Having your son or daughter go to university can be a stressful time for everyone involved, especially if they’re moving away from the family home. Some parents find it difficult to advise their child of the options around higher education, especially if they have no experience of it themselves.
To help you to gain a better understanding of the university environment and support your child in making the right decisions about their future, we’ve pulled together a guide that goes through the basics of Aston University life – from studying and accommodation to how much a degree will cost.
Support and Facilities
We’re proud of the excellent level of care we provide for all students, with an extensive network of support services for both academic and non-academic issues. There are also processes in place to identify a student who may not be fully engaged with their studies, who can then be referred to the relevant team.
As well as pastoral needs and leisure requirements, there are dozens of clubs and societies that students can join. These vary in nature from sports and fitness to interests, hobbies and religious societies, and are usually organised by the Students’ Union.
- The Hub
The Hub brings together all Aston’s key support departments to ensure students can get answers to their queries without having to go from one part of the University to another.
Staff at the Hub reception desk will either be able to provide an immediate answer or arrange a referral to a team of specialist staff who will be able to help.
Frequently asked questions include issues around council tax, disability support, enrolment, student finance and scholarships, record details, counselling, visas and work permits.
- Disability Support
New applicants are encouraged to contact the Enabling Team as early in the application process as possible, so they can ensure that any support required is in place.
If a disability has been declared on a UCAS form or postgraduate application form, students will be sent a questionnaire asking for more information about their particular needs. Current students may contact the Enabling Team in the strictest confidence at any point during their time here.
Please note that applications for Disabled Students’ Allowance and organisation of some services can take several weeks.
Our Sports Centre has a 120-station fitness suite, outdoor pitches, studio spaces, sauna and steam room, as well as a beautifully restored Grade II swimming pool.
- Religious Support
We’ve had chaplains on campus for over 30 years. They give confidential pastoral care to students and staff, whether they hold religious beliefs or not. And they provide advice on spiritual and ethical matters, as well as contact details of local Christian and non-Christian religious representatives such as faith advisers and places of worship.
The prayer room and Martin Luther King Chaplaincy Centre on campus offer opportunity for reflection, while student religious societies (Hindu, Islamic, Jewish and Sikh) offer the chance to meet and worship with people who share religious beliefs.
In addition, the city of Birmingham offers a wide choice of places of worship covering all major religions.
There is an optician and dentist in the Aston University Health Clinics building.
Free eye checks are carried out by final-year Optometry students under supervision, and reasonably priced spectacles, lenses and contact lenses can be purchased.
Henderson's Dental Surgery offers an independent dental service charging £18.50 for an assessment. They also provide advice on whether further treatment can be offered or whether students need to be referred elsewhere, such as an NHS practice. The Birmingham Dental Hospital, just across the road from the University, is a free alternative source of dental care.
The nearest NHS doctor's surgery is Halcyon Medical based at Unit 8, 24 Martineau Place, B2 4UH. The nearest alternatives are a mile from campus. UK students are advised to show their UK medical card to speed up the registration process with whichever doctor they choose to register with. There is also the option to remain with your home GP, however those suffering from chronic health conditions are advised to register with a local healthcare professional.
At Aston we offer a variety of mentoring schemes to enable students, alumni and professionals alike to have the opportunity to support the Aston student community, develop skills, expand networks and share experiences. Students have the opportunity to engage in mentoring activities at every stage of their learning journey.
Aston University Nursery and Pre-School caters for up to 104 children aged from three months to five years, and is based on Coleshill Street, just a short distance from Birmingham City Centre and a range of transport links.
The purpose-built nursery has been specifically designed to promote learning and development in a safe and secure environment.
- Students' Union
It couldn’t be easier to find new hobbies and like-minded people through Aston Students’ Union. From cultural and faith-based to academic and just-for-fun, our diverse range of societies help students settle in and meet new friends.
- Food and Drink on Campus
Nourish at Aston provides catering for our onsite cafes and restaurants, providing a range of menu choices including gluten free, Halal, vegetarian and vegan. There are also two pubs and numerous cafes on site, as well as a bar and restaurant which can be found in the Students’ Union building. Nourish has also recently launched a range of food delivery packages for students in campus accommodation.
- Jargon Buster
This is the university year, which runs from September to July.
An access course is an alternative route into university. Access courses are for mature students (over 21), who don’t have the appropriate formal qualifications to enter Higher Education.
The Aston Support Fund
The Access to Learning Fund provides financial support for students whose access to Higher Education may be affected by financial issues. Priority groups include students with children, students from low income backgrounds and students who find themselves in unexpected financial hardship.
The admissions team at a university process potential students’ applications and make offers for a place on the course.
