Learn English in the UK

We look at the different types of English language courses on offer and say why enrolling at an English UK centre can be a very sound way of ensuring that you have a good experience in the UK and get the most out of your English language course

The UK has the widest range of English language and combined courses in the world. Do the right research and you’ll be sure to find a course to meet your needs.

The 12 main types of course are:

  1. General and Intensive English - English for daily life in an English-speaking country. Adult courses are usually for students aged 18 and over and include a variety of nationalities. Class sizes vary: a maximum of 10-12 is common in private language schools and universities; 14-18 in many further education colleges. A full-time course usually means a minimum of 15 full hours per week, although many centres offer up to 25 hours of tuition per week and more. Courses ensure you improve your English in all areas of the language: reading, writing, listening and, of course, speaking.
  2. English Plus- A general English course plus study of a hobby or special interest such as cookery, football skills, floristry, wine tasting or golf. Relax in your chosen Plus subject while continuing to practise the English you learn in the rest of the course. A number of centres offer courses specifically for mature students, often combining cultural or tourist activities with English language study.
  3. English for Academic Purposes (EAP) - Language preparation for academic study, often at university. Higher education in the UK requires students to study independently, performing and presenting their own research outside the timetable of lectures and seminars. EAP courses prepare you for success at university by improving your English in an academic context and teaching study skills such as note-taking, discussion skills, academic reading and writing and research techniques.
  4. Foundation Courses - Preparation for courses that students will progress to at colleges and universities, often at undergraduate level. The course will combine English for academic purposes with study of your chosen academic or professional subject. Many students take a foundation course to gain a qualification required to enter a British university and to raise their level of English to the required level, usually IELTS 6.0/6.5. Foundation courses can be any length from short pre-sessional programmes to courses of up to nine months to achieve the required qualifications.
  5. English for Specific Purposes (ESP) - Courses for professionals in specific areas of work. English is taught in context, aiming at particular job-related outcomes and using appropriate vocabulary and structures. You will be able to apply what you learn directly to your career. ESP covers a range of subjects as diverse as aviation, hotels and catering, diplomacy, journalism, law, medicine and many more.
  6. Business English- English for the business world. Courses are for people in all walks of business life: technology, marketing, manufacturing, management, finance and services, and are designed to help you communicate confidently in a global English-speaking business environment. Classes are typically smaller than in general/intensive English programmes. Specific skills may include conducting meetings, negotiating, making presentations, socialising, attending conferences, telephone skills, report-writing and reading technical documents.
  7. Work Experience Programmes - Courses which combine classroom-based English language learning with work placements and internships in selected companies in the UK. Programmes aim to improve your English language skills and increase your employment opportunities through working in a professional environment. You will achieve valuable, relevant experience for your career. Work placements may or may not be paid positions but are designed to match the career objectives of each trainee.
  8. One to One Courses- Individual tuition, with just one student and one teacher, allowing a truly personalised programme for as many days or weeks as you choose. One to one teaching can be combined with other courses to allow you to benefit from studying as part of a group whilst focusing on your own aims and language objectives.
  9. Home Tuition- Learn English in the teacher’s own home as part of the family. You live and learn in your teacher’s own home, enjoying individual tuition and total immersion in the English language. With home tuition you will be able to develop your English both inside and outside the ‘classroom’ in a truly authentic context.
  10. Courses for Teachers of English- Teacher development courses for language teachers. Refresher courses may include subjects such as language and methodology, creative teaching techniques, contemporary culture and using multimedia in the classroom. Return to your classroom with fresh ideas and techniques to motivate you and your students. Examination courses can lead to qualifications to teach English.
  11. Examination Courses- Courses leading to qualifications that are recognised throughout the world. British examination boards are international leaders in the profession and offer certificates and diplomas for all students at all levels from elementary to proficient. You can improve your career with a qualification from a wide range of general or academic English examinations as well as certificates in subjects such as business and commerce, translation and bilingualism, tourism and international communication.
  12. Young Learner Courses - Children and young people from the age of 5 to 17 can combine learning English with a wide range of activities in a safe, secure and supervised holiday environment. As well as learning to speak and understand the language better in a natural, relaxed setting, children will develop social confidence, making friends from all over the world. Social activities are for all interests and include sports, visits and hobbies such as art and design or photography. These courses are usually held in the summer months of June, July and August and sometimes in January and February.
What is English UK?

Formed in 2004 from the merger of two previous associations (ARELS and BASELT), English UK is the national association of accredited English language centres. It has 340 member centres in private schools, educational trusts and charities, further education colleges and universities.

All the member centres are accredited by the British Council under the Accreditation UK scheme, which English UK runs in partnership with the British Council. This is the only guarantee of quality for English language courses in the UK.

Accreditation by the British Council happens after an inspection by independent experts against the most rigorous standards in the world, with more observation of teaching than happens in any other accreditation process.

The Accreditation scheme criteria cover:

  • Management, including safety and security and the accuracy of publicity
  • Resources and environment, including buildings, equipment and teaching materials
  • Teaching and learning, including teacher qualifications, how lessons are planned and how teachers actually teach in the classroom
  • Welfare, including accommodation and all arrangements for student support and counselling.

Accreditation lasts for four years, but the inspectors visit most centres in between the main inspections. These interim visits are unannounced, which means that the centre does not know when they will happen.

Accreditation is the best guarantee for a student of a quality course.

The 340 members of English UK are of three main types:

  • Private schools and colleges, some of which are educational trusts and charities
  • Language centres or departments in colleges of further education
  • Centres or units in universities.
Living in the UK

If you come to study in the UK, it is best to live in a house or accommodation where you have to practise your English with native English speakers.You will find that arranging your own accommodation can be difficult, and takes quite a lot of time and effort. If you are planning to attend for a short course, it is much better to have accommodation arranged for you.

Almost all accredited centres running English language courses will arrange accommodation for students.

There are three main types of accommodation:

  • Homestay With a family either in your own room or sharing with another student, usually with the choice of breakfast and dinner to be provided. The average cost of family accommodation is about £100 a week - sometimes more in London and less in the other regions.
  • Residential In college halls of residence or student houses or flats, usually in your own room but often with a shared kitchen and bathrooms.
  • Hotels and hostels A wide range of hotels and hostels are available to cater for different needs, from student hostels to five star hotels.
Social Life

Most schools, colleges and universities arrange social events from discos, barbecues and pub crawls to visits to famous shops, markets, theatres and historic sites.

Many schools, colleges and universities have games rooms, computer rooms, sports centres, libraries and cafes and can arrange local sports facilities such as golf, tennis or horse-riding.

Every region has something special to offer - from sports such as surfing or rock climbing to top class football and rugby, regional foods, world class pop music and classical orchestras. The UK has some of the best museums and art galleries in the world, and almost all of them are free.

It is quick, easy and cheap to visit other European countries on low cost flights.

Should you have any problems, you will find that schools, colleges and universities have counselling services to help you with personal issues, health or homesickness.   The UK is a safe and welcoming country and it is rare for international students to suffer serious problems. As in all parts of the world, some areas of big cities are best avoided at night. If you are worried, your school or host family should be able to give you advice where necessary.


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