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.
Going abroad is a perfect opportunity to build your language skills or even start a new language from scratch. Even if you'll be studying in English, knowing at least a few words and phrases in the local language can really help with small things like getting the bus or doing the food shop! The more you learn, the easier it will be to get around, and the more fun you will have!
Studying in a foreign language
If you will be studying in a language other than English, remember 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 this 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 course load in your non-native language, we still require that you meet the minimum B2 level.
Common European Framework of Reference for Languages
Improve your language skills
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.
There are other opportunities for improving your language skills whilst at the University of Edinburgh:
Your host institution may offer subsidised or even free language courses either during term time, or as an intensive course before the start of your exchange. These can also be a good way to meet potential flatmates and settle in before the start of your exchange.
Many hosts also offer a buddy programme to help you meet local students and get a chance to practise your language skills. Information about any courses on offer should be available on your host institution's website.
Local student societies are also a great way to meet like-minded students and get you speaking in no time! Many universities will also have societies and student organisations to support exchange students.
Find out more below about language requirements for students going on exchange:
Please refer to the Exchange Destinations; Guide on our Where Can I Go? page to find out the language of teaching for each exchange at our partner institutions.
Beside each subject-specific exchange partner, the teaching language(s) will be indicated.
- Where only English is listed, sufficient courses are likely to be available in English
- Where two languages are listed (e.g. ‘English/French’), sufficient courses are not likely to be available in English
- Where a language other than English is the only one listed, all or the majority of courses are likely to be taught in this language
It is your responsibility to check the language of instruction for your intended host institution and ensure you meet any linguistic requirements before accepting an exchange place.
Normally we would require a certificate from a language course you have completed, stating you have reached B2 level in the relevant language, in accordance with the CEFR for Languages.
The B2 language level requirement is part of the eligibility criteria for taking up your exchange place, so you would 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.
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.
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. In this instance, you will normally be required to take an additional language level assessment.
If you are a native speaker of the relevant language and feel that you may need to take a language level assessment to ascertain your language level will be sufficient to meet the academic requirements of your exchange, please contact the SWAY team directly.
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) usually in the April preceding your exchange.
The Study and Work Away (SWAY) team will contact you around April 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, the SWAY team cannot provide any further guidance or information about the content of the assessment.
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 the spring before your exchange year.
Students who do not achieve B2 level at the time of the assessment will not be able to proceed with their exchange.