This is a community of former students who have graduated, and keep in touch with the university through the Alumni Association.
A levels, (Advanced levels) are taken after GCSE’s and normally take two years to complete in school or college.
These are vocational A levels or ‘Advanced Vocational Certificates of Education’. These courses educate a student in vocational subjects such as Leisure and Tourism.
This is the abbreviation for Bachelor of Art. This is a type of degree traditionally awarded to those subjects based in the field of Art. However, this is a very broad category and can include subject areas such as Social Sciences and English.
A bachelor’s degree (can also be called a ‘first degree’) is the qualification you achieve after successfully completing a three (or four) year programme of degree-level study at university or college.
This is the abbreviation for Bachelor of Engineering. This type of degree is awarded to those subjects based in the field of Engineering.
Blackboard is the electronic system used at Aston Business School. It provides information to students regarding their degree programme, such as lecture notes, notices about exams and timetables.
This is the abbreviation for Bachelor of Science. This type of degree is traditionally awarded to subjects based in the field of Science and Social Science. The BSc degree is not limited to traditional sciences.
The campus refers to the buildings and grounds where a university or college is based.
Clearing is a system that operates after A Level results are published. It allows prospective students without a university place to apply for courses at universities where there are still vacancies.
Combined Honours is a form of degree which offers students the chance to study two subjects to degree level.
This is an offer made by the admissions team which is dependent on students reaching certain targets (e.g. 280 tariff points at A Level).
Core texts refer to key reading texts which are essential for students to study during their course. In some instances students may be expected to/ advised to purchase a core text.
All modules undertaken at Aston University are given a ‘credit’ value. For example, a module that lasts for two semesters will have a total of 20 credits. For students to progress to the next year they need to have taken a total of 120 credits. Ten credits equals 100 learning hours, which includes lectures, tutorials/seminars, personal study and assessment.
Most students choose to take out a loan to support themselves whilst they are studying at university. This means that most students will leave after graduation with a debt, usually to the “Student Loans Company”.
A student can apply for a university place but request that they start it the following year, thus deferring entry. Students who wish to take a GAP year do this to ensure they have a place at university for when they complete their year out.
A degree is a qualification awarded by a university after the satisfactory completion of a degree programme. This is the equivalent of three years of full-time study or four years if the programme offers a placement year.
A dissertation is normally a long report, written in the final year of study based upon research undertaken by the students themselves. Not all programmes at Aston University require students to undertake a dissertation.
This is when students study from home, using materials provided by the institution.
Drop-out rate/Attrition rate
These terms refer to the percentage of students who do not complete their degree and leave before the end of a course. This can happen for a variety of reasons.
This term refers to how suitable a person is for employment. We refer to the suitability of a student for employment once they have graduated.
Enrolment is the formal process of a student starting at a university and being given all the important and relevant information they will need.
These are the required grades or qualifications a student needs to gain entrance to a particular degree programme at university. Different degree programmes have different entry requirements. Normally this is measured in Tariff Points. (For example- 320 points = one grade A and two grade B’s at A level.)
This is the abbreviation for the European Quality Improvement System. This is a Business School accreditation system.
External Examiner System
The external examiner system is in place to ensure that students are marked fairly and standards are maintained. External examiners are usually academics from other institutions. They moderate students’ assessments to ensure that the grade they received was appropriate. Exam questions are also approved by external examiners.
FE – Further Education
Further Education provides education and courses in a wide range of subjects and levels. These include A Levels, AS Levels, Vocational A Levels, National Diplomas and key skills. They can be offered in school 6th forms, Further Education Colleges, Adult Education Colleges and other institutions.
Students, depending on the family household income, may have to pay tuition fees for their course. In 2014 the tuition fees for undergraduate home students will be £9,000.
“Finals” is the name given to the last set of examinations taken by students at the end of their final year of study.
Foundation Degree Programmes
This is a programme designed to prepare students who have acceptable qualifications for general university entry, but do not have the appropriate level or coverage for a specific degree programme.
Students can opt to take a “GAP” year either before they start university or straight after graduation. This is a year where they gain experience and knowledge, often doing voluntary work or 'travelling', before settling into a long term arrangement such as university or a graduate job.
This is the term used for a person who has completed and passed his or her degree and been awarded their qualification. A student studying for a degree is known as an undergraduate.
The graduation ceremony is where a student formally collects their degree. You can graduate without attending the ceremony (although you do need to have your qualification confirmed) but it is an excellent opportunity to celebrate your achievements.
HE - Higher Education
This is education and training for students of 18 years and older, who have completed the required amount of study in further education, (college or sixth form). Institutions such as universities often provide Higher Education in the form of degree programmes.
