Chapter 23 - English Language Support for International Students: statement of procedures

  1. Introduction
    1. The University welcomes applications from all candidates with the academic potential to succeed in their chosen programme of study, regardless of their background. All students are required to meet General Entrance requirements including proficiency in English language. International students whose first language is not English will need to demonstrate proficiency in English as part of the applications process. Some programmes may have higher language entry requirements to those specified in the General Entrance requirements.
    2. The Admissions Office, together with Colleges and the International Student Recruitment team, assesses applications and applies conditions where any requirements are not already met. Where a decision is made to vary requirements or offer levels, the potential of the student to reach the learning outcomes of their programme should be considered carefully and additional support recommended if appropriate.
    3. Where students need additional language support, (whether undergraduate, postgraduate taught or postgraduate research) Colleges can draw on the support of INTO is able to offer and this is set out in this document. In certain circumstances provision additional to what INTO ordinarily provides may be deemed necessary. Where support does not fall within terms agreed between the University and INTO, Colleges may need to make separate arrangements with INTO and these may incur a cost. 
  2. Minimum English language requirements
    1. For minimum English language entry requirements for undergraduate and postgraduate programmes visit:
    2. Further information on various other tests of English language and their acceptability for study in English can be found in a booklet published by the British Association of Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes (BALEAP) entitled: ‘BALEAP Guidelines on English Language Tests for University Entry’.
  3. Consideration of the English proficiency of applicants
    1. The Admissions office will work with Colleges and the International Student Recruitment team to determine whether an offer should be made to an applicant, and whether or not language requirements have been met. These decisions will be made carefully, ensuring that the student has the capability to succeed on the course academically. Where requirements are above UKVI minima but below programme requirements, Admissions will determine whether pre-sessional requirements will apply as a condition of offer or as a recommendation. Visa and immigration requirements are set out in UK Visas and Immigration guidance on approved English Language tests.
    2. The table in Appendix 2 shows how much full-time English language tuition an applicant needs who has not met the minimum level of proficiency required. The amounts of tuition stated are only indicative, and there is no guarantee that any specific individual will improve their English proficiency to the required level in the time given. There is a wide range of variables which might affect someone’s ability to learn a foreign language such as first language, age and educational level.
    3. INTO is able to provide expert advice and guidance to Colleges on matters relating to the support of students whose first language is not English. In the first instance, Colleges should contact INTO’s Insessional Programme Manager.
  4. English Language Tests
    1. Standard English Language Tests. The most widely used standardised tests of English Language for academic purposes are:

      • IELTS Test (International English Language Testing System)
      • TOEFL Internet-based Test (Test of English as a Foreign Language)
      • Pearson Test of English.
    2. These tests supply results as an overall score with scores for the sub-skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking. In the case of IELTS, the mark range is from 0–9 where 9 is an expert user and 0 is a non-user. Numbers 7-9 represent advanced ability to use English, 4-6 a wide intermediate range, and 1-3 beginner-elementary.
    3. Although the tests are heavily researched and extremely reliable, a ‘health warning’ is also necessary. Hence, the fact that a student may have met the minimum language requirement for unconditional entry as measured by these tests is no guarantee that the student will not experience any difficulties with use of English during his/her studies. Note that students with minimum levels at entry will always be recommended to participate in INTO’s Insessional programme.
    4. The IELTS test cannot be taken at INTO. Tests are provided locally (Exeter and Plymouth) by Mayflower College. More information on the IELTS test and other tests is available from INTO Programme Office.
    5. INTO Assessment. INTO does not currently offer a formal stand-alone test of English proficiency. All assessments of English take place during and at the end of courses offered by INTO (see Appendix 1). In comparison with the standardised tests referred to above, INTO assessments are based on students’ work for module assessment and provide, therefore, a better reflection of the type of language use which is required in academic study.
    6. IELA. In exceptional circumstances, where access to the tests mentioned in 4.1 is not possible, the University can consider results from an International English Language Assessment test (IELA) if invigilated by a member of University or INTO staff. The test was developed by Cambridge exams and staff at INTO University Partners and assesses reading, writing, speaking and listening. Further information is available from International Student Recruitment.
  5. English language courses
    1. INTO provides two main types of English language course:

      • Preparatory courses: these are full time, fee charging courses and programmes which students take before registering on a degree programme. Details can be found at: INTO: Our Programmes

