English courses in the UK – how to choose your destination

Whilst it’s great to have lots of different places on offer, it can sometimes make it hard to decide which one to choose.

Here’s our list of things to consider, which we hope will make your decision-making easier!

1. What kind of course do you want to do – General, Intensive, Individual, Combined, Business, Exam Preparation? Most schools offer ‘General’ courses, but not all offer Business English, or Exam Preparation courses, for example, so it’s best to narrow your choice down by establishing which offer the course that you’d most like to follow…this will eliminate some destinations for a start.

2. Do you have an accommodation preference? Again, not all schools offer all types of accommodation, so if you specifically want to stay in a shared apartment, or a student residence, for example, there will be some schools that wouldn’t be able to offer that. Most school offer homestay accommodation, so if this is the kind of thing you’d like, you’ll have a wider range of options.

3. How long do you want to study for? Whilst most schools are flexible when it comes to course length, some, for example, offer courses that are a minimum of 2 weeks in length, which wouldn’t be suitable for anyone hoping to do a short 1-week course. It’s certainly worth checking the minimum or maximum length of the courses available at each school.

4. How much money have you got to spend? As is the case in every country, some cities will be more expensive to live in than others. In the UK, cities like London, Brighton and Oxford will probably be more expensive than the likes of Nottingham, Sheffield and Glasgow. If you’re on a tight budget and want to get more for your money, it’s worth doing your research into the cost of living in different cities. Generally speaking (with the exception of Edinburgh and Chester), you can get more for your money in the northern UK cities.

5. Do you want to study in a big city or somewhere smaller? The UK has a huge mix of cities – some are large and industrial, others are smaller and more historic. If you’re not used to living somewhere large and ‘urban’ (like London, Liverpool, Bristol or Leeds) you might be better off somewhere smaller, and more compact, such as Canterbury, Exeter, Cheltenham or Cambridge.

6. Would you like to be somewhere with a thriving language school industry, or somewhere where there are likely to be fewer international students? English language schools are found all around the UK, but there are certain cities that have a very large number. These places obviously have lots of foreign students, which means that there are lots of activities specifically for you on offer, but that sometimes it’s harder to practise your English and immerse yourself in the culture. Some cities with a large number of language schools include Brighton, Cambridge, London, Oxford and Bournemouth.

7. Would you prefer to study somewhere with a ‘standard’ form of English, or somewhere with an interesting accent? When it comes to learning English, some students want to learn traditionally the most ‘prestigious’ form, which is usually considered to be spoken in London and the Home Counties. Regional accents are an important part of British culture though, and sometimes it can be more interesting to live in a community with a different accent. Aside from Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cardiff, these could include the English cities of Newcastle, Liverpool and Leeds.

8. Do you mind studying in a place where it often rains, or where the weather can often be cold? It might sound like a minor point comparatively, but there can be quite a big difference in climate depending on whether you choose a destination in the south/north, east/west of the UK. Admittedly, the UK is not known for its tropical weather, but the north and west of the country often receive more rainfall than in the south and east. Cities in the very north of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland can also get much colder weather, with more snowfall and freezing temperatures in the winter. If you’re looking for the mildest climate, you’re probably best advised to choose a location on the south coast, such as Brighton, Bournemouth or Torquay (on the so-called ‘English Riviera’).

Currently, Cactus offers English courses in English courses in Bath, Belfast, Bournemouth, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Canterbury, Cardiff, Cheltenham, Chester, Colchester, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield, Torquay and Winchester.

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