Many international students coming to the UK find that they do not have the right skills and qualifications needed to enter university at undergraduate level. Because of this, there are many options for pre-university students, including study centres (for-profit and university-run) which offer students direct access to universities, treating them as they would undergraduate students, with plenty of opportunities for socialising and learning English; boarding schools which offer international students the chance to mingle and learn with British pupils; and sixth-form colleges which offer students an independent lifestyle. 

International Study Centres

International Study Centres

International study centres are for-profit institutions which offer international students pre-degree “pathway” courses into higher education. (They are sometimes called Foundation Programmes). There are five major providers in the UK: Study Group; Kaplan; INTO; Navitas; and Cambridge Education. These study centres are partnered with UK universities, and some even teach international students the first year of their degree. 

As they partner with UK insitutions they are based on campus, and provide the same pastoral care, and accommodation, sports, library, and social facilities. As well as academics, study centres also provide social events, such as BBQs and days out to local British cities, so you can understand the UK culture, enjoy spending time with your new-found friends, and improve your English. 

Their aim is to provide students school students with the necessary qualifications to enter a UK university as many countries only offer 12 years of formal education (not enough to enter a UK university). The entry requirements will vary between centre, however minimum requirements will generally include the equivalent for five GCSEs of at least a C grade. There are also English Language requirements, of approximately IELTS 5.0  (minimum 5.0 in all subskills), or equivalent, and most pupils will be aged 17 or over when they start. Most courses take a year. 

At a study centre you will apply for a specific pathway, for example, Business & Management, Science & Engineering, Law & Social Studies, or Maths & Statistics, and if you earn an acknowledged grade of graduating (for example a B or higher) you can automatically join the first year of a range of undergraduate programmes (depending on what your pathway. For example, a Business and Management pathway may lead you onto a degree in Business Studies, Management, Management Science, Accounting & Finance, or Economics. 

As well as courses related to your pathway, you will also learn skills to prepare you for the rigours of the undergraduate degree - these include English communication skills, writing and reading strategies, especially for academic purposes; presentation and seminar participation; time organisation; and responding to feedback. You may also have to undertake a self-study project producing an extended piece of work in the area of your intended degree, through an on-going, supervised, self-study approach.

Further benefits of the study centre approach is that the university retains control over the study centre's curriculum, entry requirements, and staffing etc., low student:staff ratios, and the ability to learn English. 

Some study centres also offer A-levels, which can lead onto undergraduate study in the same way. 

The cost of studying at one of these study centres depends on the university and location, however as an example, Lancaster University (part of Study Group) charges between £14,500-£16,980 (2015/16). You will also have to factor in accommodation costs, (and if they accommodation you choose is self-catered food costs) and costs for everyday living - please see our accommodation pages for more information, as the accommodation you'll be offered is the same as that offered to undergraduate students. 

To apply for a place at a study centre, you can either fill in the forms available on an individual's website, or you can go through an agent. To see which agent works for the university(s) you are looking at, please see our agents page. 

The study centres available in the UK are:

Boarding Schools

Boarding Schools

Boarding schools are independent (private) schools that offer the chance for your child to live at the school alongside studying. There are about 700 schools in the UK which offer private boarding, most of which educate students aged 11 or 13 through to 18. Boarding schools can be co-educational or single sex, while in the last two years (sixth form) single sex schools often turn to mixed schools. 

At boarding pupils are allocated houses where students sleep and socialise, with schools teachers appointed as housemasters and housemistresses. Day pupils may also attend boarding schools and return to their parents either in the evenings or at weekends. School holidays are all spent at home. 

Depending on the school, qualifications offered will include A-levels, the IB Diploma, or the Cambridge Pre-U. Your may want to look at these qualifications and choose a school which offers them, as your child may be more suited to a specific qualification. All are accepted for entry to UK and international universities.  

Most boarding schools operate a six-day week with lessons on Saturday morning, and activities or sports on Saturday afternoon. The school will also provide away days. Activities at school might include a choir or orchestra, drama, dance or theatre, or clubs such as chess, photography, philosophy, film, Amnesty International, or the school newspaper, while pupils might also be able to set up their own if they've a particular interest. 