      • The Insessional Programme: INTO provides tuition and support in English language and academic literacy for students registered on degree courses (including Year Abroad students and those on the Erasmus or other exchange schemes). This tuition and support is referred to as the ‘insessional programme’. The insessional programme is centrally funded and includes both credit-rated modules and support classes. The insessional support programme is described in Section 7. Additional details can be found at: INTO: Insessional.
    2. Students requiring credits for their home universities will be directed to the credit-rated inessional programme (see Appendix 1B).
  6. Admission of candidates holding offers conditional on English language proficiency
    1. The Admissions Office will admit only those students who have provided clear evidence that they have met any condition on their offer relating to English proficiency or who are judged sufficiently qualified to succeed academically.
    2. In assessing whether a student has met the conditions of their offer, the Admissions Office expects to see either:

      • an original test certificate from an external testing system (e.g. IELTS, TOEFL or Pearson Test of English) demonstrating that the applicant has met the condition or
      • a result sheet from INTO indicating that the student has successfully completed their programme at the required level.
    3. It is expected that students who enter a pre-sessional English course with the language levels specified by INTO will make sufficient progress to be able to proceed to their degree programmes at the end of their course. However, progression is only guaranteed for students in possession of a single CAS (see below 6.4). If on completion of his/her pre-sessional programme, a student has narrowly failed to meet the requirements for progression, and does not possess a single CAS, s/he will only be able to take up their place of study if the admitting College wishes to make a special case for admission (see below, 6.5). INTO recommends that each case be treated individually. Colleges wishing for advice on support available for particular students should contact the Insessional Programme Manager at INTO. The support available to students who have not achieved the University’s minimum entry levels is described below (see 7.4.6, 7.4.7).
    4. Single CAS. Insessional support will be mandatory for single CAS students who do not meet the English language requirements for progression, as set out in the document ‘Single CAS Proposal for Pre-sessional’ (see Appendix 3).
    5. Special Cases. (i) In exceptional circumstances, a College or Admissions may wish to admit a student who has not demonstrated that they have met the minimum English proficiency required by the academic programme. If a College/ Admissions believes that there is a ‘special case’ for admitting the student, this must be approved by the Associate Dean for Education (ADE) or Head of Admissions. It is the responsibility of the College/Admissions Office to only admit those students who it is confident are able to attain the learning outcomes of their programme. (ii) Where a candidate has failed to satisfy the UK Visas and Immigration minimum requirements, a language waiver may, very exceptionally, be permitted as above, but in addition the College ADE’s approval, the Head of Admissions (or the International Admissions Officer) and the Head of Student Services’ approvals must also be obtained. 
    6. Softening. Softening of English language entry levels relates to the lowering of entry requirements for specific programmes. Softenng can only be authorised by the Head of Admissions or ADEs.
    7. INTO does not support the view that additional insessional provision can normally provide adequate compensation for lower than specified English language entry levels (see Appendix 2). However, should Admissions or Colleges wish to admit students with lower levels than those specified, INTO will advise on insessional provision. This may incur a cost to the College (see 7.4.6 and 7.4.7). In special cases, or in the event of softening, Admissions and/or the college would be responsible for arranging and funding any additional language support the student may require above that available as part of the standard insessional provision (see 7.4.6 and 7.4.7).
    8. When a student has met the conditions for entry onto an INTO pre-sessional course (held between July and September), they are not required to take a separate external English language test (e.g. IELTS or TOEFL) at the end of the course. These students are subject to the internal assessment procedures described in Appendix 1.
    9. Where a College has given approval for the International Student Recruitment Office to make offers on its behalf, special cases may be approved by the Head of International Student Recruitment, and the International Student Recruitment Office will bear the responsibilities otherwise incumbent on Admissions/ Colleges.
  7. Insessional English language support (for the credit-rated insessional, see Appendix 1B)
    1. INTO’s Insessional Support Programme provides tuition and support in English language and academic literacy skills to students during the course of their degree study. It is primarily intended for students studying at the Exeter campus. A parallel service is provided by ASK for Penryn students. Some support is also available for students who are not campus based, for example students studying online degrees. Insessional support is intended for students whose first language is not English. It is specifically aimed at students who have met the University’s English language entry requirements, but have not yet achieved a fully operational command of English (‘fully operational command’ equates to IELTS band 8). While there is normally no formal assessment of students, participation and attendance are closely monitored (see also 7.3 Referrals), and a high level of commitment is required of students. Details of insessional support are provided in this section and in Appendix 1B.
    2. The Insessional Support Programme is complementary to INTO’s preparatory courses, and students progressing from these courses are strongly encouraged to register as insessional students. The Insessional Support Programme is also recommended for students not required to take a preparatory course. Colleges may wish to make insessional support mandatory for certain students and INTO is able to advise when such action is appropriate. At the standard level of provision, no additional charge is incurred by students or Colleges (see 7.4.6 below).
