, part-time, thick sandwich, thin sandwich, distance learning, etc.


Whilst all of our programmes can be considered to be modular (students study in discrete 'modules' or units), for the purposes of the programme and unit catalogues some specific programmes are described as 'Modular' rather than full-time or part-time and some units have a period slot 'Modular' rather than Semester 1 etc.

In this context, 'Modular' programmes are part-time (often distance learning) programmes with a structure that usually involves completing one module before progressing to the next. 'Modular' units may be available at different times throughout the year and do not conform to the semester based period slots used for full-time programmes.


Formally, the University refers to "units", but the word "module" is used in the student system SAMIS and these terms can be used inter-changeably.


Occurrence code (modules in SAMIS)

Occurrence codes are used in conjunction with module availabilities to indicate instances where a module is offered more than once in a single period slot.

Occurrence codes may also used for the purposes of assessment to indicate specific groups of students on a unit (e.g. undergraduate, undergraduate visiting students or postgraduate students) where the outcome of the assessment is different for each group of students. This means that some units may have a number of 'occurrences' even though the unit is only taught once in a period slot, because the unit is offered to different types of students.

Optional (units)

Some courses of study will allow students to choose a specified number of the units for a given semester from a list. For example, 20 credits of the semester are made up of compulsory units but the remaining 10 must be chosen from a list of units containing both 5 and 10 credit units. These are called optional units.

Owning Department

The owning department is the department responsible for the administration of a particular course or unit.


Part time

A part-time programme is one in which students study for fewer credits and hours each year than those required for a full-time programme.

Period slot

This refers to a specified period of time in which a unit runs. For example: - Semester 1 - Semester 2 - Academic Year - Dissertation Period - Modular - Month (e.g. M01 - August start)

Placement Year (or Placement Period)

Students take a placement year as part of a thick-sandwich or a study-year abroad course. As the name suggests, this involves either spending a year working in an industry relevant to the subject of their course of study, or spending a year studying overseas. Some placements are for shorter periods than an academic year or involve a combination of work placement and overseas study.

Pre-requisite (units)

If a unit has a pre-requisite rule it means that students taking the unit must have taken other specified units first. Any pre-requisite rules will be displayed during online unit selection.


This refers to a student's programme of study: e.g. BSc in Natural Sciences, MSc in Economics, etc. This may also be referred to as a course.


Qualification Aim

The qualification aim is the final award that a student is expected to achieve at the end of a course of study (e.g. BSc, MBA, PhD etc.).



The requisites section of a unit description gives details of any other units which must be taken before, after or whilst studying the unit in question or which may not be taken if the unit is studied. See the Unit Rules table for further details.


Same as Requisites.



Each academic year is made up of two semesters in which teaching and assessment take place. You can find the dates for each semester in the academic year charts.

Site Code

A site code is a digit in the course code which indicates where a course is running e.g. on the main campus in Bath or, in the case of online Masters courses, fully online. For further information on site codes and how they fit into course codes, see the description of course codes.

Skills (of units)

The skills section of a unit description lists the intellectual, professional, practical, and key skills students will gain or enhance by taking the unit and often indicates whether these will be taught, facilitated or assessed (sometimes abbreviated to 'T', 'F' and 'A'). In more recently approved units the Learning Outcomes section now includes this information.

Special characters

Special typographic characters can be difficult to represent in the web catalogues as not all characters have corresponding code in HTML. If you require the inclusion of special characters (particularly scientific symbols) in your units and you know of a way to represent these on the web, please send this information along with the relevant description.

Study year abroad

A course of study with a study year abroad incorporates a year in which students are required to study at an institution overseas. If your course includes a study year abroad, your department will provide further information.

Supplementary assessment

Supplementary assessment describes the type of assessment a student will be expected to undertake either to retrieve failure in a unit's main assessment or in the case of deferred assessment, what assessment must be undertaken. The supplementary assessment data which appears in the unit catalogue is taken directly from information set up in SAMIS and approved by the department which owns each unit. Please see the explanatory notes for further information.

Synopsis (unit)

This section of the unit catalogue provides a synopsis of the unit.



Templates for course and unit descriptions are available in CPA.

Thick Sandwich

A 'Thick Sandwich' course includes a one-year work/industrial/professional placement. If your course includes a work placement your department will provide further details.

Thin Sandwich

A 'Thin Sandwich' course is one which involves one or more placements which are shorter than an academic year (e.g. one Semester). If your course is structured in this way your department will provide you with further information.


For timetabling information please visit the timetabling pages.



A unit is a component of a course of study. Each unit has a number of credits attached to it, as well as a description giving an indication of its expected content, level and a method of assessment. It may also have rules dictating other units which students must take either before, after or whilst taking the unit. Within SAMIS this is labelled "Module" and these terms can be used interchangeably.

Unit description

A unit description gives full details of a unit e.g. title, credits, content, assessment, timetabling information etc. Unit descriptions are held within SAMIS.


Withdrawing Units/Courses (information for staff)

Requests to withdraw a unit or a course must be approved by the relevant committee. These changes are initiated and approved via CPA. These changes should be initiated and approved in line with the deadlines in the Academic Administration Calendar.

It is the responsibility of the owning department to ensure that all relevant departments and students are advised of the withdrawal of a unit or course.

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