University Glossary

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


Academic advisor Academic advisors help you choose courses and plan your program. They also help you understand university policies and procedures.
Academic Calendar The official SFU description of all programs, courses, rules and regulations. Sometimes called a “catalogue.” Current and archived Calendars are at
Academic group On your advising transcript, this means the faculty you are currently admitted to.
Academic plan On your advising transcript, academic plan will contain the specific discipline or major program you have been admitted to, if applicable ("int" in front of it means that you are currently intending to major in that specific discipline, but are not yet officially majoring in it).
Academic probation (OAP)
A classification applied to a student who is not achieving acceptable grades (has attempted at least nine units and has a CGPA of less than 2.00). Restrictions apply to that student until grades improve. A student on academic probation may not receive a letter of permission to attend another university or college.
Academic program The area of study that you apply to, are admitted to, and complete for your degree. Programs have requirements for admission and graduation, and sometimes have different fees. See the Academic Calendar for a list of academic programs.
Academic standing When students begin their first term at SFU, they are considered to be in Good Academic Standing (GAS). However, once a student has attempted nine units the record is evaluated at the end of each term and the standing may change. Academic Difficulty describes various types of academic standing and what can be done to get back to Good Academic Standing.
Additive credit
For some courses, the units you receive do not apply to the number of units you need for a degree: for example, Co-operative Education work term courses.
Admission deposit
The $250 deposit you pay before enrolling in your courses tells SFU that you accept your offer of admission and that you intend to enroll and attend classes for the upcoming term. The $250 is then put toward the cost of your total tuition and student fees for that term.
Advanced degree
Also called a graduate degree: degrees such as a Doctoral program (e.g. PhD or EdD) or a Master’s program (e.g. MA or MSc). Graduate Diplomas and Post Baccalaureate Diplomas are programs you would enter after receiving your undergraduate degree (e.g. BA or BSc).
Advising transcript This is an ongoing record of the courses you take each term and the grades you achieve in them. It also shows academic work you completed prior to coming to SFU, such as high school courses and grades and, for transfer students, courses completed at other post-secondary institutions. Print a copy from goSFU, the student information system, any time you are planning to see an advisor.
Alumni Graduates of a university or institution of higher education. Alumni refers to many graduates, alumnus is singular for male graduates and alumna is singular for female graduates.
Applicant Anyone who is ready to apply to SFU or has applied for admission to SFU but has not yet received an offer of admission.
Application fee
The application fee must be paid before your application for admission is evaluated.
Approved You must be formally approved by the department or signing authority for the program in which you wish to receive your degree. Once approved, you will be guided by the program advisor rather than SFU’s academic advisors.
Assignments Schoolwork such as essays, readings, presentations, commentaries, exercises and projects.
Athletic award
SFU offers more than 50 athletic awards, based on a combination of academic and athletic excellence.
Award Money, a prize or a medal awarded to a student based on intellectual, cultural, social or athletic contributions to university life.


Bachelor's degree
An undergraduate university degree program that requires certain courses to graduate. Examples: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of General Studies.
BCSAP British Columbia Student Assistance Program, which provides loans to post-secondary students in BC. Forms provided by Financial Aid and Awards.
Bursary Money given to students based primarily on need, but sometimes requiring other conditions such as enrollment in a specific program. Application for money is done online. Administered by Financial Aid and Awards.


Caucus Web conferencing for departments, classes, groups, clubs or for SFU-wide discussions.
Certificate program
A program of courses you could complete while you study for your Bachelor’s degree, or for general interest. Usually requires one to two years of university study.
CGPA See Cumulative Grade Point Average.
Class A specific offering of a course in a term. A class may have several components — lecture, tutorial and lab.
Class load
The number of units you enroll in each term. SFU considers nine units to be "full-time" for most forms of financial assistance.
Class schedule
A schedule of the classes you have enrolled in each term. Your personal schedule is available to you at goSFU.
Computing ID
The name and password you use to log in to your free SFU computing account, which is provided to all SFU students. This also allows you access to SFU email and other online services.
Concentration A series of courses you take in a topic within your program: for example, you might take an Artificial Intelligence concentration in Computing Science.
Confirmation of Enrollment
You can request this confirmation letter from goSFU (go to Student Center / Academics / Enrollment).
Continuing student
You are a continuing student when you are eligible to enroll in future terms because you have been enrolled in a previous term.
Convocation The ceremony recognizing the academic achievement (graduation) of students who successfully complete their academic program. A convocation ceremony is held every June and October.
Co-operative Education
Once you have taken some courses and been accepted into the Co-op program, you will work during some terms and attend classes during other terms. This allows you to earn money and get valuable work experience before you graduate. See Co-operative Education.
Corequisite A corequisite is a requirement which must be satisfied before, or while taking a course.
Course description
The official description of an SFU course, included in the Academic Calendar.
Course numbering
Courses numbered 100 are usually taken before courses numbered 200, 300 or 400. Each course will have “prerequisites” that tell you which other courses you need before enrolling in that course. The number of units you receive for each course are also indicated: for example ENGL 101-3 is a beginning English course for which you will receive 3 units.
Course outline
Each term, professors describe the courses they will teach, including the topics, texts to read and exams and assignments required. Course outlines are available on goSFU.
Credit See unit.
Credit courses
These courses carry units and count toward the total required for a degree, certificate or diploma, subject to the regulations governing the credential.
Credit hour
See unit.
CSL The Canada Student Loan program for students from across Canada. Application forms are available from Financial Aid and Awards.
Cumulative grade point average (CGPA) SFU calculates a “grade point” on all the courses you have enrolled in. Grade Point Averages (GPAs) are calculated after each term: the CGPA is calculated on all the courses you have taken toward your degree, in all terms.


