The University of Newcastle, Australia

How Uni Works

While everyone’s uni journey will be different, there are some things that are helpful for all students to know. Being successful at uni is about finding what works best for you, but we know that students who are prepared always do better. Taking responsibility for your learning and not giving up are also keys to success at uni. And finally, knowing how to access the support that is readily available to you as a student will play a big part in helping you succeed.

Read The Essentials Your guide to starting at the University of Newcastle


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Class types

Regardless of your campus or field of study, class is central to every student’s time at uni. However, there are a range of different learning environments and class types.

Labs: Practical, hands-on version of a tutorial.

Lecture: A lecture is a formal delivery of teaching material by a lecturer, usually in a large group in a lecture theatre with minimal group discussion.

Tutorial (often known as a ‘tute’): A small class which uses group discussion to delve deeper into the week’s readings and lecture material.

Seminar: An interactive class using discussion-based learning activities, which is normally longer than a tutorial.

Workshop: A hands-on, practical form of tutorial.

Each year, uni is broken up into terms of study. When you will study depends on your courses. The terms of study offered at the University of Newcastle are:

  • Semesters (two per year)
  • Trimesters (three per year)
  • Winter and Summer School terms

Before the start of each relevant term of study you must enrol in your courses. You will then register for the activities like tutorials, workshops or labs that you need to take for each course. Along with any compulsory lectures, these will form your timetable for that term. While there are options for the times when you may be unwell or otherwise unable to attend your classes, evidence shows that attendance is one of the key factors in student success. Some courses will also have mandatory attendance required in order to pass so check your course outline.

Your course outline will be made available in Blackboard prior to the first week of classes. This outline lists the material covered, the textbooks required and your assessments for that term. Make sure you read it carefully and ask questions if you don’t understand anything in your course outline.

Each term of study has a Census Date which is usually a few weeks into the term. This is the last day for you to change your enrolment in any way. After Census Date you must pay for any courses you are enrolled in. The last teaching day of each term is the last day you can withdraw from a course without academic penalty.

Each semester has a recess of one or two weeks in which there are no classes. You’ll often still have assessments and study to do in this time, so it’s best not to think of it as a holiday but a time to get on top of your studies.

Many courses will have exams in the examination period after classes end. You will be able to access your examination timetable prior to the exam period which will tell you when and where your exams are.

A few weeks after the exam period your final results for your course for the term are released. This is called ‘fully graded date’. If you have any negative service indicators (NSI) on your record you will not be able to access your results. These include things like library fines, parking fines  or failure to complete your Academic Integrity Module or Consent Matters Modules – so make sure you take care of these things before then.

After each term of study there will be another break before the start of a new term, and the cycle starts again all the way up to graduation!

Check our key dates to makes sure you know when all the important dates are for you.

One of the best ways to prepare for uni is to complete the Academic Success: Skills for Learning and Life before the first week. This free online course will give you lots of info and hints about what uni is like – both in and out of the classroom.

There are two other services that will be a big part of your uni life.

Student Central is your first point of contact for anything student related. Staff can offer help and advice about most facilities, services and procedures. Student Advisors are also on hand at all locations for any questions and advice about your degree.

IT Service Desk will help you get to the bottom of any IT issues you may be facing – first by offering self-help troubleshooting, then with the option to escalate the issue to the IT Service Desk via the online IT Service Portal or via phone. The Desk is available from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday on University days.

Read our UON Navigator article, A day in the life of a Callaghan student to get a feel for life at uni.