Hints and tips on choosing a London language school

By September 14, 2016Learning English
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Are you considering visiting London to study at one of London’s language schools? If so, below are some invaluable hints and tips on selecting your school and language course.

Why should you choose London over other study destinations?

If you are an international student looking to improve your level of English, then London is one of the most exciting cities in the world. London really is an international student city, pulling in over 100,000 international students that come from over 200 different countries in the world. If you choose London to take your language course, you will experience British culture first hand and you should expect to improve your English through exposure to native speakers. London is also a very multicultural and touristic city, with plenty of museums, historical monuments, more than 7000 pubs and 350 live music venues. You will have plenty of things to do during your free time. In case you were wondering how are you going to travel around town? Don’t worry as London offers really good public transport with trains and buses running all night long.

What factors should you consider when choosing a school?

This is especially the case when you are researching from abroad and you don’t have any face to face contact with the language school. The first thing you could do is to call a “study abroad agent”. These are companies or organisations that specialise in advising international students on educational study opportunities across the world. Each study abroad agency will have study abroad “counsellor” or “advisors” who will be able to give you all the information you need about different language courses in London (and elsewhere) and can even take care of you student visa (if required).

There are a lot of language schools in London and it may be hard to choose between all of them. Although a study agent can be very helpful, make sure they are accredited by a professional body and ask them if they don’t charge any additional booking fees. Most study agencies will be paid by the language school if you decide to book with them, so generally you should not expect to pay the agent a fee.

Once you have found a good study abroad agent, try to compare the schools with different criteria such as:

  • Class size -If they are too many students in the class, you won’t improve as quick as if you were in a smaller class.
  • What does the price include (materials, excursions, meals, accommodation)?
  • Is the language school accredited by professional bodies such as the British Council, the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) and/or the UK Border Agency? For a list of British Council accredited language schools in the UK you can visit: http://www.britishcouncil.org/education/accreditation/centres. This list of schools also includes links to all the accredited schools’ inspection reports so prospective international students can find impartial feedback on any school they are considering studying with. If you are intending to visit on a Tier 4 student visa then you will need to ensure that the language school is a “Trusted Sponsor”. This means that that they have been approved by the Independent School’s Inspectorate and the UK Border Agency to sponsor international students to study in the UK. You can find that list here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/register-of-licensed-sponsors-students
  • What type of courses do they provide? – Many use the Callan Method which involves a lot of speaking. A lot of the students like this method but if you want to focus on reading or writing, then perhaps look for another school or ask if they offer any other type of courses that fit your requirements. Different language schools employ different teaching methodologies. Many of them now also prefer a “communicative” methodology which places more emphasize on communicating in the target language over traditional focus on grammar. Again, consider which language teaching methodology might best suit your needs before booking your London language course.
  • Does the school offer any assistance on accommodation? If yes, be careful they don’t charge you excessive booking fees and check that they expect to have availability on the dates you intend to travel to study. June to September in London can be very busy months for overseas students coming to London and it may be more difficult to secure your first choice of accommodation in these months.
  • Where is it located? Is it easily accessible? Is it close to an underground station? Many of London’s best language schools are located in Bloomsbury in central London. The nearest station is Holborn (Central Line/Piccadilly Line Zone 1) and this is very centrally located for access to all of London’s restaurants, bars, museums, theatres and night-life. There are schools located on Oxford Street also. Some of these are not British Council accredited language schools and mainly cater for overseas students who are already in London, see the language school when walking along Oxford Street and decide to book a language course there and then. Prices at these schools may be lower than at British Council accredited language schools so they can be appealing if you are on tight budget. However, factor in to your decision that the quality of the language provision and the facilities may not be as good as at the British Council accredited schools.
    There are schools located outside of Bloomsbury and central London. These tend to be less expensive that the central London ones, mainly due to cheaper rents for the school premises. This should not necessarily mean that the quality of language teaching is lower. It may mean, however, that you will be further away from London’s tourist spots and night-life. Again make sure you check the school’s accreditations when deciding to book further from central London.

Should you book directly with the school or via a study agent?

Booking a language course abroad can be quite a big decision as it involves a lot of time and expense. It is therefore an important decision to choose who you will book your language course with. Some of the people prefer booking with a study abroad agent because their spoken English is not strong enough to communicate with the school.

However, if you are confident enough to do this, it is true that you can book directly with the school as you will have the majority of the information you need on their website. As mentioned above, study agents don’t usually charge any additional fees, so the price you pay them should be the price that is advertised on the language school’s website. An agent, however, enables you to have a face to face relationship and can help you get a better understanding of language course options. A good study agent will listen to your requirements and be able to advise you impartially. Many parents booking language courses on behalf of their son/daughter prefer to deal with a study agency for this very reason. Some agents also have offices at study destinations like London and can therefore offer additional service, sometimes at additional cost but often not. You may, for example, be offered additional support once you reach London to help with any difficulties you face. Some study abroad agents also offer services such as internship placement as well as language tuition, or even a combination of both.

An agent therefore can be a good way to book your London language course abroad for little or no extra cost. They can also provide you with advice as well as another point of support to help you when you arrive in London.

What accommodation options will likely be available?

Halls of residence are the most popular type of accommodation for students, as is it often close to your place of study and allows students to socialise easier with other students. However, this type of accommodation can be quite expensive (£180 to £400 per week) and there are not a lot of spaces, so if you would to book this type of accommodation, organise things early.

If you are a student staying on a long term basis, you could maybe try renting a property as it offers more facilities and enables the student to be more independent. Nevertheless, organise yourself in advance as the London rental market is exceptionally busy and letting a property can take quite a lot of time. If you are staying on a short term basis or booking from abroad, we would not advise this type of accommodation considering that most landlords do not let their property for short term accommodation (less than 6 months) and if they do it will be a lot more expensive. Also, you should always view a property first before signing a tenancy contract for 6 months plus.

What accommodation options are best for shorter stays?

If you are a student staying on a short term basis, we would recommend two types of accommodation, hotels or homestay.

London is currently the most expensive city in the world when it comes to accommodation, so if you book a hotel, you will end up paying a minimum of £80 to £130 a night for a basic hotel room outside of the centre. If you want a higher standard of room or a central location, then expect to pay much more. If you are planning to stay for less than one week then this might be a good option for you.

A good alternative to hotels would be booking a Homestay in London, especially if you are planning to study in London for several weeks. Homestay is all about renting a room in the house of a host family.  So, if you are an overseas student looking to improve your English by living with an English native speaker, or if you want the help of a Londoner to “find your feet”, Homestay could be a great option for you. Homestay is about £19 (zone 4) to £30 (zone 1) per night, so you end up saving a lot of money by booking a London homestay rather than a hotel.

Can we help you find an accommodation in London?

At HFS London we specialise in homestay accommodation for overseas students. If you feel that this is an option that might work for you take a look at our how it works page for more details on booking homestay accommodation. You can view current prices on the website.

If you decide that you do wish to apply then start by completing our online application form. One of the HFS London team will be in touch within 48 (working hours) with photo profiles of host family accommodation that is suitable for you. You will only be asked to make payment once you are completely happy with the options that have been suggested to you.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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