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Pre-sessional English and International Foundation programmes

If you need to improve your academic English skills before you start your degree in order to meet our English language requirements, we advise you to consider taking one of our online pre-sessional academic English courses.

Please note: Our online pre-sessional courses are designed to help students meet up to a 6.5 (or equivalent) IELTS standard entry requirement. If you have applied for a programme with higher English Language entry requirements, please as you might need to retake your English exam.

You can read more about the different pathways below and email us if you wish to enrol. You must include your full name, applicant number and a copy of your most recent English language test results in your email.


Birkbeck offers two different pathways of online pre-sessional academic English courses designed to help you cope with all aspects of student life in the UK: from understanding lectures and academic texts to writing assignments, speaking in seminars and giving presentations.

Your existing English language test results will determine the most appropriate course for you, allowing you to fully prepare for your studies at Birkbeck. You can learn more about each pathway below.

When you register your interest, you have a guaranteed place on the pre-sessional course. Once enrolment opens, we will guide you to enrol onto the pre-sessional course. Once you are enrolled, you will have a guaranteed place on your chosen degree course if you successfully attend. We offer individual guidance and support for enrolment on your degree course.

Four-week course pathway

  • This course is suitable if you have an IELTS score of at least 6.0 overall. We also recommend this course if you are a non-native English speaker and you fulfil the English language requirement for your degree studies. This course will help you settle into academic study in the UK and will give you a head start.
  • Dates: 16 August - 10 September 2021
  • Fees: £1800
  • IELTS entry requirements 
    • If you scored 6.0 or above with at least 5.5 in all sub scores, you do not need to take an external English test for visa purposes. You can progress directly to your degree studies.
    • If you scored 6.0 with sub scores lower than 5.5, you need to sit and pass an internal test.

Eight-week course pathway

  • This course is suitable if you have an IELTS score of at least 5.5 overall. In eight weeks, we work closely together to improve your English language skills so that you are ready for your Birkbeck degree studies.
  • Dates: 19 July - 10 September 2021
  • Fees: £3100
  • IELTS entry requirements 
    • If you scored 5.5 with at least 5.5 in all sub scores, you do not need to take an external English test for visa purposes. You can progress directly to your degree studies.
    • If you scored 5.5 with sub scores lower than 5.5, you need to sit and pass an internal test.

Progression to your degree

  • If you already have an IELTS score (or equivalent) of at least 5.5 and with at least 5.5. in all sub scores, you will not need to take any formal assessment at the end of the language course. Completing the pre-sessional will enable you study your chosen programme at Birkbeck. 
  • If you have any sub scores below 5.5 in your IELTS test (or equivalent), you will need to sit an in-house English language test once you complete the pre-sessional course. Providing you are successful, you will be presented with a certificate of results, which you can then use as a supporting document for your UKVI student visa application. Our International Student Administration team will be able to guide you throughout your visa application, offering you one-to-one meetings.

Course structure

  • Classes will be delivered from Monday to Friday 10am-12pm BST (participants are asked to check the timings for their time zones). All teaching will take place via the interactive online platform Collaborate and you are required to attend all classes.
  • There are ten hours of recorded lectures per week that you can work through on a more flexible basis.
  • We also expect that you spend addition time on self-directed learning, for example, reading and writing tasks. We understand that you may have other commitments to uphold, and the self-directed learning content can be completed flexibly, before or after classes or over the weekends. You will receive detailed feedback from the teacher throughout the course on your progress.
  • There will be many opportunities for you to interact outside of the lectures, and you will be expected to work together in groups on a variety of tasks. This will help you to connect socially with your colleagues and will allow you to make friends before your degree studies begin. You will also have weekly meetings with current Birkbeck students and be given the opportunity to learn more about British - and London's - culture. 

Meet the teacher

  • Melanie Ferreira has been teaching international students from all over the world for over 25 years in the UK, France, Spain, Italy and China. She specialises in working with students to develop their academic English skill at university level. 

Join our webinars

  • We offer a series of webinars for you to meet your teacher and gain an understanding of what our course entails. Register online for free to find out more.

International foundation programmes

OnCampus London

  • If do not meet the academic entry requirements for direct admission to your chosen programme at Birkbeck, you may benefit from joining the Undergraduate Foundation Programme or the Master's Foundation Programme offered at the OnCampus London centre. Based on the Birkbeck campus, you will have complete access to Birkbeck facilities - libraries, online resources and laboratories.
  • Birkbeck welcomes applications from students who have successfully completed the Undergraduate Foundation programme and the Master’s Foundation programme, and some of our courses guarantee a place to successful students.

Improving your study skills

  • In addition to our year-round study skills programme, there is a range of English and academic skills courses which are free to use. Check our online study skills materials and interactive tutorials and work through them at your own pace before and during your course to help you succeed.