More than 700,000 students travel to the UK each year to study English and the numbers going to the US is in calculable. With all the many thousands of language schools out there in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and even the Philippines you must be careful to choose the right course for your needs. We only recommend English language schools that meet strict, independent quality standards, with qualified teachers and well-managed, safe learning environments. There is no substitute for experience; get in touch for some free, impartial advice.
What courses are available?
English for Academic Purposes (EAP) prepares students for success at university by improving their English for an academic context coupled with study skills like note-taking, discussion skills, academic reading and writing and research techniques. (16+ years).
Exam Preparation helps students to prepare for English language tests such as IELTS, TOEFL, Pearson or any of the Cambridge examinations. (18+ years old)
Adult General English courses ensure that you improve your English in all areas of the language: reading, writing, listening and speaking. (16+ years old)
Junior Year Round English courses focus on preparing children for academic study at independent schools and colleges in the UK. (8-17 years old)
Business English is designed for global business communication. Specific functions include conducting meetings, negotiations, making presentations, socialising, attending conferences, telephone skills, report-writing and reading technical documents. (18+ years old)
English for Specific Purposes (ESP) is for professionals who want to learn English that is specific to a certain area of work (for example, management, aviation, law, nursing, hospitality, tourism, communication). (18+ years old)
English Plus Courses usually teach general English in the morning session, followed by elective courses in the afternoon that can be anything from golf or soccer to cake making or flower arranging. (18+ years old)
Adult Vacation courses teach general English over the summer combined with activities and excursions. (16+ years old)
Junior Vacation courses teach general English over the summer or winter vacations combined with activities and excursions. Accommodation (usually private residential) is typically available. (8-17 years old)
Teacher Training are useful refresher courses for teachers and some of these lead to a diploma or certificate in TESOL. (18+ years old)
English and Work Experience programmes are for students who want to combine work and study. Some work placements are unpaid but others pay a salary. Students typically study English for a minimum of 3 months and then work for an equal amount of time.
One to One or 'individual' tuition with a teacher but can often be combined with group study.
How long are the programmes and how much work is involved?
Private Language Schools and Colleges allow students to study for anything from two weeks up to a year at a time and any length of time in between. Students can usually commence their studies on any Monday although budget long-term courses usually have scheduled start dates. Students can choose 15, 20, 25 or even 30 study hours per week. Class sizes average 10 - 12 students; most schools have a maximum of 15 per class. Classes are available in the morning or in the evening, the latter being the cheaper option.
University Language Centres usually start their courses at the beginning of each term (October, January and April) and most will also run a summer school. The hours are generally not flexible and range between 20 and 25 per week.
What are the entrance requirements?
There are no entrance qualifications for private language schools but students will have to take an assessment test on arrival at the school so that they can be placed in the correct level. Most schools accept beginner to advanced-level students. When you complete your course you will receive a certificate confirming your level of English.
University language centres usually do not accept beginners and they typically require students to take a test such as IELTS before applying. The entrance requirements for colleges of further education tend to be the same as those for private language schools.
What's the accommodation like?
If you are studying at a private language school or a college, 'homestay' accommodation is usually arranged with a local family, although some universities also offer the homestay option as well as their own residential accommodation.
Staying with a local family has several obvious advantages for English language students, the most obvious being the chance to practice your English outside the classroom.
Students who choose a homestay will also be able to experience local culture first-hand. Many students form lifelong friendships with their host family, staying in touch after they return to their own country.
Homestays usually provide a single or shared room with either full board (bed, breakfast and dinner) or half board (bed and breakfast). Homestays often host more than one student at a time, but not usually two with the same native language so that students must speak English at home.
Students studying at university language centres are typically accommodated in university halls of residence (student housing) though some are also able to provide homestay accommodation if required.
A typical university residence offers single (not shared) study bedrooms with shared bathroom facilities, although en-suite rooms (with a private bathroom in your room) are available at a higher price.
Self-catered accommodation usually has clusters of six rooms sharing one kitchen. Students in catered accommodation will have meals provided at the university dining room.
With so many options, how on earth do I choose a school?
When choosing a school you have many things to consider. You need to decide on the living environment that you are looking for.
Do you want to be in a large city like London or Los Angeles, or in a small town or a seaside resort?
All have their charms and their chores. A school in London or New York will be very convenient for trips to the famous sites but the living costs will be higher.
You also need to decide the size of the school in which you will study. Big schools usually offer a wider variety of courses than the smaller schools as they have more students.
Some well-known schools have fairly large branches in towns and cities around the world with many students, while others are smaller family run schools.
Some of the small, family-run operations take greater care of their foreign students' welfare and you will get to know the staff on a personal level.
It all depends on what you're looking for. It may also be important to you to assess the number of students who can speak your native language currently at the school.
You also need to consider the average class size as a school offering a cheaper course may have a higher maximum, 25 instead of the usual 15 students, for example.
What is your budget and how long do you want to study? If you want a long term course, some schools offer a discount for full academic year programmes.
The fees for these programmes are lower if you pay in-full before the start of the course, although the start dates are usually fixed. Is the school accredited? Got more questions? Get in touch!