University Vocabulary

Universities use a language that may seem intimidating and difficult to interpret at first. Use this page if you run into a term you aren't familiar with. You may want to bookmark this page to make it easy to find later.


Academic Advising

Educational Advisors in VIU’s Advising Centre help prospective and current VIU students to explore, make program and course choices that align with their personal and professional goals, and to problem solve and enhance their educational experience. Contact the Advising Centre for information and support as you navigate the world of post-secondary education.  Registered students from first year on may consult Degree Advisors regarding Majors/Minors, program completion and additional opportunities.

Academic Concern and Mandatory Academic Pause

Formerly, "Probation Policy"

Academic Concern is a supportive measure taken to identify students who are at risk academically and offer appropriate assistance designed to help them discover and overcome the obstacles that are hindering their success.

In May each year, students in academic programs who have completed a minimum of nine credits during the immediately preceding period of May 1 to April 30 will have their records reviewed.  Those who have earned a grade point average (GPA) of less than 2.0 (“C”) on all courses completed in this period will be placed on Academic Concern when they register next.

Students who have been noted with Academic Concern will have their records reviewed each year in May, until such time as they have completed at least nine credits. Once at least nine credits have been completed while noted with Academic Concern, a grade point average will be calculated on these courses, and a minimum GPA of 2.0 (“C”) will be required to have Academic Concern status cleared. If a student’s GPA on these courses is below 2.0, they will be required to take a Mandatory Academic Pause and will be required to discontinue study in University degree, diploma, or academic certificate programs for a period of one year.

Students noted with Academic Concern will be contacted by an Educational Advisor and offered support services designed to help them achieve greater success in their future studies.

Students required to take a Mandatory Academic Pause may take upgrading Adult Basic Education courses and may also apply for admission to vocational programs.

Academic Penalty-Free Course Drop Date

Each semester has two drop course deadlines. There is a deadline for dropping a course before tuition is calculated for the semester. The second deadline, the academic penalty-free deadline, is the last day to drop a course and not receive a mark for it. Check these and other deadlines on the Schedule of Dates. You can drop courses by either deadline via your online student record.

Academic Year

The Academic Year at VIU consists of the Fall (September–December) and Spring (January–April) semesters. Summer session, from May–August, is optional and offers compressed 14-week and 7-week courses. There are also some programs that do not follow the typical academic year. 


ACCUPLACER is a self-study exam that VIU will accept as equivalent to English 12. 

Academic Code of Conduct

VIU's Student Academic Code of Conduct outlines expectations for every VIU student regarding standards of academic integrity and responsibility, and the consequences of violations.


Before you can register for courses, you must be admitted into a program. In order to be considered for admission you must submit an application to VIU, pay the application fee, submit the required academic documents, and submit any other items that may be required for admission to a specific program (questionnaire, portfolio, resume, etc.). Here is how to apply.


People who have graduated or attended a particular university or school. VIU’s Alumni Association is focused on establishing a strong, vibrant network of VIU graduates.

Assigned Texts

The books chosen by the professor for your class. Make sure you have the full information before buying books, as your professor may require a certain edition from a certain publisher (ex. Not just Shakespeare’s Plays but the 16th edition of the Collected Plays by W.W. Norton and Company). The VIU Campus Store provides lists of your required textbooks ahead of each semester. Their system allows you to either order from them or compare prices with other online or brick and mortar stores before buying. The Student Union also has used textbooks for sale.

Audit Option

To take a course for no academic credit. Audit students attend class and complete reading assignments but do not receive a mark and do not need to write examinations.


Bachelor Degree

Generally, this is the first degree in an undergraduate program. At VIU, it normally takes 4 years to complete if you are studying as a full-time student (4 years of classes from September-December and January-April). This typically means that you are registered in 5 courses per term, as you will need a minimum of 120 credits to graduate with a VIU bachelor's degree. See VIU Degree Programs.

Blended Asynchronous Delivery Mode

Delivery is split between face-to-face and online; students engage in the online component on their own schedule.

Blended Synchronous Delivery Mode

Delivery is split between face-to-face and online; students are required to attend both components at scheduled times.


Money awarded to a student based on financial need and reasonable academic standing. More Bursary information.



