Here are some words and terms that you are likely to hear during your time at NUI Galway and may not be familiar with. Just click on a term to see the definition.  

Academic journals 

Academic journals serve as permanent and transparent forums for the presentation, scrutiny and discussion of research. They are usually peer-reviewed or refereed. Content typically takes the form of articles presenting original research, review articles, and book reviews. The purpose of an academic journal is to give researchers a platform to share their knowledge with others in their field, and authenticate what they have discovered. The term academic journal applies to scholarly publications in all fields.

Academic research

Academic research is the systematic investigation into, and study of, materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions. It is a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it. Research, both academic and industrial, is innovative and hypothesis-driven.

Academic Writing Centre (AWC)

The Academic Writing Centre (AWC) offers free one-to-one tutorials on essay writing for all NUI Galway students. AWC tutors help students to overcome recurrent problems with grammar, punctuation, spelling, and essay structure. AWC tutors work with new entrants, final year students, and postgraduates alike. The AWC is located on Floor 2 of the James Hardiman Library.

Academic year

The period of the year during which students attend university, usually calculated from the beginning of the autumn semester (term) to the end of the summer semester (term). For example, the academic year starting in August/September 2023 is referred to as the 2023/24 academic year. See also University year below.

Access programme

A pre-undergraduate-level programme designed to prepare students for studying at undergraduate level. The Access Programme Office offers one-year Diploma in Foundation Studies programmes to students aged 17+ who are socioeconomically and/or educationally disadvantaged, and to mature students hoping to enter Science/Engineering or Business programmes at NUI Galway.

Access student

A student who is currently completing, or has previously completed, an Access programme at NUI Galway.


ALIVE is NUI Galway’s main student volunteering programme. Volunteering provides students with opportunities to develop new skills, meet new people and give back to others. NUI Galway is at the forefront of volunteering in Irish higher education, and ALIVE connects students with hundreds of volunteering opportunities with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), charities, and community groups.


Canvas is University of Galway's Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) for teaching and learning. It provides an online system for supporting teaching and learning activities, including assessment and examination, and can be accessed 24/7 both on and off campus.

Campus Account 

See CASS below.


CAO is short for Central Applications Office. The higher education institutions in the Republic of Ireland have delegated to the CAO the task of centrally processing applications to their first year undergraduate courses.


CASS stands for Campus Account Self Service. This is referred to as your Campus Account or CASS credentials. It is your personalised ID for logging into NUI Galway IT systems and consists of your current Registration/Student ID number and password. These credentials provide access to the following: email, PC suites, Wi-Fi, Blackboard, Library systems, online registration, the placement system, exam timetables, exam results and more. You must activate your CASS account in order to access these systems.


CÉIM is an academic peer learning programme for 1st year Engineering, Geography and BA Law (Law via Arts) students. Students in these disciplines are assigned to small groups and are offered weekly study sessions facilitated by trained 2nd and 3rd year student leaders. CÉIM means ‘step’ or ‘degree in the Irish language. Think super group learning!

Class representative (class rep)

At the beginning of the academic year, each class elects at least one class representative. Elections are usually organised by your lecturer or a Students’ Union Officer at the beginning of a class. The role of a class rep is to act as a communication link between your class, the College and the Students’ Union in order to raise any issues affecting your class and to share information on Students’ Union campaigns and initiatives.

Code of conduct

When you register as a student at NUI Galway, by accepting the terms and conditions, you agree to abide by the University’s Student Code of Conduct.


An organisational unit within the University which is composed of various Schools (for example, the College of Science includes the School of Physics and the School of Chemistry, among others). NUI Galway is made up of four Colleges.

Computer DISC 

Computer DISC is a Computer Programming Drop-In Support Centre for all NUI Galway students who are taking any programming/software development courses. This is a free service to support students taking any course at any level with their self-directed learning in computing topics.

Continuous assessment (CA)

An assessment method where students are examined continuously throughout the academic year. The feedback received via continuous assessment (also known as 'coursework') can be a helpful way for students to track their performance during the year. Completing your continuous assessment reduces some of the pressure associated with exams.


Usually refers to a specific programme studied by a student over a number of years; for example, GY119 Arts with Journalism or GY406 Electronic and Computer Engineering. The words ‘course’ and ‘programme’ are often used interchangeably. A course or programme comprises individual modules (see below). Universities set out specific rules determining which modules you need to complete each year to graduate with the relevant degree title. Some lecturers may refer to individual modules as ‘courses’, which can be a bit confusing.

 Course outline

An outline of a module (or, less commonly and a bit confusingly, course). They are provided as a guide to the module content for the specific academic semester or year. They may include details about module topics and lectures, assignments and reading for the module.


Written or practical work completed by a student during a course of study, usually assessed in order to count towards a final mark or grade. See continuous assessment above.

