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Course Information

Students in lecture

Which Pre-sessional course should I take?

We offer 20, 10 and 6-week Summer Pre-sessional courses. The length of course you should take depends on your current language score and your department’s language requirements.

20 Week Courses:

Level: Online Option On-Campus Option Course Name
Postgraduate Research No Yes 20 Week (All)
Postgraduate Taught No Yes 20 Week (All)
Undergraduate No Yes 20 Week (All)

10 Week Courses:

Level: Online Option On-Campus Option Course Name
Postgraduate Research No Yes 10 Week Pathway to PhD
Postgraduate Taught No Yes  
Undergraduate No Yes  

6 Week Courses:

Level: Online Option Online Option On Campus Option
Postgraduate Research Any PGR students requiring a 6 week course will select one of the PGT options in the next row No  Yes
Postgraduate Taught   No Yes
Undergraduate   No Yes

For dates and costs of each of these courses, please see the 'Apply Now' tab.


I have an unconditional offer for my main programme; can I take a Pre-sessional course?

Yes. You can take the 6-week or the 10-week summer pre-sessional course. Many students with unconditional offers find the course offers excellent preparation for their degree programme.

Please note, however, that you will still need to the pass the course in order to progress to your department.

How will pre-sessional be added to my offer?

The pre-sessional condition will be added to your main programme offer letter.

How is Pre-sessional taught?

You will be expected to participate in activities, discussions and classes with your teacher and classmates on a daily basis (Monday-Friday).

You will be expected to spend at least 25-30 hours a week in total on your pre-sessional studies (this includes your class time, tutorials, your self-study activity and your homework and assessment tasks).

You will have a 'class' with dedicated tutors and a small number of classmates that you can get to know. Within your class, you will have regular opportunities for collaboration and access to dedicated discussion space to work on academic tasks, share questions and ideas and work together in developing your learning. We provide all course materials digitally- this includes learning materials, readings and supporting videos.

In addition to class time, you will have regular one-to-one contact with your tutor to discuss your learning, progress and work you have produced. You will also get regular, detailed written feedback to help you improve as the course progresses.

How many students are in a class?

You will generally be taught in classes of approximately 10 students on the pre-sessional courses.

What will I study on a Summer Pre-sessional course?

Because we teach essential skills not covered by 'English' courses such as IELTS preparation, our students typically find the pre-sessional courses extremely beneficial while acclimatising to studies at Durham University.

The skills you will learn on Pre-sessional include:

  • Effective reading & navigation of academic articles and other text types
  • Notetaking skills
  • Summarising arguments from several sources and synthesising these in order to express an academic position
  • Learning to avoid plagiarism through effective notetaking strategies, drafting and re-drafting of writing, and academic acknowledgement (citation and referencing)
  • Giving formal presentations and participating in / leading discussions and seminars
  • Developing effective lecture listening skills

The Pre-Sessional programme often mirrors the academic process that many of you will follow in your department:

  • First you engage with academic knowledge through reading and/or through listening to a lecture
  • Next, you may present to your peers on your reading and/or take part in a seminar where you develop and refine your understandings through discussion with your peers and with your teacher
  • Finally, you may then produce a piece of writing which engages more deeply with the academic issues you have been engaging with.

We believe in developing your academic English, so language feedback and development (e.g. grammar) will often be based on what you write and/or present during the course.

Please see the 'Pathway to PhD' tab for more details on the PhD specific course.

What does a week on Pre-sessional look like?

You will typically have two class sessions a day (Mon-Fri) for which you will need to prepare. Class sessions typically last approximately 90 minutes each with a short break in between. You may also have a one-to-one meeting with your tutor (depending on the week).

Outside class sessions you will have ongoing homework and assessments to work on, and there will usually be optional social activity each week run by College.

How will I be assessed?

In order to pass the course you will need to attend and participate in at least 90% of scheduled learning activity (including classes and tutorials), complete all assessments (including formative tasks), and achieve the exit level required by your department in your summative assessments.

Assessments include: written tasks based on extensive reading and submitted by specific deadlines; presentations on topics covered during your studies delivered live to your class and tutor; and individual interview-style listening tests with your tutor where you will demonstrate your understanding of a lecture you have previously accessed and taken notes on.

All pre-sessional courses are designed to help you develop your skills in each of these assessment types. You will have opportunities to practice relevant skills and receive feedback to support your summative assessment performance.

Is there a social programme?

Yes- and Durham prides itself on its exceptional College Experience. The pre-sessional programme is partnered with dedicated Durham Colleges in order to provide a tailored college experience throughout the summer to prepare you fully for Durham life.

We recommend students take accommodation in one of our colleges, where you will be able to access the full range of benefits available to pre-sesional students, including social activities, welfare support and excellent facilities.

How do I pay for the Pre-sessional Course?

You can check how much your Pre-sessional tuition fees are in the 'Apply Now' section. Payment for your Pre-sessional course tuition fee is required within 2 weeks of the course starting, but we strongly recommend you pay in advance to avoid any issues.

Payment can be made via a range of methods, including bank transfer, direct debit and Flywire options. You can check the details for how to make these payments here.

If you have paid for a Pre-sessional course, and obtained IELTS that meets criteria for direct entry, you will be able to decline it and get a refund if you request it before the course starts (or up to 2 weeks after starting the 10-week course and up to 1 week after starting the 6-week course).

If a student leaves the Pre-sessional programme for any other reason there will be no automatic entitlement to a refund, but a partial refund may be offered at the discretion of the programme team.

The Durham University Pre-sessional Courses are accredited by BALEAP.