Interuniversity Style Guide for Writing Course Guides in English

The content of these guidelines is taken from the Vives University Network's Interuniversity Style Guide for Writing Course Guides in English, an interuniversity project in which the UPC participated with the support of the Government of Catalonia's Ministry of Research and Universities. 


A course guide describes a subject taught on a degree programme. Depending on the university, or even the faculty or programme, it may provide a general overview of the subject or take an in-depth look at the ground to be covered by the students. It generally includes information such as

  • the course code,
  • prerequisites,
  • learning objectives,
  • learning outcomes,
  • methodology,
  • types of classes,
  • the assessment system and
  • practical information such as office hours for professors, reading lists and the study load/ECTS credits.

It also focuses on the competencies to be acquired by students, which are crucial to help guide them and direct their learning and study, and it covers every aspect of the learning students must acquire and the assessment activities they must complete in order to pass the subject.

The present style guide is designed principally for professors tasked with preparing these guides in English. However, it may also be useful for course coordinators, language services, freelance translators and mobility students. It provides definitions of competencies, learning objectives and learning outcomes, as well as practical advice on how to write and present them. It also provides guidance on how to write and present course content and examines certain aspects of language use.

Course guides are written by professors in their capacity as teachers of the subjects in question. As experts in their field who have teaching experience, they establish which competencies their students need to develop in order to complete the assessment activities, how they will structure their classes over the course of the semester or academic year and what knowledge they expect their students to acquire. The English version of a course guide is generally translated directly from the original document and should therefore reflect it in terms of content and phrasing.

Despite our attempts to give advice that is applicable to all Catalan universities, course guides are not standardised so they may have different structures, formats and lengths. Moreover, different universities use different terms for certain central concepts. First and foremost, the guia docent (or pla docent) may be called a course guide, a course plan or a teaching plan. The term competències might be translated as either competences or competencies. The continguts of a course may be referred to as content, contents or topics and, in English, the words subject and course are used interchangeably. On the other hand, the translations for objectius d'aprenentatge and resultats d'aprenentatge are fairly standard: for the first, learning objectives; and for the second, learning outcomes.

This guide recognises all of these terms as valid options, but for the sake of consistency we have chosen to use course guide, competencies and contents.

Competencies, learning objectives and learning outcomes: context and definitions

Writing competencies, learning objectives and learning outcomes

Writing course contents


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