York University has developed its own terminology to describe the attributes and functions of its educational system. Here is a guide.
A "department" is an undergraduate unit of a Faculty, and as such is responsible for educating undergraduate students through one or more Programs of study. Today, the Department of Physics and Astronomy is one of five departments in the Faculty of Science.
Undergraduate Program and Streams
An "undergraduate program" is defined by a "core" of courses. An undergraduate program can be broken down into "streams", each being distinguished by course requirements over and above the core.
A "graduate program" is a unit of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and as such is responsible for the delivery of graduate education in one or more fields of study. A graduate program can be composed of faculty from many different departments, so the membership of the Graduate Program in Physics and Astronomy extends beyond the membership of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
An academic year is broken up into three terms, namely Fall, Winter, and Summer. Presently, only research courses and service courses for non-majors are offered in the Summer term by the Department's Programs. The rest of the courses for undergraduate majors and graduate students are offered in the Fall and Winter.
One lecture hour per week for one term defines one course credit. Beyond first year, one laboratory session per week over one term counts for 1 credit. A typical lecture course consists of 3 lecture hours per week over a 12-week term for a total of about 36 lecture hours, and thus would count for 3 credits.
Chair and Directors
A Department is led by a "Chair", and a graduate program is led by a "Director". The leader of an undergraduate program is also called a "Director". Until 2014, the Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy was also the Director of all of its undergraduate Programs. Since then, there has been a separate Director for the Undergraduate Program in Physics and Astronomy, but the Chair has continued to remain the Director of the Undergraduate Program in Biophysics. Historically, every Director of the Graduate Program in Physics and Astronomy has been selected from the membership of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
The Chair and Directors constitute what is called the "Departmental Executive". The Departmental Executive meets weekly to discuss matters of import, and is responsible for leading York's way forward in physics, astronomy, and biophysics.