This post from the Graduate Research School was first published in February 2016. We have updated it to make it current for 2019.
Universities are enormous institutions. Academia as a whole is mammoth. Like any large group of people, academics have invented thousands of confusing, overlapping, and rarely explained acronyms.
For those entering the academic world, this secret language can be daunting. Sometimes it seems designed to exclude those who aren’t yet on the inside.
If you are new to postgraduate study at AUT, never fear: we’ve compiled a list explaining the common acronyms you might come across, and what they mean for you. Pin this post to your bookmarks and refer back every time you come across a mysterious academic TLA (that’s Three-Letter Acronym).
This glossary is divided into 3 parts. The first contains words and acronyms specific to AUT. The second defines academic acronyms that are common in New Zealand. The third explains acronyms that are generally used in English-speaking universities across the world.
Let us know if you come across an acronym that’s not defined here, and we’ll keep building it up.
ADP: Associate Dean, Postgraduate. This person (one in each faculty, generally) is responsible for promoting and enhancing postgraduate study in the faculty. Find out who the ADP is for your faculty here.
ADR: Associate Dean, Research. This person (one in each faculty, generally) is responsible for guiding research strategy in the faculty. Find out who the ADR is for your faculty here.
AUT: Auckland University of Technology.
AUTEC: AUT Ethics Committee. They approve or decline research ethics applications. Ethics advisory services are also available to improve your chances of getting approved.
CfLAT: Centre for Learning and Teaching. They can support you if you are tutoring or lecturing.
GRS: Graduate Research School. See us on the 5th floor of the WU building for issues around your enrolment, examinations, and graduation.
PGR#: Most forms you need for postgraduate research are coded PGR and then a number. Sometimes these acronyms are used to describe stages in a degree (e.g. “she’s doing her PGR9” would mean that the student was completing their confirmation of candidature by giving a presentation and writing a research proposal.)
RCAB: Research Committee of Academic Board. This is the group that guides research strategy at AUT. Their decisions affect postgraduate research students; though UPB (see below) is more directly involved in postgraduate issues.
RIO: Research and Innovation Office. They can advise on research funding, contracting, and partnerships. (NB. Their services are generally aimed at staff, as most postgraduate research funding is handled by the Scholarships Office; though there are some exceptions.)
ToC: Temps on Campus. They list lots of temporary / casual job assignments around the university.
UPB: University Postgraduate Board. These are the people who make high-level decisions about postgraduate study at AUT.
F&P: Fisher & Paykel. A company that is commonly known for their kitchen appliances, but is a major funder and employer in NZ’s biomedical research environment.
GTA: Graduate Teaching Assistant. GTAs are usually postgraduate students, employed to teach tutorials and mark students’ work for undergraduate courses. Sometimes expressed as TA, when postgraduate student status is not a prerequisite.
HRC: Health Research Council. A major research funder.
MBIE: Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment. A major research funder.
PBRF: Performance Based Research Fund. Every 6 years, NZ researchers who fit the PBRF criteria must fill out a portfolio detailing their research achievements and contributions. Each portfolio is then graded by a panel of experts. Universities get government funding on the basis of their staff members’ PBRF success. Students don’t have to worry about PBRF unless they are employed on an eligible academic contract (you’ll know if you are).
PG: Short for postgraduate. (Often called “graduate students” internationally.)
PTF: Professional Teaching Fellow. This is a particular type of contract for tertiary-level teaching work. It is usually more senior than a GTA position, but generally less prestigious than a permanent lecturing position.
TEC: Tertiary Education Commission. They are the government body responsible for university-level education in NZ. They also handle the PBRF (see above).
VC: Vice Chancellor. Every university has one, and they are responsible for setting the overall strategy and direction for the university. AUT’s Vice Chancellor is Derek McCormack. (Tip: Despite the word “vice,” VCs are the people who lead universities on a day-to-day basis. Chancellors are also in place – AUT’s is John Maasland – but they are not usually involved in the everyday operations of the universities.)
APA: American Psychological Association. This acronym is generally used to refer to the citation system established by the Association, which is widely used in the sciences.
CfP: Call for Papers. Conferences and journals issue these to ask academics to contribute their work. Responding to a CfP can be the first step towards getting published.
ECR: Early Career Researcher. Also sometimes expressed as ECA, with the A standing for Academic. This is a researcher in the first few years of their academic career. Sometimes PhD students are considered to be ECRs; though definitions are not consistent.
EoI: Expression of Interest. This is a preliminary step in many types of complex processes. Used for applications to doctoral programmes, for large funding applications, and so on.
IP: Intellectual Property. The work produced by researchers is their intellectual property, though often there are other claims on it by, for instance, the university or other researchers / funders. If your work has potential financial or legal value, talk to RIO (see above) about how to protect your IP.
MLA: Modern Language Association. This acronym is generally used to refer to the citation system established by the Association, which is widely used in the arts and humanities.
ORCID: Open Researcher and Contributor ID. These are stable identifying numbers attached to individual researchers (including postgraduate students) so that you can move institutions and/or change your name without losing credit for your research record.
PhD: Doctor of Philosophy (aka “doctorate” or “doctoral degree”), from the Latin Doctor Philosophiae. Sometimes called a DPhil.
PI: Principal Investigator. This is the bigwig on a major research project. It is usually someone fairly senior, and they will often secure postgraduate scholarships and/or postdoctoral positions to build their research team.
STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics. A quick way to refer to science-based disciplines, as opposed to humanities and arts subjects.
STEAM: A relatively new acronym which introduces Arts into the traditional STEM subjects. STEAM champions the integration of arts and sciences, and rejects the idea that they are diametrically opposed.