    3. Referrals. Colleges or University support services may refer students to the insessional programme if they feel that a student's progress is hampered by a student's English language or academic literacy skills. Referral is a formal process, and a referred student's progress and attendance on insessional courses will be monitored by the insessional team. College or support services wishing to refer a student should contact the Insessional Team. Progress reports on referred students are provided termly and can be requested by Colleges as required.
    4. Responsibilities of Colleges. Responsibility for ensuring that Colleges cooperate with INTO in the provision of insessional support lies with the College ADE and the College Education Business Partners (EBPs). EBPs are the insessional team's first point of contact in Colleges.
      1. When students are admitted on the understanding that they will undertake insessional English language support classes, it is the responsibility of the College to assure itself that the student is complying with this requirement and to monitor and support the student’s progress. The College should ensure that the student is given clear written information regarding what is required, and that it is made clear that failure to comply with the requirement could lead to disciplinary action being taken against the student.
      2. The College EBPs (or those nominated by them) should liaise with the INTO Insessional team about the English language insessional support needs of their students, including English for Specific Academic Purposes (ESAP) provision and support for individual students. Colleges may wish to consider whether a subject or discipline-based (ESAP) class is warranted for a group of students on a programme. EBPs or other nominated person(s) are expected to attend the relevant INTO/ College Board of Studies, which acts as the principal forum for discussion of insessional provision, including ESAP, with Colleges.
      3. The College EBP, or nominated person(s), should provide INTO with clear information regarding any student for whom insessional support classes are mandatory or strongly recommended, including referred students (see 7.3). This should, where appropriate, include a copy of a student's ILP.
      4. Colleges are responsible for ensuring that the EBP, or other nominated person(s), use the information supplied by INTO to track the progress and performance of individual students, and make further appropriate arrangements as necessary.
      5. Colleges need to be aware that the progress of specific students in English proficiency cannot be guaranteed.
      6. Colleges should be aware that, as part of its standard insessional support provision, INTO is able to offer only a limited degree of additional support for students who have not demonstrated that they have met the minimum language requirement at the time they embark on their degree programmes. Details are available from the Insessional Programme Manager, but the level of support would only be appropriate for students who have attended a preparatory course and have just failed to reach the required entry standard for their degree or for certain ‘special case’ students (see 6.5 above) deemed to have an English language level close to the minimum requirement. Colleges should be aware, however, that this additional support may not be sufficient or appropriate for the particular students they wish to admit.
      7. Colleges should be prepared to pay for any English language insessional support classes and one-to-one tutorials which may be necessary above and beyond the standard provision provided by INTO from its University funding. If Colleges do decide to contract for extra language support they should do so with full awareness of the comments made above (paragraph 6.7).
    5. Responsibilities of Admissions. Admissions should provide the INTO Insessional team with the full list of students who have softened English language entry requirements.
    6. Responsibility of the INTO Academic Board (IAB). The insessional programme will be accountable to the IAB, who will be responsibility for ratifying the annual Delivery Plan for the insessional programme (July meeting).
    7. Responsibilities of INTO. While INTO cannot compel students to attend the English language insessional support courses and one-to-one tutorials that Colleges expect or require them to, INTO will monitor the attendance and participation of all students and report to Colleges as required. Additional responsibilities apply to referred students (see Referrals 7.3).
      1. INTO should ensure that the range of insessional support provision reflects current student needs. In particular, this should involve ongoing needs analyses involving liaising with Colleges described above and below (7.4.2, 7.7.3) and course evaluation through student surveys conducted termly and other feedback mechanisms.
      2. INTO undertakes to ensure that all its insessional support classes and one-to-one tutorials meet the quality assurance requirements of INTO and the University. This includes full compliance with the ASER process.
      3. The INTO Insessional team will keep records of all insessional courses, including attendance, course reviews and classwork records.  Attendance details on insessional support courses and participation in one-to-one tutorials will be subject to analysis by the University (Policy, Planning and Business Intelligence) termly, with  subsequent reports submitted to INTO/College Boards of Studies alongside the relevant insessional coordinator’s report as a focus for discussion of insessional provision within Colleges (see 7.4.2). A written report and the annual Delivery Plan will submitted to IAB (July meeting), the latter for ratification.
      4. INTO should make students aware of their responsibilities on registration for the insessional programme.
    8. Responsibilities of Students. Students undertake certain responsibilities in relation to any insessional language support:

      • to attend punctually and consistently all English language insessional support courses and one-to-one tutorials that their Colleges expects or requires them to

      • to advise INTO staff in advance if unable to attend any English language insessional support courses and one-to-one tutorials for which they are renrolled, and provide medical or other evidence for absence where required

      • to carry out any coursework and preparation required of them by their teacher

      • to participate actively in class and contribute to class activities in a constructive way

      • to provide feedback to INTO staff on their experiences of attending English language insessional support courses and one-to-one tutorials with a view to maximising the quality and appropriateness of provision.

