Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon

Find out what some of the common university words are, how a degree works, and what you need to enrol.

Make sense of university jargon

The language used at university can be confusing and unfamiliar. We have compiled this list of some of the most commonly used terms to help as you plan your study.

A degree is the qualification you complete at university. It has an abbreviation such as BA (for Bachelor of Arts) or BSc (for Bachelor of Science) and so on.
Double degree
You can study two degrees at the same time. This is called a double degree. If you are interested in studying subjects from more than one degree this would be a good option to consider.
The subject you specialise in within your degree is called your major.
In many degrees you can choose to have a minor as well. This is a subject you have studied at each level but not in as much depth as your major.
Each subject has levels (100, 200, 300). The first courses you take are called 100-level papers.
Each subject is divided into papers. They are like topics within each subject – the building blocks of your degree. They have codes like HIST 104, PSYC 201 and MART 304.
When you pass each paper you get points towards your degree. Papers are generally worth 18 points and a three-year degree needs 360 points. This usually consists of 20 papers.
The University operates two semesters per year. Some papers are completed in a single semester (i.e. a half year, either first or second semester), while others run for the whole year.
Summer School
The University also offers a Summer School from early January to mid-February each year.

View the full list of all University terminology

How does a degree work?

General three-year bachelors' degree such as the BA, BCom and BSc have a similar structure.

  • Three years of full-time study
  • Made up of 20 papers
  • Each paper is worth 18 points
  • Each degree is 20 papers x 18 points = 360 total points
  • Your degree must have one major subject
  • A major subject is around eight or nine papers at different levels

A general bachelor's degree is flexible; you can make changes and you can even include five papers from other degrees. In a 20-paper degree there needs to be at least 10 papers above 100-level. Of the 10 papers above 100-level, at least four need to be above 200-level.

A general degree, such as a BA, might look something like this:



e.g. HIST 102

e.g. HIST 107

e.g. CLAS 109

e.g. CLAS 105

e.g. Anth 103

Arts or
other 100-level
e.g. BSNS 103

Arts or
other 100-level
e.g. MART 112



e.g. HIST 215

e.g. HIST 233

e.g. HIST 216

e.g. CLAS 238

e.g. ANTH 105

Arts or
other 200-level
e.g. MART 201

Arts or
other 200-level
e.g. MART 212



Arts 300-level
e.g. HIST 303

Arts 300-level
e.g. HIST 306

Arts 300-level
e.g. HIST 337

Arts 300-level
e.g. HIST 328

Arts Any-level
e.g. SPAN 131

Arts or other Any-level
e.g. COMP 112

  • Arts Major subject
  • Arts subjects other than the Major
  • Subjects either from Arts or from other degrees

Planning for university

What you do at school counts, and so do your results. Good grades in the recommended subjects, especially in Year 13, will help set you up for success at university.







English, Maths and Science strongly recommended

English and Maths strongly recommended

Studying five UE approved subjects is recommended

Add at least two subject options

Aim to achieve at least 10 Level 2 Literacy credits

Ensure you are on track to gain University Entrance

Aim to achieve at least 10 Level 2 Literacy credits

Choose Science subjects if considering a science-based career


Studying five UE approved subjects is recommended

NB: Many of Otago's subjects and degrees have specific recommended school subject preparation - find out more:


To enrol at Otago you will complete the following process:



Course enrolment

Payment of fees

Are you eligible for admission to the University?

Create your eVision account

Provide annual details

All the information you need to organise payment is in the Financial section of your eVision account

What, where and when do you intend to study?

Complete and submit your application form

Select your papers

What are the entry requirements of the programme?

University admission

Course approval


What are the application due dates?

Programme admission


Find out more about the application process at Otago

eVision is the University's student management system and is your one-stop shop for study-related information.

Once you have answered questions 1-4, you're ready to create your eVision account.

Select the button on the programme page and provide the required details.

Visit: Creating your eVision account

Log into your eVision portal

  • Under My programmes and papers:
    • Select Complete application (if new student)
    • Select Apply for another programme (if existing student)
  • Complete steps until appears
  • Submit your application

For more information see: Submitting

University staff will process your application including:

  • verifying your identity
  • checking your University Entrance qualification
  • verifying that you meet age and language requirements.

They may also request any additional documentation that may be required.

For more information see: Submitted

The Department or Division responsible for your programme will:

  • assess your application
  • request any additional documentation that may be required

The University will inform you of the outcome and (if appropriate) make you an offer via eVision. Accept this offer to proceed to Course Enrolment.

For more information see: Submitted

Back to top