The ASEM Education Compendium for Higher Education’s glossary provides definitions of common terms related to education and training, as well as more specific entries related to credit systems, assurance and validation mechanisms. It is intended to promote communication and understanding between ASEM countries and beyond.

The purpose of this glossary is not to establish standard universally applicable definitions, but rather to be provide a working reference for all education and training stakeholders.

Academic Year

Annual teaching or examination period during which students attend courses or take final examinations, not taking minor breaks into account. It may be shorter than 12 months, but would typically not be shorter than 9 months. It may vary for different levels of education or types of educational institutions within a country. This is also referred to as the school year, mainly for the pre-tertiary level.

Source: ISCED 2011 UNESCO Institute for statistics 


The process by which a (non-)governmental or private body evaluates the quality of a higher education institution as a whole or of a specific educational programme in order to formally recognise it as having met certain pre-determined minimal criteria or standards. The result of this process is usually the awarding of a status (a yes/no decision), of recognition, and sometimes of a license to operate within a time-limited validity. The process can imply initial and periodic self-study and evaluation by external peers.

Source: Enic-Naric Net (2016) ‘GLOSSARY’ 

ASEAN Credit Transfer System (ACTS)

ASEAN Credit Transfer System (ACTS) is a student-centered system applied to student mobility among AUN (ASEAN University Network) Member Universities. This system was developed to facilitate student mobility under AUN Student Exchange Program. ACTS has been designed to accommodate differences in the implementation of credit systems among the member universities without any requirement to modify the existing institutional or national credit system.

Source: AUN Secretariat
AUN-ACTS Secretariat 

Assessment of Learning

Assessment of learner’s achievement the primary purpose of which is to provide information about what has been learned at a particular point in time. This process often involves the use of standardized tests or examinations. It is often, though not always, used for the purpose of promotion and/or graduation.

Source: UNESCO-IBE (2013) ‘IBE Glossary of Curriculum Term’ 

Assessment of Learning Outcomes

Assessment of an individual’s achievement of stated learning outcomes, using a variety of methods (written, oral and practical tests/examinations, projects and portfolios) during or at the end of an education programme or a defined part of that programme.

Source: UNESCO-IBE (2013) ‘IBE Glossary of Curriculum Term’

Course Unit

A self-contained, formally structured learning experience. It should have a coherent and explicit set of learning outcomes, defined learning activities consistent with the time allocated within the curriculum, and appropriate assessment criteria.

Source: European Union (2018) ECTS Users’ Guide 


Unit in which the successful completion of courses or modules is earned and documented during and at the end of an educational programme. Credits express the volume of learning based on the workload students typically need in order to achieve the expected learning objectives.

Source: ISCED 2011 UNESCO Institute for statistics 

Credit Transfer

A process that allows credits awarded by one higher education awarding body to be recognised and count towards the requirements of a programme at another institution; or that allows credit gained on a particular programme to contribute towards the requirements of a different one.


In the simplest terms, ‘curriculum’ is a description of what, why, how and how well students should learn in a systematic and intentional way. The curriculum is not an end in itself but rather a means to fostering quality learning.

Source: UNESCO-IBE (2013) ‘IBE Glossary of Curriculum Term’ 

Curriculum Evaluation

The process of measuring and judging the extent to which the planned courses, programmes, learning activities and opportunities as expressed in the formal curriculum actually produce the expected results. If carried out effectively, this process can enable decisions to be made about improvements and future progress.

Source: UNESCO-IBE (2013) ‘IBE Glossary of Curriculum Term’ 

Diploma Supplement (DS)

The Diploma Supplement (DS) is a document accompanying a higher education diploma, providing a standardised description of the nature, level, context, content and status of the studies completed by its holder. It is produced by the higher education institutions according to standards agreed by the European Commission, the Council of Europe and UNESCO. The Diploma Supplement is also part of the Europass framework transparency tools.

It has the following eight sections of information:

  • the holder of the qualification
  • the qualification
  • its level and function
  • the contents and results gained
  • certification of the supplement
  • details of the national higher education system concerned (provided by the National Academic Recognition Information Centres (NARICs))
  • any additional relevant information

Graduates in all the countries taking part in the Bologna Process have the right to receive the Diploma Supplement automatically, free and in a major European language.

Source: European Union (2018) ECTS Users’ Guide 

European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS)

A learner-centred system for credit accumulation and transfer, based on the principle of transparency of learning, teaching and assessment processes. Its objective is to facilitate planning, delivery and evaluation of study programmes and student mobility by recognising learning achievements and qualifications and periods of learning.

Source: European Union (2018) ECTS Users’ Guide.

European Qualifications Framework (EQF)

The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) acts as a translation device to make national qualifications more readable across Europe, promoting workers’ and learners’ mobility between countries and facilitating their lifelong learning. The EQF aims to relate different countries’ national qualifications systems to a common European reference framework. Individuals and employers will be able to use the EQF to better understand and compare the qualifications levels of different countries and different education and training systems.

Source: Enic-Naric Net (2016) ‘GLOSSARY’ 


Grades describe the quality of learning achievements and rate the performance of a student at a particular level.

Source: Enic-Naric Net (2016) ‘GLOSSARY’ 

Higher Education Institution (HEI)

An educational body which carries out higher education activities based on legally approved study programmes.

Source: UNESCO (2007) ‘Quality Assurance and Accreditation’ 

Learning Outcomes

Totality of information, knowledge, understanding, attitudes, values, skills, competencies or behaviours an individual is expected to master upon successful completion of an educational programme.

Source: ISCED 2011 UNESCO Institute for statistics 

National Qualifications Framework (NQF)

An instrument for the classification of qualifications according to a set of criteria for specified levels of learning achieved, which aims to integrate and coordinate national qualifications subsystems and improve the transparency, access, progression and quality of qualifications in relation to the labour market and civil society.

Source: European Union (2018) ECTS Users’ Guide.


A set of educational components – based on learning outcomes – that are recognised for the award of a qualification.

Source: European Union (2018) ECTS Users’ Guide 

Quality Assurance (QA)

The process or set of processes adopted nationally and institutionally to ensure the quality of educational programmes and qualifications awarded. Quality assurance should ensure a learning environment in which the content of programmes, learning opportunities and facilities are fit for purpose. Quality assurance is often referred to in the context of a continuous improvement cycle (i.e. assurance and enhancement activities).

Source: European Union (2018) ECTS Users’ Guide.
Internal and external quality assurance

IQA is the ongoing, continuous process of evaluating, monitoring and improving the quality of a higher education institution and its study programmes. A distinction is typically made between internal quality assurance (IQA) – whereby practices to improve the quality takes place within the university – and external quality assurance (EQA), which is often performed by a national agency, sometimes together with professional bodies or private providers of QA services.

Source: UNESCO

Student Workload

An estimation of the time learners typically need to complete all learning activities such as lectures, seminars, projects, practical work, work placements, individual study required to achieve the defined learning outcomes in formal learning environments.

Source: European Union (2018) ECTS Users’ Guide.


An official (e.g. certified) document which provides a complete summary of the student’s academic record at that institution(s)/leading to a qualification.

Source: Enic-Naric Net (2016) ‘GLOSSARY’ 

Vocational Education and Training (VET)

Education and training which aims to equip people with knowledge, know-how, skills and/or competences required in particular occupation or more broadly on the labour market.

Source:  Cedefop (2014), Terminology of European education and training policy: a selection of 130 terms