HEFCE - Higher Education Funding Council of England
HEFCE is the funding body for all the Universities in England. It is a Government Agency.
Higher Education Institution (HEI)
This is any institution which offers Higher Education courses, such a universities and colleges.
HNC & HND
These are the abbreviations for Higher National Certificate & Higher National Diploma. These are courses which last for approximately two years and are usually in vocational subjects, such as Business and Finance. They can sometimes offer advanced entry onto a degree course, e.g. direct entry into a second year.
This applies to students who are based in the UK at the time of application to the institution and meet residence requirements.
Honours Degree (Hons)
This is a degree programme taken at university. It is normally a first degree which lasts three or four years. An honours degree requires extra modules/units to be studied in comparison to an Ordinary Degree, often in the form of a dissertation.
This is the abbreviation for International Baccalaureate. This is a qualification taken in some European countries which is roughly equivalent to A Levels.
The abbreviation for International English Language Testing System. This is an English Language qualification which overseas students may need to complete before starting a degree course in the UK.
International Students/Overseas students
This is a term used to describe students who come to England from outside the EU.
oint Honours is a form of degree which offers students the chance to study two related subjects to degree level. (See also Combined Honours).
Key skills are the skills which will be required in the world of work and are important in all aspects of life. These include communication, IT, literacy, numeracy, team work, problem solving and self-management.
LEA – Local Education Authority
The Local Education Authority is responsible for education for those up to 18 years old. They have a ‘Student Awards’ department which deals with requests for funding from people living in that area who wish to go to university.
A lecture is a lesson given by an academic member of staff, usually to a large number of students. Many lecturers also give out handouts to support students in their note-taking and act as a reference point for further reading.
Level 3 qualifications
Level 3 qualifications include A Levels, BTECs and International Baccalaureate
Lecturers are academic members of staff at university who are responsible for the teaching of university degree programmes. (Also see Lecture)
Masters degree (MA, MSc, MPhil, MEd)
Masters degrees are taught courses which allow students to extend their learning for one to two years after they have graduated from their first (Bachelors) degree.
This applies to students who are over 21 when they start their course.
This is the abbreviation for Master of Business Administration, a type of Masters Degree. It is often compulsory to have relevant work experience before you can begin this degree.
The meaning of mentor/mentoring varies from organisation to organisation. However, it usually refers to a one-to-one, non-judgmental relationship in which an individual gives his/her time to support and encourage another.
A module is a unit of study that explores a specific area within a subject.
Offers are made to students who apply for a place at university. They are made by the admissions team and are often dependent on students achieving certain grades in their exams. (Also see Conditional Offer)
Open Days are a great opportunity for students (and their parents) to look around a university and speak to staff and students. They are usually offered in relation to a certain course, i.e. Business and Management Open Day. Universities also offer Pre and Post Application visits. A Pre-Application Open Day is more general about the university as a whole whereas the Post-Application Open Day (or Applicant Visit Day) is more focused on the subject that a student has applied for.
Overseas students/International students
This is a term used to describe students who come to the UK from outside the EU.
Care provided by the university support services for students with problems not related to their academic studies.
Students are allocated a personal tutor as soon as they start university. It is usually an academic in their main subject department, who is there to help look after their personal welfare.
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
This is a specialist degree available for students that have already achieved a first degree. It usually lasts approximately 3 years full time (and up to 6 years part time) and the student undertakes original research which must be publishable. A person with a PhD degree uses the title “Dr”.
Placement Year/ Sandwich Year
This is a year of either work experience or study placement in another institution, which can be an optional or compulsory part of a university course. Students can opt to take their Placement Year in another country.
Plagiarism is the use or close imitation of the work of another author and claiming it is original work. Plagiarism can also occur if another author’s ideas or use of language are not referenced correctly. To avoid this, students should follow a referencing guide. Aston University uses the APA ReferencingGuide or theHarvard Referencing System. Students should check with their lecturer which one is appropriate for their work.
A postgraduate is a student who has completed his/her first (Bachelors) degree and has progressed onto a more advanced course at university.
These are higher level courses that are usually only available for those who have already passed their first (Bachelors) degree. Postgraduate study can lead to a Masters degree or a Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma.
At Aston University, we use the word ‘programme’ to describe a degree course.
A prospectus is a booklet which gives details of degree programmes, activities and information about student life at a particular university or college.
Quality Assurance Agency (QAA)
The Quality Assurance Agency is a government organization which assesses the quality and standards of higher education provision. Universities are assessed and scored according to their findings. (See also RAE)
Research Assessment Exercise (RAE)
The Research Assessment Exercise evaluates the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. (See also QAA)
Halls of Residence
Universities offer first year students the opportunity to live in purpose built student accommodation often referred to as Halls of Residence.