Dean The academic head of a faculty.
Department An academic unit responsible for teaching a subject—for example, SFU's Department of History or School of Engineering Science.
Deposit The $250 deposit you pay before enrolling in your courses tells SFU that you accept your offer of admission and that you intend to enroll and attend classes for the upcoming term. The $250 is then put toward the cost of your total tuition and student fees for that term.
Distance Education courses
Instead of taking classes in classrooms, you may enroll in courses that offer an option to study over the internet or through Canada’s mail system. These distance education options are for students who cannot attend a class on campus. See Centre for Online and Distance Education.
Division Undergraduate courses (Bachelor’s degree programs) are divided into lower division (courses numbered up to 299) and upper division (courses numbered 300 to 499). Graduate courses (e.g. Master’s degree programs) are numbered from 500 to 999.


Elective A class you may choose to take, not required as part of your major program.
Enrollment (We use enrollment instead of registration.) The formal process of choosing your clases one to two months before each term begins.
Enrollment appointment The date and time you can begin to enroll in classes.
Enrollment request An attempt to enroll in a particular class.
Exam (midterm and final) A test of what you have learned in your class, given half-way through the term (midterm) and at the end of the term (final exam). Not all courses have midterm and final exams.
Exchange student See visiting and exchange students.
Exchange units Your advising transcript will show any units you have earned when you study abroad as part of an SFU exchange program.
Extended minor Part of your degree program, when you take all the lower division requirements for your major as well as all the upper division requirements for your minor.
Extended withdrawal A student may be placed on extended withdrawal (PW) after she/he is required to withdraw (RTW), is readmitted and subsequently is on academic probation for one or more terms. A student on extended withdrawal (PW) may not receive a letter of permission to attend another university or college.


Faculty A group of departments and/or schools that offer courses and programs in similar areas of study. SFU has eight faculties: Applied Sciences; Arts and Social Sciences; Beedie School of Business; Communication, Art and Technology; Education; Environment; Health Sciences; and Science. "Faculty" may also refer to the teaching staff of the University (also called instructors or professors).
Financial Aid and Awards A service within Student Services that provides advice on, and administration of, money available to students, as well as information on BCSAP and the Work-Study program is available.
Former students Under certain conditions, former students may submit a formal application for readmission in order to continue academic studies at the University (see Special/Other in Admission Requirements).
Full time student If you are taking courses that will give you a total of 9 or more units, SFU considers you a full-time student.

There are varying course load requirements for many types of financial aid (see Financial Aid and Awards).


goSFU A web-based student information system that allows you to enroll in class, shows you your class and exam schedule each term, allows you to see your student account of money deposited and withdrawn, and lists your personal information so that we can contact you easily. You log into your account at using the computing ID that SFU provides.

Many features of the system are available on the goSFU app. See the SFU app suite for details.


Honours program Students may choose to take an honours program in their area of study; an honours program has more requirements than the major program.


Joint major A degree program that offers you two equal areas of study and gives you credit for two majors.


Lab The practical portion of a class, given in one of SFU’s laboratories.
Lecture The instructional portion of a class, usually two or more hours each week, given by a faculty member (e.g. professor, lecturer) who presents the subject to be learned in a class.
Letter of permission As an SFU student, you require a Letter of Permission if you wish to take classes at another institution.
Level A student’s progression is expressed in levels, rather than years. "Level" refers to the status of a student’s program. Each level normally equals one term’s work with a full course load; a typical four-year bachelor’s degree program consists of eight levels.
Library/ID card Each SFU student receives a picture ID for use in the Library and for identification. The Surrey campus also has its own student access card, which provides access to certain areas of the Surrey campus.
Lower division You will complete classes numbered 100 to 299 during the first part of your degree program, until you acquire 60 units, when you will be required to decide what your degree major will be.
LPI The Language Proficiency Index is a test that measures the fluency with which students speak English.


Major A subject area on which you concentrate within your degree program. All programs have individual requirements for lower and upper division classes and units you must take.
Midterm See exam (midterm and final).
Minor A subject area you may choose to study at the same time you study in your major program. Minor programs have fewer requirements.
mySFU SFU offers many services online through your free computing account, including email, library services, and textbook ordering.  See mySFU.


New student After you have applied to SFU, been offered admission, paid your admission confirmation deposit and enrolled in your first term, you are considered a “new student.” After you have completed your first term, you are considered a “continuing student.”
Non-credit courses Courses you take that are for general interest and that are not included in any degree program.