Critical thinking 

The forms of learning, thought, and analysis that go beyond the memorisation and recall of information and facts. Critical thinking occurs when students are analysing, evaluating, interpreting, or synthesizing information and applying creative thought to form an argument, solve a problem, or reach a conclusion.


An organisational unit within the University which is concerned with a specialised area of teaching, learning and research (for example, the Discipline of Economics). NUI Galway has over 60 academic disciplines.

Disability Support Service (DSS)

The Disability Support Service supports NUI Galway students who have a disability, long-term health condition, or specific learning difficulty. Services provided for registered students include: assistive technology, academic support, applying for exam accommodations, arranging swipe card access to lifts on campus, and more.


ECTS is short for the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System. All modules at NUI Galway are specified in terms of ECTs. ECTs are a measure of the work that a student must complete in order to achieve learning outcomes on a specific module. Each module is assigned a number of credits e.g. 5, 10, 15. Generally, the maximum number of credits that can be achieved on an undergraduate course is 60 credits per year.

Entry requirement

A minimum standard that must be met in order to be admitted to programmes. Some programmes have multiple entry requirements.


Exams usually take place at the end of the first and second semesters, although many students take mid-term exams (organised by their disciplines) as well. Find out all you need to know about NUI Galway exams via the Exams Office.

Graduate attributes

Graduate attributesare the skills, qualities, and understandings that a student should develop as a consequence of the learning they engage with on their programme of study at university. The attributes which a successful, fully engaged student can develop at NUI Galway include:


  • Academic achievement and expertise
  • Ability to solve new challenges and problems


  • Able to make sense of complex information from a variety of sources
  • Communication skills in a variety of contexts, styles and media
  • Teamwork, collaboration and effective leadership
  • Creative, enterprising and resourceful


  • Personal responsibility and a commitment to lifelong learning
  • Valuing of ethical and professional standards, integrity, responsibility and good citizenship
  • Appreciation of the importance of place, identity and culture in a global context


The Higher Education Authority (HEA) leads the strategic development of the Irish higher education and research system. The HEA has a statutory responsibility, at central government level, for the effective governance and regulation of Irish higher education institutions and the higher education system.

HEA Equal Access Survey

All first-time undergraduate students are asked to complete this Higher Education Authority (HEA) survey as part of online registration. The purpose of the survey is to measure equality of access to higher education and to put in place the resources needed to attract and support students of all backgrounds. All information collected in the survey is recorded and stored in compliance with the University's Data Protection Policy.

Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE)

A national survey of first-year and final-year undergraduate students and taught postgraduate students conducted annually in February/March. The survey provides a robust mechanism for students to give NUI Galway feedback about their experience, and this is then used to inform decisions here on campus and at a national policy level.

Independent learning

When an individual is able to think, act and pursue their own studies autonomously, without the same levels of support received from a teacher at primary/secondary school. In other words, you need to be able to do your own research instead of expecting a teacher to give you all the background material you might need. To become a good independent learner you need to be: motivated; resilient (to overcome challenges); and an excellent time manager. See our guide to independent learning for more.

Lab (Laboratory)

Labs provide students with first-hand experience to practise and develop a wide range of course concepts and personal skills with discipline-based techniques. A laboratory session has particular challenges and opportunities that differ from those in a standard classroom environment. Students studying subjects such as Science, Engineering and Health Sciences will often have lab sessions as part of their weekly academic workload.

Learning outcomes 

Learning outcomes describe what you should be able to do when you have completed some (or all) components of a particular module. They can be a useful tool for assessing how your learning is progressing.


Lectures are delivered to a class to provide instruction, and are often held in the bigger lecture theatres on campus. Lectures provide an introduction to the topics for each module - it is up to you to learn more through further reading, research, and study.


Multiple Choice Question. Some exams are assessed through multiple choice questions only. In this format, you must choose one option from a list of possible answers to a question.


Multiple choice test - see MCQ above.


Modules are the subjects you will be studying on your course. You should make sure that you are aware of the key learning outcomes, content or topics, assessment, and compulsory reading or other learning for each of the modules that you take. Core modules are compulsory modules that must be taken as part of your course. Optional modules are modules that you choose (subject to availability) when you register online.

 National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) 

The National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) is a single-structure mechanism for recognising all education and training in Ireland. Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) has responsibility to develop, promote and maintain the Irish NFQ. QQI also facilitates the recognition of foreign qualifications.


NUI Galway email address 

The University will only use your NUI Galway email address when sending relevant NUI Galway information to you. Please be sure to activate your NUI Galway email address when you register.


