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Spending your summer at uni

Melanie Butler discovers that UK universities have plenty to offer general English students over the summer months

Students coming to the UK aged over eighteen looking for a British-Council-accredited summer course on a university campus – here’s a simple idea: why not enrol in one that’s actually run by the university itself? Although many UK unis are filled to the brim with prospective undergraduates needing to brush up their academic English with a pre-sessional course, a good number also offer general English courses to students looking to spend time in a real university environment.


Many of the UK’s top universities offer this experience. Take UCL, ranked number seven in the world by QS, which prides itself on being ‘London’s global university’ and offers three-week courses in both spring and summer for students from other universities worldwide. Applications are open to any student with a minimum of 4.5 Ielts who wants to improve their language and academic skills, as well as enjoy a packed cultural experience and life at one of the world’s top universities.

A number of other elite Russell Group universities also offer holiday courses. The English Language Centre at the University of Liverpool, for example, lives up to its promise of  ‘English for everybody’ through its Activate English courses, which offer 6–21 hours of classes covering general English, and options in either Ielts or social and cultural studies. It runs year round, and students can sign up for anything between two weeks and a full academic year.

Several other universities concentrate on summer schools. The Manchester University English language summer school runs for 3–6 weeks and offers theme-based lessons and a full social programme. The general English summer course at the University of Leeds runs 4–10 weeks and can be done full or part time. Sheffield University, by contrast, offers an intensive 21-hour-a-week course comprising 15 hours of general English and five hours of options, ranging from English for business to background to Britain, together with tutorials and lectures. 

Pretty much every university summer course offers a social programme, access to sports facilities and entry to the hub of British student life – the student union bar. Most offer the opportunity to live in university accommodation, which is reasonably priced and very popular, so it’s best to book early. Indeed it is the chance to live the life of a British student that’s one of the great attractions of this kind of course.

And then there is the teaching. University language centre staff are among the most highly qualified, most experienced (and best paid) in the business. Studying in this environment is for the serious student in search of good teaching as well as a good time.