VIU’s official program and course information is our online calendar. It lists all VIU programs by credential or subject area, and provides program outlines, course descriptions and additional admissions information. If a discrepancy occurs between any printed information and the online calendar, the online program and course calendar would prevail. 

Certificate Program

A program that can be completed in one year of full-time study, or less. More information on Certificate Programs at VIU .


The Chair is a faculty member designated as the administrative head of an academic department or unit and acting as the department representative in a number of capacities.

Computer Account

In order to log into VIULearn for courses that have online components, you will need a computer account. This account also allows you to log onto and use any VIU computer in a classroom, library or study area. Once you are registered in at least one course, you can set up your computer account from inside your online student record.


A formal ceremony normally held twice each year at VIU after Fall and Spring semesters, where degrees, diplomas and certificates are awarded to students who have completed their programs. Students are responsible to ensure they meet the graduation requirements, must apply to graduate by the deadline specified and pay the appropriate graduation fee.

Co-operative Education (Co-op)

Co-operative Education is full-time, paid work experience that alternates with academic terms, and is one of the Experiential Education options at VIU. Contact the Centre for Experiential Learning for more info.

Co-op Delivery Mode

Co-op courses are delivered in a workplace or similar setting.


A specific course or requirement that may be taken at the same time as a prescribed course.


A course name consists of a subject, like English (ENGL) or Psychology (PSYC), and a course number, like 115 or 320 or 486. The course name tells you what subject the course is about, and the number identifies the year level and also the specific curriculum that will be taught in that course. All courses are listed in the Course Calendar. Keep in mind that not all courses are offered every semester. Always check the Course Timetable for availability.

When we refer to a course, we sometimes use other terms such as "class", "section" or even "intake".

Course Load

A full course load is normally 5 courses per semester, or 15 credits. No student may register in more than 18 credits per semester unless the Dean of the relevant program provides written permission. A full-time student is one enrolled in a minimum of 60 percent course load (9 semester credits – usually 3 courses).

Course Outline

See Syllabus


Generally refers to one-on-one assistance with personal issues. In addition to helping with personal issues, Counselling Services can help with learning and career concerns and promotes success and wellness. A student would go to the Advising Centre for assistance with matters like selecting courses or choosing academic programs.

Credit Value

The unit value used to assign academic credit for a course, such as English 115 (3 credits).


Desire to Learn: D2L

Desire to Learn (D2L) is now called VIULearn. This is the portal to access online courses or online components for VIU courses. You will need your computer account to login to VIULearn.


The person who acts as the head of a Faculty.


The academic credential that is awarded to a student who has completed a particular course of study. There are three types of degrees: bachelor's degree (also known as undergraduate degree), master's degree and doctoral degrees.

Degree Audit

The process of matching the courses taken to the specific program requirements. The GPS link in the online student record is an unofficial method that determines which program requirements have been met. Upper-Level Degree Advisors must sign off on degree completion requirements. 

Degree English Requirement

All students in undergraduate degree programs at VIU are required to complete 6 credits of first-year English composition and literature courses or specified alternatives or exemptions. More information on Degree English Requirement.


Diploma Programs comprise at least 60 semester credit hours. 


An academic discipline is the subject of study within an academic department.



An optional course that is not individually specific to your program.

Exam Schedule

There are final examination periods at the end of the Fall and Spring semester. These are posted in your online student record at least one month prior to the start of the exam period. Intersession and Summer session exams are usually held on the last day of class.


Exchange is one Education Abroad option for VIU students.


Face-to-Face Delivery Mode

Courses are delivered at a scheduled time with instructors and students in the same physical space.


A group of related departments. VIU has eight Faculties.

Faculty Member

A member of the regular academic teaching staff.

Field School - Canada Delivery Mode

Coordinated trips within Canada where students participate in learning adventures.

Field School - Out of Country Delivery Mode

Coordinated trips outside of Canada where students participate in learning adventures.

