English language courses for everyone

If you want to improve your English, the UK is the perfect place to study and practice the language. 

English language courses can prepare you for a university course in the UK, help you to go further in your career and improve your confidence. 

There are British Council accredited English language centres all over the UK. With high standards of teaching and support, you can progress quickly and practice speaking English with other learners from around the world. 

You can find more information about studying English in the UK on the English with Confidence website.

Improve your English before starting a UK university degree

The minimum English language level required to study for an undergraduate or postgraduate degree is upper intermediate. 

Different universities accept different exams as evidence of an applicant’s English language level. You should check on the university’s website before you book a test to find out what results you need. Your course may require a specific test result for the different language skills: writing, reading, listening and speaking. 

If you do not meet the English language requirements for your degree, there are options for improving your English in the UK before you study. Read more about the different options and courses available to you below. 

Pre-sessional English language courses

If you are just below the required language level for your degree, your university may offer you a place on the condition that you first complete a pre-sessional English course. 

Pre-sessional courses usually last between one and six months, depending on the gap between your result and the degree course requirement. For example, if you score a 5.5 in the IELTS Academic exam and the degree course requirement is a 6.5, you may need to take a 12 week course to reach the higher level. 

In-sessional support may be available during your university degree to help you with academic reading and writing skills and appropriate use of sources for essays. Speak to your university to find out what support is available.

Foundation pathway courses

If you need more time to improve your English, one year foundation or pathway courses are available to bridge the gap between your academic and language qualifications and the degree course requirements.

Your chosen university may offer a foundation course specific to your degree subject. Or you can keep your options open by studying with a private pathway course provider that has partnerships with UK universities. 

Some pathways courses give you an unconditional university place if you successfully complete the course.

Read more information on foundation pathway courses.

Exam preparation courses

If you need help to prepare for a specific exam before making your university application, you can attend a specialised course at a language centre in the UK. Experienced teachers will teach exam techniques and focus on your weaker skills, to help you achieve the best result possible.

Exam preparation courses prepare you for a specific English language exam, to help you go further in your education or career. Lessons focus on building the language and exam skills that will help you achieve the result you need.

The most common exam preparation courses in the UK are IELTS, Cambridge English, Trinity College London, LanguageCert, TOEFL, OET (English language test for healthcare professionals) and TOLES (Test of Legal English Skills) exams. 

General English courses

General English courses improve your general confidence and fluency in English. Courses are available for all levels, from beginner to advanced. Flexible start and end dates mean you can study at any time during the year for as long as you want, from one week to a whole year. 

Academic English courses

Academic English courses help you to improve your English skills for academic tasks and give you the confidence to start undergraduate or postgraduate study in the UK.

Business and professional English courses

These courses help you to develop English language skills specific to your profession or business environment. 

A business English course can enhance you career prospects by giving you the confidence to use English effectively in a range of business situations, including meetings, writing emails, delivering presentations, making business phone calls, negotiating and networking.

If you work in a specific industry you may need to learn specialised English skills. There are courses that teach English for the oil and gas industry, English for the aviation industry, and more.

English language centres can design tailor made courses for groups of employees from the same company. 

Vacation courses for all ages

Vacation courses are for adults, teenagers, children, or families. You can improve your English and join activities and excursions organised by your language school to make new friends and explore the UK. 

Visa requirements for English language courses

Everyone can study in the UK for up to six months as a visitor. This means many students, including students from European Union member countries, Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and more, can study a short English language course without a visa. 

Some nationalities need to apply for a Standard Visitor visa if they want to do a short course. You can check if you will need a visa on the English with Confidence website.

For courses longer than six months, all international students need to apply for a visa before travel. There are two student visas available:

  • Short-term (English language) study visa allows you to study an English language course for between six and 11 months. 
  • A Student visa is required if you want to study English for more than 11 months, or any other subject for more than six months.

If you want to study an undergraduate, postgraduate, foundation or pathway course, you need a Student visa. You must take your course at an institution with a Student sponsor license.

You can find clear information on the visa requirements for English language courses on the English with Confidence website

Find an English language course

You can book your English language course directly through a school, or through a study abroad agency in your home country. 

English language schools and agents can help you book your:

  • English language course
  • Accommodation
  • Airport transfers
  • Travel insurance
  • Additional activities and excursions

You can view a list of all British Council accredited centres in the UK

English in Britain is an award-winning service guiding students and agents to the websites of accredited English language course providers in England, Scotland and Wales. The course finder contains profiles of subscriber organisations and their courses.

Special care for young learners 

When language centres are accredited by the British Council for the teaching of English, they have robust safeguarding procedures to ensure the wellbeing and protection of all children and teenagers under 18 years old. 

Young learners are always supervised by trained staff during their stay in the UK: in the classroom, at their accommodation, during organised activities, and during the students’ free time.

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