A. Preparatory English Language Courses Offered by INTO
B. The Insessional Programme

Preparatory and Insessional English Language Courses Required

Single CAS Proposal for Pre-sessional

Last updated August 2020

Appendix 1

A. Preparatory English Language Courses Offered by INTO

INTO offers preparatory and pathway courses in English language, study skills and subject study for students intending to take undergraduate or postgraduate degrees. Students can study English at a variety of starting levels and for varying lengths of time depending on their needs. The table below shows the current range of courses with entry points and length of courses:

Term 1 Sept-DecTerm 2 Jan-MarTerm 3 April-JulyTerm 4 July-Sept
Foundation Certificate programme  
  Foundation Certificate programme
International Year One programme  
  International Year One programme
Graduate Diploma programme  
  Graduate Diploma programme
Academic English Academic English Academic English Academic English
Study Abroad with English Study Abroad with English Study Abroad with English Study Abroad with English
 10 week Presessional Programme     Presessional A (10 weeks) – starts July (UG or PG)
 6 week Presessional Programme     Presessional A (6 weeks) – starts Aug (UG or PG)

Graduate Diploma, International Year One and Foundation courses consist of fully accredited University modules making up 120 credits leading to a University award.

All preparatory English, Foundation, IYO and Diploma courses aim to improve students’ ability to use English in an academic context and include work on study skills. All of these courses contain subject study to a greater or lesser degree: the Foundation, IYO and Diploma courses include subject modules, while the Academic English and Pre-sessional courses require students to do a certain amount of work in their subject areas.

Progression onto UG or PG degree courses is always conditional on specified levels of achievement, determined through module-based assessment

Entry Levels

The minimum English language entry levels for each course are as follows:

Foundation programme: All Pathways: IELTS 5.0, with a minimum of 5.0 in Writing and 4.5 in Reading, Speaking and Listening, or equivalent.

International Year One programme
: IELTS 5.5 (with minimum of 5.0 in all sub-skills or equivalent.

Graduate Diploma programme
: IELTS 5.5 with 5.5 each subskill (in-line with UKBA B2 entry requirements) or equivalent.

Study Abroad with English
: IELTS 4.5 (January entry); 5 (April entry); 5.5 (July entry); 6 (September entry) or equivalent.

Academic English: IELTS 3 (with 3 in writing) or equivalent.

Pre-sessional Courses
*: Course A: an IELTS 1.0 overall below the required level and with no subsection no more than 1.0 below the required level. Course B: an IELTS 0.5 overall below the required level and with no subsection no more than 0.5 below the required level.

*The entry condition for students whose academic programme has a higher (or lower) entry condition will be correspondingly higher (or lower). A more detailed list of entry requirements is given on:

Assessment of English Proficiency

On all INTO Preparatory Courses, INTO carries out extensive assessment. In the case of courses taking place between October and June, assessment is as specified in module descriptions. Similar assessment procedures are used on the pre-sessional courses. On all accredited programme courses an external examiner is involved. Results of assessments are reported in percentages.

For more details of courses, module descriptions, entry requirements and assessment procedures, see the INTO website:

B. The Insessional Programme

The Insessional Programme consists of two main components: the Insessional Support Programme and the Credit-Rated Insessional Programme:

The Insessional Support Programme is directed at international students for whom non-assessed EAP courses and study support are the appropriate means to help them achieve their academic potential. It is available for students at all academic levels, undergraduate, postgraduate (taught) and postgraduate (research). Appendix 2 sets out the recommended level of support.

The Insessional Support Programme consists of a range of courses and one-to-one tutorials offered both at INTO and within Colleges. As far as possible, students are accommodated on the courses they wish to take. Most provision is available during Term 1 and Term 2 with reduced provision in Term 3 and Term 4 (the summer vacation). While there is no formal assessment of students, progress and attendance are closely monitored, and a high level of commitment is required of students.