Office hours Your professors and other instructors will tell you their office hours at the beginning of a class. You are welcome to come to their offices at those times to discuss the class work. Many instructors are willing to arrange appointments if their office hours are not possible for you.
Orientation Sessions for new students held before a term begins. The idea is to introduce them to their peers and to university life.


Part time student If you take a class or classes that will give you fewer than 9 units toward your degree program, SFU considers you a part-time student.

There are varying course load requirements for many types of financial aid (see Financial Aid and Awards).
Podcasts, class Digitized sound recordings of class lectures that are made available to students, as well as public lectures and events that are made available to everyone. You can access class lectures by using mySFU or the Digital Lectures directory.
Prerequisite A course you will be required to take before you can enroll in another course, or any other requirement you must fulfill before taking a particular course.
Program A group of classes, both elective and required, that you take to earn a degree.
Prospective student Anyone considering applying to a post-secondary institution.


Register or registration See enrollment.
Required to Withdraw A student may be required to withdraw (RTW) after one or more terms on academic probation. A student with RTW status may not receive a letter of permission to attend another university or college.
Requirements, Admission To be considered for admission, you must meet both the general scholarly requirements and the requirements specific to the program you wish to be admitted to.
Requirements, WQB See Writing, Quantitative and Breadth requirements.


Scholarship Financial Aid and Awards.
Semester See term.
Seminar A small class for discussing school work. Seminars are usually given in graduate classes.
SFU units Your advising transcript will show the number of units you have earned at SFU. It will not include current term courses.
Special Student A student already holding a first degree may, as a special student, enroll in undergraduate courses only. First time applicants wishing to enroll as special students and students holding a first degree who have previously attended SFU should see Admission.
Student Information System See goSFU.
Student Society The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) promotes, directs, and administers all undergraduate student activities at SFU through the Student Forum, which is elected by students. The equivalent for graduate students is the Graduate Students' Society.
Summer session A separate, shorter term of study (July-August) offered during the main Summer term.
Summer term Summer term runs May—August. Within Summer term are two shorter blocks of study: intersession (May—June) and summer session (July—August).
Supervisor A professor who oversees a graduate student’s degree program.


Teaching Assistant/Tutor Marker (TA/TM) Each department encourages their graduate students (e.g. doctoral, master’s) to give tutorials for discussion of class work. Graduate students who give tutorials are Teaching Assistants (TAs) and graduate student who tutor and mark papers and exams for Distance Education classes are Tutor Markers (TMs).
Term The 13 weeks during which classes are held. SFU’s three terms begin in September (Fall term), January (Spring term), and May (Summer term). Intersession is eight weeks in May and June, and Summer Session is six weeks in July and August. Each term has its own enrollment and exam period.
Term Grade Point Average SFU converts letter grades you receive in class (e.g. A, B, B+) into a numerical equivalent, which is then multiplied by the class units (e.g. 3, 4) to produce a “grade point.” The grade points are added up after each term to give you a Term Grade Point Average. A Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) is a combination of all the terms you have completed.
Term papers and projects Major assignments required for the completion of a course. In some classes, term papers and projects take the place of a final exam.
Transcript The official record of the classes you have taken, your grades and your program. Official transcripts can be sent, confidential and sealed, to another educational institution you wish to attend. You can order official transcripts and also print your unofficial transcript, for information only, on goSFU. See advising transcript.
Transfer units Your advising transcript will show the total number of Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB),and post-secondary transferable units you have received credit for toward your SFU degree.
Tuition The fees you pay toward the cost of your classes. These fees can vary depending on your program.
Tutorial The smaller portion of a class, given by a teaching assistant, that allows more discussion on class topics. Students choose a class and a tutorial at the same time when they enroll.


Undeclared If you do not choose a major program within the time you earn your first 60 units, you are considered an undeclared student. Academic advising for undeclared students is available from Academic Advising in Student Services.
Undergraduate A student studying for a bachelor's degree or certificate.
Unit The credit you will receive toward completing your degree. Each SFU program requires a certain number of units. Courses indicate the number of units they are worth, for example English 104-3 gives you 3 units toward your degree.
Unofficial transcript See transcript. You can print an unofficial transcript on goSFU.
U-Pass BC SFU students who enroll in classes are entitled to special pricing on public transit. See U-Pass BC.
Upper division You will complete classes numbered 300 to 499 during the second part of your degree program, after you have acquired 60 units.


Visiting and Exchange Students Students from an accredited institution who attend SFU to complete SFU courses to be used toward their degree, certificate or diploma at their home institution.


Work-study The Work-Study program provides employment opportunities for full-time undergraduate and graduate students. It is managed by Financial Aid and Awards in Student Services.
WOW The “Week of Welcome” offers activities during the first week of classes every September.
Writing, Quantitative and Breadth requirements All students must complete a minimum of 36 units of courses designated as Writing, Quantitative, or Breadth, with a grade of C- or better to receive the required WQB credit.

Need help?

Phone 778.782.6930
Live Help