This is an alternative name for a degree programme which incorporates a placement year.
Some Universities divide the academic year into two semesters. These are blocks of study. (See also Terms.)
Seminar (See also Tutorial)
A seminar is a small group of students and a lecturer who meet to discuss aspects of the course or a specific topic being covered in lectures.
This is an honours degree course in which a student studies a single subject.
Societies are groups where like-minded people can share their interests, beliefs, religion or sport.
Student Loans Company
This is the company that provides financial assistance in the form of loans to students. Loans are not paid back until after the course has been completed, and graduates are earning a salary above a certain level - currently set at £21,000
Loans are available from the Student Loans Company to help students pay their living and study expenses while they are at University.
Every University has a Students’ Union (which will probably be part of the National Union of Students). The Union represents the interests of students across a whole range of issues. The Union also provides a focal point for social activities on campus for all students.
The tariff system is a points system for entry into Higher Education. Some Higher Education institutions express their offer of a place at university in terms of a tariff point score rather than as grades. For example; 300 tariff points rather than three grade B’s at ‘A’ Level
Some Universities teach three terms in an academic year, similar to school terms. (See also Semesters)
Tutors are the members of staff responsible for teaching students in Universities and for assisting students with their learning. (See also Lecturer).
Tutorial (See also Seminar)
Tutorials can be on an individual or group basis. It is an opportunity for students to discuss their work, or any issues with a tutor.
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, (UCAS) is responsible for processing applications for courses at Universities and colleges in the UK.
This is an offer made by the admissions team which is not dependent on students reaching certain targets. This is often used when a student has already taken their exams and achieved the required grades.
An undergraduate is a student who is studying for a first (Bachelors) degree.
A university is an institute of Higher Education which has the authority to award bachelors and higher degrees and which usually has research facilities.
The term used for the holidays within the academic year, such as Christmas, Easter and summer.
Vocational A levels
These are Vocational Certificates of Education which are available in a broad range of vocational subject areas.
- Application Process
Students apply through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Scheme (UCAS) and can select up to five different universities. These universities will then decide either to make a ‘conditional offer’ (dependant on achieving certain qualifications) an ‘unconditional offer’ (guaranteed) or to reject the application.
The UCAS application needs to be completed and submitted before the deadline to ensure it reaches the relevant universities. Schools often offer support sessions on how to complete a UCAS form and these can be very useful.
It’s important to ensure students are familiar with the requirements for the degree they are interested in. To work out how many UCAS points are awarded to specific qualifications, please visit our applicants page.
Once a student has received all five decisions they must select one university to be their ‘firm’ (preferred) choice and one to be their ‘insurance’ (backup).
- Exams and Assessments
For more information, visit our Aston Students' page.
Making sense of student finances can sometimes seem a little daunting, so we’ve put together a straightforward Finance Guide for students and their families.
- International Students
Aston University is a popular choice for international students and we currently welcome students from more than 80 different countries. We recognise the academic contribution and cultural diversity your son or daughter will bring to our university environment.
By studying overseas, students learn about a different culture, improve their language skills, discover different perspectives and improve their career prospects.
For more information, including entry requirements, finance issues, support and accommodation, please visit our pages for international students.
- Virtual Open Day
One of the best ways to learn more about Aston and hear from our staff and students is to access our Virtual Open Day. As well as seeing more of our campus, you’ll be able to watch recorded subject talks led by our lecturers. Visit the Open Day page for more info.
- Talk To Us
It’s important to us that parents and guardians have the chance to get in touch directly and ask questions about university life. You can chat to us online any time – our team will be happy to help.
In the interests of respecting student privacy, we are unable to discuss specific information about an applicant without the student’s express permission. This is because UK law (the 1998 Data Protection Act) and University policy prohibit the disclosure of an individual's information - except in specific situations.
With respect to the University's duty of care, specific situations may include the University's belief that a student poses a risk to themselves or others, or is too unwell to be able to make a decision.
What to do if you’re concerned
The University will take your concerns seriously. While we cannot discuss a student’s situation/circumstances (without their permission), or even confirm whether they are attending the University, we can contact students and offer appropriate help even if we cannot guarantee that they will choose to take advantage of the support and advice.
Please contact Jackie Edwards, PA to the Director of Student Services, 0121 204 4579. Out of working hours please contact Aston University Security on 0121 359 2922.
Confidentiality in an emergency
Should there be an emergency, a decision to contact the next of kin is taken on a case-by-case basis. Students are asked to nominate and keep details of their next of kin up to date on the University system known as My Aston Portal. We pass next of kin contact details to a hospital only in a medical emergency and if specifically asked to by the hospital.