Student exchanges

Linguistic requirements

Students can study in English at most of our non-European partner universities but for study at many European institutions, competence in the native language will be required.

Study and Work Away activities are likely to be disrupted for some time due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For the latest travel advice and restrictions please visit the Travel updates and guidance pages.

How do I know which language my exchange will be taught in?

Please refer to the ‘Language of instruction’ column in our Exchanges Destinations Guide on our Where Can I Go? page.

  • Where only English is listed, sufficient courses are available in English
  • Where two languages are listed (e.g. ‘English/French’), sufficient courses are not likely to be available in English, so you will need to meet the language requirements set out in the ‘Exchanges taught in a foreign language’ section below (CEFR level B2)
  • Where a language other than English is the only one listed, all or the majority of courses are taught in this language and you will need to meet the language requirements set out in the ‘Exchanges taught in a foreign language’ section below (CEFR level B2)

It is your responsibility to check the language of instruction for your exchange and ensure you meet any linguistic requirements before accepting an exchange place.

Exchanges taught in English

If your exchange is with a university in an English-speaking country, then you will study in English.

Students of English Literature or English Language will study those subjects in English, wherever they go to study.

English-taught courses may also be available in other subjects at some of our partner universities (see the Exchange Destinations Guide on our Where Can I Go? page for details).

Exchanges taught in a foreign language

Where teaching is in a language other than English, you will be expected to follow lectures, write essays, and take exams in the native language of instruction.  Studying your subject, presenting and producing work at 3rd year level in a foreign language is no mean feat! 

You will be required to pass the courses you take while abroad in order to obtain credit for your year or semester abroad so it is important that your language level is sufficient to enable you to achieve this.

For thise reason, all applicants who will be studying in a language that is not their native language must evidence a recent qualification demonstrating a minimum of level B2 (according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).

Even if you do not plan to take a full courseload in your non-native language, we still require that you meet the minimum B2 level. 

Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

What can I provide as formal evidence of my language level?

Students studying the relevant language as a formal, named part of their degree at the University of Edinburgh are assumed to have B2 level, and are exempt from providing evidence. However if you are taking a language as an outside course/elective, you will be required to provide evidence of your language level.

Normally we would require a certificate from a language course you have completed, stating you have reached B2 level in the relevant language.

Please note that B2 level is higher than A level/Higher/Advanced Higher, and so these qualifications are not accepted as evidence of meeting B2 level.

If you are a native speaker of the relevant language, please contact the SWAY team directly.

When will I need to provide evidence of my language level?

The B2 language level requirement is part of the eligibility criteria for taking up your exchange place, so you will need to provide evidence of this by the April before your exchange begins.

It is therefore not possible for students to complete a language course over the summer, with the intention of achieving B2 level prior to departure.

Language level assessments

If you will be studying in another language and cannot provide evidence of your language level, you will be required to take a free-of-charge language level assessment through the Centre for Open Learning (COL) in the March or April preceding your exchange. The Study and Work Away (SWAY) team will contact you in March if you are required to take a language assessment, and COL will subsequently contact you directly to arrange the date and time.

The language level assessment is likely to include speaking and reading components (but may not be limited to these). COL, who administer the assessments, will be able to provide more details about the format of the assessment when they get in touch with you.

Unfortunately, COL are not able to facilitate language assessments at another point in the year, so if you will be studying in another language, please ensure that you are prepared to sit the assessment in March or April.

Students who do not achieve B2 level at the time of the assessment will not be able to proceed with their exchange.

Erasmus+ Online Linguistic Support

Online Linguistic Support is a service provided by the European Commission and consists of language assessments and language courses for students participating in the Erasmus+ programme.

OLS offers Erasmus students the opportunity to assess their skills in the foreign language they will use to study while undertaking their Erasmus exchange. In addition, participants may follow an online language course to improve their competence. 

The following languages are included for support:

Bulgarian Croatian Czech Danish Dutch Estonian Finnish French
German Greek Hungarian Italian Latvian Lithuanian Maltese Polish
Portuguese Romanian Slovakian Slovenian Spanish Swedish    

If you will be undertaking an Erasmus exchange where teaching is in one of the above languages and you’re not a native speaker of that language you MUST take the OLS language assessment before and at the end of your exchange. This is an Erasmus+ requirement and a condition for receiving the Erasmus grant.

Once you have done your first language assessment, you will also be given the opportunity to do an online language course, provided by OLS. Although highly recommended, it is not compulsory to take the language course.

You can also visit the Online Linguistic Support website:

Erasmus+ Online Linguistic Support

Languages at the University of Edinburgh

Taking a language as an extra subject in your first and/or second years at Edinburgh is recommended as a means of ensuring that you are equipped, linguistically, for a year abroad. 

Besides taking a language as an outside course during your 1st and/or 2nd year of study, there are other opportunities for improving your language skills whilst at the University of Edinburgh. 

Learn a Language

Language courses at your host university

Your host university may offer subsidised or even free language courses before or during your exchange programme. These can also be a good way to meet potential flatmates and settle in before the start of your exchange. 

Information should be available on your host university's website.