As the heading says: what do you call a course at uni that's not part of a programme? My bilingual dictionary suggests freestanding course, but to my ears, that sounds extremely odd. Or?

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I think it depends on the university really, and the country / education system it operates in. At my (UK) university we had core modules which everyone on the course had to take, there were options which were part of the course but you could choose which ones you took, and we had electives which could be anything you wanted from any part of the university, but which didn't count towards your course.

Some universities allow for minors / academic minors which are a side degree with lower requirements, which people study alongside their major (the main course they're taking). There can be lots of reasons to do this (often just to gain an education in something important or interesting, or to make their degree more attractive to employers) but as far as I'm aware the details and requirements vary from place to place. We didn't have that concept in the UK when I was at university (not that I'm aware of anyway!)

Since there's no simple, widely used term for it, I think it would be better to use a general description like optional course or side course that makes it clear to the reader that it's not an integral part of the main programme. Freestanding might be understood, but it's also not clear exactly what it means. But if you're referring to something specific (a course offered while on a programme at a specific institution) and they have a name for it, it might be best to just use that.

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    Thank you so much! I think you're right that it depends on the education system. In my country we have these courses that you can either study in their own right, without getting a degree, or that you can piece together to end up being the equivalent of a programme (for which you receive a degree), without your having actually studied in the programme. So... I guess the best way to deal with this would be to use the expression suggested in my dictionary, but use citation marks, and then just add an explanatory footnote. Thanks again!!
    – Hannah
    Jan 2, 2021 at 16:25
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    Ohhh I think I know the kind of thing you're talking about, where you earn some kind of credit towards a qualification? Yeah, that would be a very specific thing, and I'd use the official name for whatever that is! But most people probably wouldn't know what that is anyway, so it depends whether you need to just use the right term, or if you need to really explain what the course is by using a descriptive name. Jan 2, 2021 at 16:30
  • That's exactly it, yes :)
    – Hannah
    Jan 2, 2021 at 16:49
  • Hey cactustictacs – what do you think about simply using "independent course"? That should work, shouldn't it? As long as it's not already used specifically for a particular kind of course?
    – Hannah
    Jan 9, 2021 at 10:28
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    Ah, right... that would be an unfortunate interpretation... Haha, yeah – no, I'm translating a document for my faculty, so I have to come up with English equivalents to a lot of culture-specific stuff... which is not an easy task! So yeah, you're absolutely right there is already highly specific "industry lingo" in place; it's just that it's not in English... Oh well; I'm truly and deeply grateful to you (and others) for all your help anyway <3
    – Hannah
    Jan 9, 2021 at 18:00

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