Plagiarism is the act of copying, including or directly quoting from the work of another without adequate acknowledgement, in order to obtain benefit, credit or gain. Plagiarism can apply to many materials, such as words, ideas, images, information, data, approaches or methods. Sources of plagiarism can include books, journals, reports, websites, essay mills, another student, or another person. Self-plagiarism, or auto-plagiarism, is where a student re-uses work previously submitted to another course within the university or in another institution. Plagiarism is considered an academic offence. See NUI Galway’s code of practice for dealing with plagiarism.


The entire course of study which takes place over the academic year. A programme can also refer to an undergraduate programme, such as a degree programme of three years duration.


Progression refers to continuing on to the next year of your programme of study. For example, you must pass first year in order to be able to progress to second year.

 Reflective Journals

Reflective journals are personal records of students' learning experiences. Students typically are asked by their instructors to record learning-related incidents, sometimes during the learning process, but more often just after they occur. A reflective journal is a way of thinking in a critical and analytical way about your work in progress. It shows how different aspects of your work interconnect.


Registration is the act of registering to be a student at NUI Galway. All students must register for each year of their programme. If you do not register correctly, you may not have access to key module information on Blackboard, or be able to sit exams in your chosen modules.


Rubrics are typically an evaluation tool or set of guidelines used to promote the consistent application of learning expectations, learning objectives, or learning standards in the classroom, or to measure their attainment against a consistent set of criteria. Rubrics help to define academic expectations for students and help to ensure consistency in the evaluation of academic work from student to student, assignment to assignment, or course to course. Rubrics are also used as scoring instruments to determine grades or the degree to which learning standards have been demonstrated by students.


An organisational unit within the University which is composed of a number of Disciplines (for example, the School of Humanities incorporates the Disciplines of English, History, and Philosophy, among others). NUI Galway has 16 Schools.


The academic year is divided into two semesters (or terms). The first semester runs from September to December, and the second semester runs from January to April/May (depending on when Easter falls). Click here for information on semester dates in each academic year.


See tutorial below.

 Student Connect

Student Connect is a mentoring programme for the majority of first-year students at NUI Galway to help make the transition to higher education an enjoyable and memorable experience. Students meet their mentor (a student in their second or a subsequent year at NUI Galway) and a group of other first-year students during Orientation. A Student Connect mentor is a go-to person for any problems first-year students may need help with.

Student Engagement

Student engagement refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and to progress in their education. 

Students Union

Registered students who have paid the student levy are members of NUI Galway Students’ Union. The Students’ Union (SU) is the independent voice of students, and aims ‘to represent its members and promote, defend and vindicate the rights of its members at all levels of society’. Services provided by the Students’ Union include: representing students individually and collectively, lockers, second hand book store, Grinds Register, campus shop, Sult, Cafes, Cloakroom, CÉIM academic peer learning, Life Skills courses, and guidance with academic issues, mental health, fees and so on.

Student ID card

Your NUI Galway Student ID card is your official identification card for all college related matters. The card that will be issued to you is expected to see you through the duration of your course at NUI Galway. Your Student ID card will give you access to many of the facilities/services across the campus. You may need your Student ID when:

  • Requesting exam result transcripts from the Student Information Desk.
  • Presenting to sit a university exam.
  • Getting any forms or certification stamped at the Student Information Desk.
  • Accessing and borrowing books from the library.
  • Accessing certain buildings and rooms.
  • Availing of student services (e.g. Health Centre)
  • Signing up for clubs and societies.

Student number

Your eight-digit student number is your user ID, which is also your CAO number e.g. 18000000. Note: If you attended NUI Galway previously you will use your old NUI Galway ID number. This will be your student number throughout the duration of your course at NUI Galway.

SU Card

A loyalty card issued by NUI Galway Students’ Union. It can be used at all Students’ Union commercial services on campus, including Sult, Smokey’s, The SU Shop, The Wall Café and Caifé na Gaeilge. You can choose to convert the points you accrue on your SU card to cash, or exchange points for offers throughout the year such as free teas, coffees and dinners. The SU card is completely separate to your Student ID card.


SUMS stands for Support for Undergraduate Mathematics and Statistics. SUMS provides one-to-one and group-based support for NUI Galway students in all Colleges and Disciplines, as well as for students taking Access/Foundation courses, who require support with Maths and Statistics in the course of their studies. A drop-in service is offered during the academic year.


Turnitin is originality checking software used by NUI Galway to check for plagiarism in written assignments. Some lecturers will require you to submit your written work via Turnitin.


A form of tuition with smaller groups of students than would usually be found in lectures. Generally more interactive than a lecture (and sometimes known as a seminar), a tutorial seeks to teach by example and to supply the information to complete certain tasks. Students at NUI Galway are often expected to attend tutorials as part of their academic workload, and often may be expected to have completed a specific homework problem in advance of the tutorial.

University year

The university year is broken down into two semesters of approximately 12 weeks duration each. Semester 1 runs from September to December and Semester 2 runs from January to April/May. See also academic year above.