There are many terms in currency around the education world which display ambiguity of meaning. This is an attempt to define a vocabulary which clarifies at least what is meant when we use a word or phrase of jargon in the context of engineering education.  The following list is alphabetical: no further significance is intended by the order of terms.


A semester is a continuous period of teaching and learning usually lasting half an academic year – about 15 weeks.

surface learning

Surface learning relies on memory to retain facts and knowledge without necessarily achieving understanding of the principles or theories behind them.


The syllabus is the definition of the content of a module or programme. It lists the topics to be covered and usually states the learning outcomes and how they will be assessed. The terms module specification and, at a higher level, programme specification are becoming more common.


A system is considered to be an entity which is greater than the sum of its parts. Systems engineering has many definitions but refers to the need to consider all engineering projects, products and processes as complete systems rather than as a set of components.