Throwback Thursday: Your Mega Academic Acronyms Glossary

This post from the Graduate Research School first appeared on Thesislink in February 2016. It has been updated where some acronyms (or links) have since changed.


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.


AUT Acronyms

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.

AUTSA: AUT Students Association. They represent all AUT students, and they have a Postgraduate Affairs Officer on their Council.

Faculty acronyms: Each faculty at AUT has its own acronym:

  • BEL: Faculty of Business, Economics and Law
  • C&S: Faculty of Culture and Society
  • DCT: Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies
  • FHES: Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences
  • TAP: Te Ara Poutama (Faculty of Māori & Indigenous Development)

GRS: Graduate Research School. See us on the 5th floor of the WU building for queries about your enrolment, progression, research skills development, examinations, and graduation.

PGBOS: Postgraduate Board of Studies. These are the people who make high-level decisions about postgraduate study at AUT. Membership includes the ADPs and the Dean of the GRS (see above).

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 a doctoral student was completing her confirmation of candidature by giving a presentation and writing her research proposal on the PGR9 form.)

RCAB: Research Committee of Academic Board. This is the group that guides research strategy at AUT. Their decisions affect postgraduate research students; though PGBOS (see above) 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.)

SAG: Student Advisory Group. This group of postgraduate students and decision-makers meets regularly to ensure that students have input into postgraduate matters.


NZ Acronyms

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.

HoS (or HoD): Head of School (or Department). The academic in charge of a particular school or department within a faculty.

HRC: Health Research Council. A major research funder that invests around $125m per year into NZ health research.

MBIE: Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment. A major research funder in science & innovation.

PBRF: Performance Based Research Fund. Roughly every 6 years, NZ researchers who fit the PBRF criteria must fill out a portfolio detailing their research achievements and contributions. Universities get government funding on the basis of their staff members’ PBRF success. NB. PG students don’t have to worry about PBRF unless they are employed on an eligible academic contract.

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 typically more senior than a GTA position, but less prestigious than a permanent lecturing position.

RA: Research Assistant. Someone (often a PG students or recent graduate) employed to work on a research project.

TEC: Tertiary Education Commission. They are the government body responsible for university-level education in NZ. They also handle the PBRF (see above).

UNZ: Universities New Zealand. This sector group brings together the senior management teams of all eight NZ universities.

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 Rob Campbell – but they are not usually involved in the everyday operations of the universities.)


Worldwide Acronyms

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 or presenting at a conference.

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.


About Graduate Research School (Auckland University of Technology)

The Auckland University of Technology Graduate Research School offers support and resources to all postgraduate students at AUT. Come and visit us on the 5th floor of the WU building.

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