As well as these extra-curriular, communal activities, there will also be time for independent study and independent practice, for example, if your child plays a musical instrument. 

The school will also provide pastoral care, such as a doctor’s surgery, counselling and a chaplaincy.

The cost of a boarding school can be up to £30,000 per annum, including food. You may also have to pay for music lessons, if your child plays an instrument, and extra expenses. You will also have to factor in flights home during the holidays. 

To find a boarding school place, there are a number of websites which list boarding schools in the UK, for example, UK Boarding Schools and Best Schools. Alternatively some agents offer information about boarding schools. Your child will have to undertake an admissions procedure, which may include academic tests and an interview. 

Uni-run Foundation Programmes

University-run Foundation Programmes

Some universities offer their own foundation programmes aimed at students who don’t quite have the necessary qualifications to enter the first year of a UK undergraduate programme - many countries only offer 12 years of formal education (not enough to enter a UK university). The programme will typically last one year and will specify entry requirements. Although entry requirements will vary between university, they will generally include the equivalent for five GCSEs of at least a C grade. You will also need approximately IELTS 5.0  (minimum 5.0 in all subskills), or equivalent, and will typically be aged 17 or over when you start your course. 

They work in the same way as International Study Centre programmes (for more information, please see this tab) and may provide a variety of pathways for you to choose from, such as Business & Management, Science & Engineering, Law & Social Studies, or Maths & Statistics. Furthermore, if you complete the programme to a high level, you may be able to continue onto an undergraduate degree with the same university, or apply to a different university which your personal tutor can help you with. 

At a university-run foundation programme, you will be taught by staff of the university, in small-group sessions alongside other international students, and with the support of a personal tutor.

As well as academic study, the programme may also include an "enrichment" schedule with extra-curricular activities such as sightseeing, lectures and educational visits. Some programmes even include studying the life and culture in Britain with assessment including journals, blogs, podcasts, videos, photos and interviews. 

As well as courses related to your programme, you will also learn skills to prepare you for the rigours of the undergraduate degree - these include English communication skills, writing and reading strategies, especially for academic purposes; presentation and seminar participation; time organisation; and responding to feedback. You may also have to undertake a self-study project producing an extended piece of work in the area of your intended degree, through an on-going, supervised, self-study approach. You may also choose to take English language courses. 

The university provides accommodation designated for foundation students and you'll have access to the university's sporting facilities, libraries, social spaces, and academic facilities, such as labs. 

These programmes cost approximatey £15,000 for a year's tuition, and you will also have to factor in accommodation, food and transport costs. For the price of accommodation at your chosen university, please see our accommodation pages. 

To find out more information please see our agents pages who will be able to apply for one of the universities offering this programme.  

Sixth Form Colleges

Sixth-form Colleges

Sixth form colleges offer 16-year-old students the ability to undertake the IB Diploma, A-levels or the Cambridge Pre-U after taking GCSEs. There are approximately 65 private sixth-form colleges across the UK which accept international students, with the majority in London, Oxford and Cambridge. 

These colleges are co-educational education where pupils come and go as they please outside their class times. They require certain entry requirements - generally 5 grade Cs at GCSE including English and Maths or the equivalent qualifications of your country. 

In taking A-levels, the IB or Cambridge Pre-U you're child will have the opportunity to choose specific subjects they want to learn (as opposed to a foundation programme) and you're child's timetable will revolve around his or her class times. He or she might also want to undertake an extra-curricular activity, such as playing an instrument, or Young Enterprise. 

It's unlikely that accommodation connected to the college will be provided, so you will have to look for accommodation separately, with your child choosing to live with a family, in a hostel or in a private flat. For more information, please see our accommodation pages. Furthermore, there will also be fewer group and enrichment activities available, and in this way, less opportunity to make friends, to practice English, and to do some sightseeing. 

After sixth-form your child will then have the qualifications needed to apply for an undergraduate degree at university in the UK or worldwide. 

Tuition fees for private sixth-form colleges come in at around £5,000 per annum (with qualifications taking two years) and you'll also need to factor in the cost of food, accommodation and travel.