Academic abbreviations and acronyms

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Advice leaflets originally produced for the Study Advice Service in the University of Hull, which holds the copyright:

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The academic world is riddled with acronyms (eg NATO = North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) and abbreviations. We list here, in alphabetical order, those of particular relevance to undergraduate and postgraduate students in HE (there's another example!) This list aims to help by briefly defining some of these words. Strictly speaking, all of these should have a full stop after each part of the abbreviation or each capital letter of the acronym, but this convention is in a process of transition and many do not now have these. (See also Punctuation of abbreviations.) All foreign expressions are, however, usually printed in italic, as in this table.

Abbreviation/ Acronym Definition
anon anonymous
APA American Psychological Association
APL or APEL Accreditation for Prior (Experience and) Learning: a method of recognising a (prospective) student's previous qualifications, knowledge or experience and giving credit for them, thus avoiding any duplication of time and effort by the student concerned.
BA Bachelor of Arts
BD Bachelor of Divinity
BDS Bachelor of Dental Surgery
BEd Bachelor of Education
BLitt Bachelor of Letters (or Literature)
BMus Bachelor of Music
BSc Bachelor of Science
BVetSc Bachelor of Veterinary Science
c , c., ca or circa About (from the Latin), often used with a date or year eg c1970.
CD (ROM) Compact Disc (Read Only Memory)
CPU Central Processing Unit (in a computer)
DD Doctor of Divinity
DfES Department for Education and Skills: the department of government responsible for educational policy and funding at all levels in England and Wales.
DLit or DLitt Doctor of Letters (or Literature)
DPhil Doctor of Philosophy
DVD Digital Video Disc
ed. Editor: the person responsible for editing a book or journal, ie selecting and compiling the various parts of the publication.
ed(n). Edition (of a publication).
eg For example: an abbreviation of the Latin exempli gratia.
et al An abbreviation of the Latin et alia meaning 'and others' (people or things). This is usually found in references to publications having several authors, where the first one, two or three authors are named but the rest given as et al.
etc An abbreviation of the Latin et cetera or et ceteri (pl) meaning 'and the rest' or 'and so on'. It is best to avoid using this in an academic essay; use the English 'and so on'.
FE Further Education. Any formal education undertaken after the end of compulsory schooling, other than to degree level but not in a maintained state or independent school.
FRS Fellow of the Royal Society
GTP Graduate Teacher Programme
HE Higher Education. Education which is undertaken at a university or other educational establishment which offers undergraduate or postgraduate degrees or their equivalents.
HEFCE The Higher Education Funding Council for England, the body which allocates funds throughout the Higher Education sector on behalf of the DfES.
HETC Higher Education Teaching Certificate
HMI Her (or His) Majesty's Inspectorate (of education): a body of inspectors, officially appointed by the reigning sovereign, who report on the quality of teaching and learning in all educational establishments in the UK. They are now part of OfSTED.
HMSO Her (or His) Majesty's Stationery Office, through which all governmental publications are produced.
ibid An abbreviation of the Latin ibidem meaning literally 'in the same place', but now used to indicate that a work listed in the references is the same as the work listed immediately prior to that one.
ICT Information and computer technology.
i.e. An abbreviation of the Latin id est meaning 'that is' or 'that is to say'.
IF Impact factor. A method often used in scientific work to indicate the popularity and hence theoretically the quality of authors or articles in journals, based on the number of times these are cited in other publications. It is basically a quantitative method but debate still rages about its validity in some cases.
IT Information technology.
ITT Initial Teacher Training. Any type of formal training for the teaching profession.
LHS Left hand side
LitHum Literae humaniores (Latin - 'humane letters') - the name of a degree course at Oxford University. Often referred to more familiarly as 'Greats', the course involves the study of Greek and Latin language and literature, Greek and Roman history, and philosophy.
LLB Bachelor of Laws
LLD Doctor of Laws
LLM Master of Laws
MA Master of Arts
MBA Master in (or of) Business Administration
MD Doctor of Medicine
MPhil Master of Philosophy
MS (pl. MSS) Manuscript (written by hand but nowadays typed or word-processed)
MSc Master of Science
NB nota bene = 'note well' or 'please note' (from the Latin)
no. number
OED Oxford English Dictionary
OfSTED Office for Standards in Education, the inspectorate for schools and colleges in England
o.p. out of print
op. cit. An abbreviation of the Latin opere citato meaning literally 'in the work cited' but now used to indicate that the details of the work referenced have already been given earlier. This avoids having to repeat all the bibliographic information each time the work is referenced.
p. page
pa per annum, each year (from the Latin)
PC Personal Computer (IBM as opposed to Apple); also politically correct
PDP Personal Development Profile, Personal Development Planning
per se by or in itself, without reference to anything else (from the Latin).
PGCE Post Graduate Certificate in Education. The qualification awarded on successful completion of a one year ITT course in a university department of education allowing the holder to teach on a standard teacher's salary scale.
PhD Doctor of Philosophy
pl. plural
pp. pages
PPE Politics, Philosophy, and Economics, the name of a degree course at Oxford University, since imitated at other HE institutions in the UK and abroad.
PVC Pro-vice-chancellor. (N.B. in other contexts PVC is polyvinyl chloride, a synthetic polymer of plastic used particularly in the manufacture of pipes.)
QAA Quality Assurance Agency (for Higher Education)
QCA Qualifications and Curriculum Authority
QED Literally 'which was to be demonstrated'; hence. From the Latin quod erat demonstrandum. Also means quantum electrodynamics.
q.v. (pl: qq.v.) An abbreviation of the Latin quod vide 'which see', meaning the reader may look up the word or phrase to which it relates.
RAE Research Assessment Exercise
RAM Random Access Memory; or Royal Academy of Music
re concerning (from the Latin in re = in the matter) See also WRT.
rev. revised edition
RHS right hand side
ROM Read Only Memory. A computer's memory which can only be read but not written to.
SCI Science Citation Index
SI (units) (from the French) Système International, the internationally recognised metric measurement system.
sic When citing from a publication, the original wording, spelling etc must be respected, even when there is an error. Sic , usually put in square brackets, indicates that the error has been noted but left uncorrected.
sing. singular
SPSS Statistical Package for the Social Sciences; software enabling statistical analysis of data.
stet 'Let it stand', where a correction has been made but it has been found that the original is in fact correct. It corrects the correction!
UCAS Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, the body which operates the system of allocating students to HE establishments in the UK.
UFA University Foundation Award
URL Uniform Resource Locator, an address on the World Wide Web.
VC Vice-Chancellor, the principal of a university or university college.
VDU Visual Display Unit, i.e. a TV screen or computer screen
Viva Viva voce - an oral examination
viz. An abbreviation of the Latin videlicet meaning 'to wit' or 'namely'.
VLE Virtual Learning Environment. A means of replacing the classroom learning and teaching situation with IT, thus allowing distance learning for students from anywhere on earth with access to a computer, the internet and appropriate software.
vol. volume
WRT With respect to, often used by mathematicians.