Everything you need to know about pre-degree courses in the UK

More than half a million international students applied to universities in the UK in 2022. That makes the country the second most desirable place to study in the world. It’s no surprise then, more overseas students are finding opportunities to leverage the UK’s educational resources, prestigious institutions, and great quality of life.

One popular route is via a pre-degree course. They act as a bridge between your previous study and a degree programme in the UK. These courses are also sometimes called ‘foundation’ or ‘intermediate’ programmes. The idea is that, rather than immediately enter into a full degree curriculum, students have a year to get up to speed on course content and prepare for the degree application process.

A pre-degree course is appealing to students who want to familiarise themselves with the UK’s education system. It’s also for students who want to change their study trajectory (for example, moving from an arts-based subject to a science-based one).

Here’s everything you need to know about pre-degree courses in the UK, including how to sense-test if it’s the right option for you.

What are the benefits of taking a pre-degree course?

There are a number of advantages to a pre-degree course, all of which further students’ knowledge, confidence, and likelihood of being accepted into a full degree programme in the UK. The main benefits are:

    • Access a full degree programme that you previously couldn’t qualify for. After completing and getting the grades required, pre-degree students can seamlessly transfer to degree programmes.
    • Build atop of your existing understanding of a subject and develop new skills. A pre-degree course can extend from what you already know, or it could deliver new, in-depth information.
    • Improve independent learning and time management. Pre-degree courses help students organise their own schedules and engage with both teacher-led and independent classes. As a result, students are better equipped to the dynamic nature of degree courses in the UK.
    • Expand research abilities. A pre-degree course focuses on how to conduct effective, unbiased research, and provides students with the resources to research and establish conclusions by themselves.
    • Elevate English speaking abilities. Pre-degree courses introduce core terms and concepts in a field of study, and give you a space to present and discuss topics at length.
Who should apply to a pre-degree course?

Anyone can apply to a pre-degree course. However, it’s a common option for students who don’t yet have the grades or criteria to enter a full degree programme. Pre-degree programmes are also popular with international students who want time to adjust to life and learning in the UK.

Pre-degree courses usually come with English language support and guidance for academic writing. This is often especially valuable for overseas applicants.

What are some examples of pre-degree courses and providers?

Leading UK universities like University of Glasgow, Coventry University, University of Leeds, Cardiff University, and University of Sheffield all offer pre-degree courses. Many arts institutions and colleges have pre-degree pathways too. A handful of the most promising programmes are:

University of Glasgow

Curated to prepare students for degree and postgraduate study, the foundation year at the University of Glasgow is available for business, engineering, science, law, and social sciences. Course content, structure, and assessments vary depending on the chosen track. All include practical tests to grow students’ critical thinking.

Coventry University

This pre-degree programme from Coventry University is made up of four six-week learning blocks. It is led by professionals in different education verticals. Unlike other courses, this foundation year doesn’t conclude with exams but at-home assignments. Students can also choose to take the course as a full or part-time commitment.

University of Leeds

The foundation year from Leeds International Study Centre at the University of Leeds is available for law, sciences, business, international relations, and engineering students. The programme is renowned for giving international students a helping hand on their higher education trajectory, and runs for a full academic year. Along the way, students learn via laboratory sessions, lectures, tutorials, and online resources.

Cardiff University

Cardiff University’s International Foundation Year takes place over one year, or as an accelerated version for 22 weeks. There are also pre-degree programmes specifically to study English at the institution before joining the foundation year. All options give students academic and English proficiency skills, and are a springboard to higher education in the UK.

University of Sheffield

Designed to grow English abilities and specialization studies, the foundation year at University of Sheffield is popular with international students. The course includes language tuition, study guidance, and an introduction to different degree programmes. Students can also enjoy the thriving campus, expert lecturers, and state-of-the-art resources at the university.

What are the requirements for pre-degree courses?

The prerequisites for a pre-degree course change according to the institution and the specific programme. That said, the majority of universities in the UK will ask students to meet English language requirements – and they’ll ask for evidence of this proficiency.

Universities generally accept the following English language tests:

    • PSI Services (UK) Ltd: Skills for English UKVI
    • IELTS (Academic) for UKVI
    • Pearson PTE (Academic) for UKVI
    • Trinity ISE II SELT/ Trinity ISE III SELT
    • LanguageCert International ESOL SELT B2/ LanguageCert International ESOL SELT C1

For context, universities tend to request a Skills for English score between a B1 Pass and a B2 Pass. Remember that this is a generalisation, and the exact score will depend on the university and pre-degree course.

How can Skills for English support pre-degree applications?

PSI Services (UK) Ltd – Skills for English, is available as a certified secure English language test (SELT), approved by the UK Home Office for immigration purposes. It can be taken at authorised centres around the world, across 128 countries.

If you’re taking a SELT test for the first time, Skills for English has tips and advice, information about the test structure, links to free language learning courses, and links to free practice tests. The platform can also assist you with finding your current English level and setting your targeted level for a pre-degree course.

Skills for English empowers international students to organise and meet their English language testing goals. The robust and secure tests are created and assessed by experts, and are intuitive to navigate. A team of consultants are available to talk students through the tests, including verifying the results and delivering them to the chosen institution.

Over 130 universities in the UK accept Skills for English: SELT tests for their pre-degree courses. See the full list!

Ready to unlock your potential with a UK-based pre-degree course? Make sure your English is an enabler on your journey – take Skills for English: SELT.


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