Final Exams

Final exams are held in December and April at the end of the Fall and Spring semesters. The final exam period is 8 days long, but your personal schedule may be less than that. If your academic courses have final exams, your schedule will be posted in your online student record at least one month prior to the final exam period. Many courses also have mid-term exams, but these are not scheduled in the same way as final exams and will not be posted in your online student record. Exams for Intersession and summer session courses are usually held on the last day of classes. Dates for final exams are posted in the Schedule of Important Dates.

First-Year Standing

Students who have completed fewer than 24 university credits.

Full-Time Student

See Course Load.


Goal Planning System (GPS)

The online Goal Planning System in a VIU student record outlines the program requirements needed for degree completion and matches a student's personal course record against those requirements. Find this in your online student record menu.

Grade Point

A numerical value given to letter grades used to rate academic performance. Students are assigned a letter grade for each course taken, and each letter grade carries a grade point value.

Grade Point Average (GPA)

The GPA is the total grade points for all courses taken divided by total credits earned. How to calculate a GPA.

VIU requires academic students to maintain a GPA or 2.0 (C average) each academic year. 

Graduate Student

A student who has received a bachelor's degree or equivalent and who is enrolled in a program leading to a master's or doctoral degree.



Important Dates

Also called the Schedule of Important Dates, this is the official calendar of academic events at VIU. The schedule includes all the academic and tuition deadlines, holidays, study days and final exam dates. This is a good page to bookmark for future use.


Combining studies and research from different subject areas in a single course. For example, INTR 100 is a six (6) credit course that combines ENGL 115 and MEDI 115.

International Exchange

Opportunities for students to pursue some of their studies at another institution, often in another country, but still as a registered VIU student. See Education Abroad for details.

Internship Delivery Mode

Delivered in a workplace or similar setting.




Letter Grade

VIU courses are graded with letter grades (A+, A, A-, B+, etc.). These will appear on your VIU Course Enrolment History page and on your transcript. Check your course syllabus or outline to see how you will be marked in each course.

Lower Level Courses

Courses numbered 100 to 299.


Master Degree

Students working towards this designation (ex. MA, MSc, MBA, etc) are called "graduate students." Usually, this is the degree earned after a bachelor's degree and precedes a doctoral degree.


Your area of specialization within a degree program. VIU degree students must complete at least one Major or two Minors to meet graduation requirements. (ex. BA Major in Philosophy; BSc Minors in Biology/Chemistry).



Online - Asynchronous Delivery Mode

Online delivery of courses; students engage in courses on their own schedule.

Online - Synchronous Delivery Mode

Online delivery of courses; students are required to attend at schedule times.

Online Student Record

Most registration services are available in your student record. You can add or drop courses, update your address, see your grades or view documents, pay your fees, order official transcripts, and much more. Here is also where you would change your password or security question and set up your computer account to use VIU computers on campus. Think of your student record as a self-help menu that you will use throughout your educational journey at VIU.



Plagiarism is the intentional unacknowledged use of someone else’s words, ideas or data.  This is a form of Academic Misconduct.


See Academic Concern and Mandatory Academic Pause

Part-Time Student

A student taking less than a full-time course load. This has implications for student loans and other educational funding. See Funding for Part-Time Students and Course Load.


A course with PERM reserved seats requires permission from the Department. Registration is done through the Department. 

Permission of Instructor is a separate issue: it is an option for course prerequisite and interested students can contact the instructor directly. 

Personal Education Number (PEN)

A unique number is assigned to all high school students in the Province of British Columbia. Applicants from BC are asked to provide their PEN at the time of application. High school counselors can provide this information to Grade 12 students. The PEN is included on all BC High School transcripts and some post-secondary transcripts.


A definite course of action adopted for the sake of expediency, facility etc. See VIU’s policy index for a list of institutional policies


This is a preliminary requirement that must be met before registration in a particular course. Courses listed in the official calendar and current timetables will list any prerequisites below the course description.


The series of courses of study organized to fulfill the requirements for a particular degree. For example, the Bachelor of Business Administration is a program.



Reading Break (Study Days)

A time in the middle of term when no classes are held. Study Days are designed to give you time to study and complete assignments. These breaks usually occur late in February and the middle of November. Always consult the Important Dates calendar before planning travel or other activities.

Registered Student

A person enrolled in at least one credit course at this university.


