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English language requirements

You may need to supply evidence that you can speak, listen, read and write in English in order to meet the course conditions and get a visa to study in the UK.
Relevant to

Postgraduates should be able to use English to:

  • communicate with your lecturers and classmates, without it being difficult for anyone involved
  • explain a point of view with clarity
  • produce in-depth easy to follow writing for a wide range of topics

You will need to check with your chosen university if you need to prove your proficiency in English. You may be exempt from taking an English language test if your first degree or master's was taught in English and awarded in a place where the majority of the people speak English. These countries are:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Guyana
  • Ireland
  • New Zealand
  • South Africa
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America
  • West Indies.
You will also need to check with the UK Visa and Immigration service (UKVI) if you need to obtain a visa to study in the UK and if you need to take an approved English language test in order to get your visa. 

From 6 April 2015, there are two approved providers who deliver the Secure English Language Tests (SELT).

They are:

  • Trinity College London (for those applying in the UK only)
  • IELTS SELT Consortia (for those applying either outside or inside the UK)
For more information about English language tests visit the UKVI website

Pass levels

There are differences between the tests in timing and how they are delivered, but they all cover speaking, reading, listening and writing. Normally, you should have taken one of these tests within two years of the start date of your course. The acceptable pass levels will depend on which course you want to take.

You can find entry requirements in course profiles and further details on university websites.


Other qualifications

Some universities will accept a wider range of English tests or other qualifications. These can include European or International Baccalaureate, West African Examinations Council (WAEC) or other non-UK school qualifications. Some English tests not currently recognised as SELTs may also be accepted, including the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Pearson’s Test of English (PTE Academic) and Cambridge English Advanced (CAE).

For degree level courses, the immigration regulations allow providers with HEI status to choose their own way of assessing applicants’ English ability, so it’s worth checking requirements with the university directly, as well as with UKVI. Other qualifications may only be acceptable from students who do not need a Tier 4 visa.


Pre-sessional and in-sessional support

Most universities also run additional English language support courses, called pre-sessional English courses, which may incorporate one of the proficiency tests. These courses may take five or six weeks of study and you will be charged additional fees to attend. 

Other universities may offer free 'enhanced' English training for research students who have passed the English tests and who are now studying at postgraduate level. This is known as in-sessional English support. 

Contact your chosen university to check if they offer these courses and their requirements.