The Credit-rated Insessional Programme provides an alternative means of delivery of insessional support. It enables insessional students to follow EAP courses and at the same time gain University credits. This programme is appropriate for students on degree programmes which permit them to follow - and gain credits - from courses offered elsewhere in the University.

The Credit-rated Insessional Programme is also appropriate for students on exchange programmes. It should be noted that University English entry requirements may not apply to students on exchange programmes (e.g. Erasmus students) and some exchange students may have lower English language levels than students on full degree courses. Both the credit-rated modules and the support programme fully accountable within the TEAP process.

The credit-rated modules are only available at the Exeter campus.


Appendix 2

Preparatory and Insessional English Language Courses Required

Minimum entry requirements vary from programme to programme. As a general guide, higher standards of English are required for linguistically-exacting programmes of study such as MBA, economics, psychology, law, and literature-based degrees.

Besides this, many factors affect the speed of language learning: these include ability, motivation, age, linguistic background, previous knowledge of English, family and personal circumstances. Essentially, all students learn languages at different rates and so the table below can act as no more than an approximate guide.

IELTSEssential language tuition or support (based on an entry condition of IELTS 6.5*)Recommended additional language support
7.5-9.0 None One-to-one writing tutorials.
7.0 None Insessional classes. One-to-one writing tutorials.
6.5 Usually none 5-week summer pre-sessional. Insessional classes. One-to-one writing tutorials.
6.0 5-week summer pre-sessional or 1 term EAP Insessional classes. One-to-one writing tutorials.
5.5 1 term EAP plus 5-10 week summer pre-sessional; or 10-week summer pre-sessional Insessional classes. One-to-one writing tutorials.
5.0 2 terms EAP; or 1 term EAP plus 10 week summer pre-sessional Insessional classes. One-to-one writing tutorials.
4.5 Usually 3 terms EAP (may include 10-week summer pre-sessional) Insessional classes. One-to-one writing tutorials.
4.0 At least 12 months’ English (at least 1 term of General English initially), including 10-week summer pre-sessional Insessional classes. One-to-one writing tutorials.
3.5 Students beginning at this level are likely to need 18-24 months’ English tuition to reach the required levels. Insessional classes. One-to-one writing tutorials.

*Note: some programmes have higher English language entry conditions.

For undergraduate and postgraduate entry requirements see:

Appendix 3

Single CAS Proposal for Pre-Sessional

  1. INTO can give good indications of overall levels and any challenges faced in particular skills.
  2. We suggest identifying students using a 3 level band system indicating the level and type of support required (see enclosed diagram).
  3. We suggest using a version of the Insessional referral system where Colleges refer students to Insessional. In this case, however, Pre-sessional staff will refer students directly to the Insessional Support team and at the same time inform Colleges. We will require a named College contact to whom the information on referred students can be sent (this would usually be the College EBP).
  4. The Insessional team will interview referred students, creating a Guided Insessional Learning Plan with them, and ensuring that students access support. Termly progress reports are provided on referred students, with copies to both the College and the student. Reports will include recommendations regarding ongoing support.

The support offered by Insessional can be class work (e.g. writing workshops, language development, or orals skills development) as well as Guided Independent Learning (GIL) and one-to-one writing tutorials. In addition to the non-college based English for General Academic Purposes and General English provision, the Insessional programme currently offers English for Specific Academic Purposes support in several Colleges and schools, notably UEBS, CSSIS, UEMS, the Department of Psychology, and SHS (one-to-one tutorials). The referral procedure is initiated by Colleges, and in this case would be based on the recommendations of the Pre-sessional Programme Manager.

Referral and reporting system

Pre-sessional course

Academic achievement assessment reporting 3 levels:
1. support required across two or more skills (major cause for concern)1
2. support required in one skill (minor cause for concern)
3. no obvious need for support
Results sent to ILO who then send report to identified college contact person2.
ILO also send details of available and relevant Insessional programme to College contact.
Pre-sessional staff refer students identified as at levels 1 and 2 to Insessional programme for interview and Guided Insessional Learning Plan.

Insessional support

Student interviewed
Guided Insessional Learning Plan drawn up (providing recommendations for Insessional support) and access to Insessional provision scaffolded. Copy of plan forwarded to College contact3.
Termly progress report provided for College by Insessional team (including recommendations for further support).

1 The skills development area(s) required will be identified in the report from Pre-sessional team.
2 In the situation where there is no named College Contact, information will be sent to the Assistant College Manager for Education.
3 As above in 2.

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