Reserved seats are those that are held in a course for a certain kind of student based on factors such as program, year or degree. For example, if you were a BBA student, you would likely have seats held for you in ACCT 100, FNCE 130, etc., as those are courses required in your program of study.


Schedule of Important Dates

Also called the Schedule of Dates or just Important Dates, this is the official calendar of academic events at VIU. The schedule includes all the critical academic and deadlines like tuition due dates, holidays, study days and final exam dates. This is a useful page to bookmark for future use.


A student award based on academic merit or excellence. Repayment is not required. See Financial Aid and Awards.


Many courses are divided into multiple classes or sections, each section having different professors and/or time slots. There may be several sections (Section N01, N02, N03) of the same course (ex. FRCH 100). Some courses include both a lecture section and lab section. In this case you are required to attend both lecture and lab.

Ex: ACCT 100 F23N04 (Accounting 100 course, Fall 2023 term, Nanaimo campus, section #4)


A small discussion group, either a focused part of a class (where the class is divided into discussion units) or a limited-enrolment class where discussion is emphasized.


Period of time during which the University offers courses. At VIU, there are three academic sessions each year: Fall (Sept–Dec); Spring (Jan–April); and summer sessions between May and August. The summer session is optional and offers either 14 week or 7-week courses.

Student Loan

A sum of money that must be repaid. Loans to university students are obtained through the government.

Student Union Building

Building 193. The VIU Student Union offers a number of supports for students and is your voice on campus.


See Academic Concern and Mandatory Academic Pause


At the beginning of a course the professor will give you a syllabus, or course outline, which will include information on what you will study, when assignments are due, and how grades will be assigned. It is a good idea to hang onto these outlines even after you finish the course, as they are sometimes required when transferring to another educational institution.



Provides students with current and upcoming Course Timetable information online, including current information on open sections and the number of wait-listed students.


An official copy of a student's academic record. Generally, applicants are required to submit official transcripts of their past studies to determine if they can be admitted to VIU.

VIU students can print a free unofficial transcript of their courses at any time from their online student record. If they need to send an official transcript to another institution, those can be ordered via their online student record for a charge.

Transfer Credit

Credit assigned for courses successfully completed at the post-secondary level. For BC College or universities consult the current BC Transfer Guide.


Unclassified Studies

Students who do not meet any of the admission categories in General Admission Requirements for University Academic Programs may be admitted as an “Unclassified Student” to register into university-level classes for which they meet the prerequisites.

Undergraduate Degree

The first level of degree a student can receive at VIU is a bachelor's degree (ex. BA, BSc). A bachelor's degree normally requires a minimum of 120 credits of coursework.

Undergraduate Student

A student registered in an undergraduate Faculty in a program leading to a Bachelor's degree or an undergraduate diploma or certificate program.

Upper-Level Courses

Courses numbered 300 to 499.

Upper-Level Degree Advisors

After completing 24 credits at VIU, students are recommended to see an upper-level degree advisor to discuss their academic goals.


Visiting Student

A student who is taking certain courses at one institution for transfer to their home university in order to complete a credential at the home university. Visiting students may submit a Letter of Permission (LOP) from their home school in lieu of transcripts. The LOP proves the visiting student meets course prerequisites and is a guarantee of how those courses transfer back to their home institution.


Courses that are held online or have online components use VIULearn (formerly D2L). In order to use VIULearn, you will need to create a computer account in your online student record.



As course sections fill during the registration period, many courses have a waitlist option available. Students who choose to waitlist for a course will be offered spaces that become available in their waitlisted order. If you are on a waitlist, you must follow the Waitlist Procedure to claim a seat that opens up for you.

Web Registration

Registration through your VIU online student record. Students who have been admitted to VIU and set up to register for upcoming semesters may be able to enrol themselves for courses via web registration.


Vancouver Island University’s Student Work Opportunities Program is designed to create diverse and positive work opportunities, which will provide financial assistance to Vancouver Island University students. The program will provide employment opportunities that support experiential learning and skill development that will be mutually beneficial to students and to the institution. Students may work only one Work-Op position per semester. Exceptions may be considered on a case-by-case basis.




The level within a program of study, or the level of the course. For example, First-year student, or First-year course (PHYS 111).