English language requirements

If your first language is not English, you have to demonstrate that your English language ability is strong enough to succeed on your programme.

COVID-19 arrangements

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we are aware that many test centres are closed and that the circumstances are making it difficult to sit and resit English language tests. We will take this into account with our English language requirements, on a case-by-case basis.

We have also extended our list of acceptable language qualifications to include Duolingo English Test, IELTS Indicator, TOEFL IBT Special Home Edition and TOEFL ITP Plus for China.

Foundation students

Admission to Foundation at our Dubai and Malaysia campuses requires IELTS 5.5 overall. We also accept other tests at an equivalent level.

Undergraduates (bachelors)

Students require IELTS 6.0 overall* with 5.5 in each element or an acceptable equivalent (see below).

*Students for all actuarial mathematics and statistics programmes must have IELTS 6.5 with 5.5 in each element. Students for our interpreting and translating languages programmes must have IELTS 7.0 with 6.5 in each element.

Postgraduates (masters or PhD)

Students require IELTS 6.5 overall* with 6.0 in each element or an acceptable equivalent (see below).

*Students for the interpreting and translating languages programmes must have IELTS 7.0 with 6.5 in each element. Some of our postgraduate languages programmes also require additional interview and/or written testing; please refer to the relevant programme pages for further details.

Other programmes accept less than 6.5. Please see our programme pages for details.

Acceptable language qualifications
Test Foundation Undergraduate Postgraduate
IELTS 5.5 6.0 6.5
IELTS Indicator 5.5 6.0 6.5
Heriot-Watt English Not applicable C C
PTE Academic 44-49 50-57 58-64
TOEFL IBT 70 80 90

TOEFL IBT Special Home Edition

70 80 90

TOEFL ITP Plus for China

Not applicable 550 580
Cambridge (New) 162-168 169-175 176-184
Cambridge (Old) FCE (grade C)* FCE (grade B)

FCE (grade A)

CAE (grade C)

Trinity ISE II   Pass in all components Pass in all components
Duolingo English Test Not applicable 100 110


Duolingo entry requirements for PGT LINCS programmes

HWU Programme Current entry criteria in IELTS Suggested entry criteria in Duolingo

PGT LINCS (1-year programmes Translation and Interpreting)

  • MSc Interpreting
  • MSc Interpreting and Translating
  • MSc Translating
  • MSc Translating for Business
  • MSc Translating for Business with Entrepreneurship
  • MSc Translating with Entrepreneurship

7.0 with no component lower than 6.5


PGT LINCS (Chinese-English 2-year programmes, entry to Year 1)

  • MSc Chinese-English Interpreting and Translating
  • MSc Chinese-English Translating

6.0 with no component lower than 5.5


PGT LINCS (1-year programmes Intercultural Communication)

  • Cultural Heritage Management with Tourism
  • International Management and Business Communication
  • International Management and Business Communication with Human Resource Management
  • International Management and Business Communication with Marketing

6.5 with no component lower than 6.0


Previous studies in English

If your previous studies were fully taught and assessed in English, we can accept this as evidence of your English level.

Majority English-speaking country

Proof is not required if your previous studies were in a majority English-speaking country as listed on the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) exceptions list.

Medium of instruction letter

Otherwise, please provide an English-as-medium-of-instruction (MOI) letter from your previous institution. This is particularly applicable to applicants from Ghana, Nigeria, Singapore, India etc.

Employer's letter

We can also accept an employer’s letter stating that you conduct business in English (speaking, reading and writing) on a daily basis.

Previous study at HWU Dubai or Malaysia

Our Dubai and Malaysia campuses are not on the UKVI list but we fully teach and assess in English at all of our campuses, so if you have studied there a MOI letter is not required. 

Time limit for evidence

Normally, all evidence you submit of your English language ability must be less than 2 years old from the start date of the degree programme. However, for the September 2020 intake, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we will temporarily accept evidence dated from January 2018 onwards.

Pre-sessional study at Heriot-Watt

The best way to prepare yourself for your degree studies is to take a pre-sessional academic English course at Heriot-Watt University. These programmes are specifically designed to make sure you are ready for your university studies. You are strongly advised to take one of these courses, even if you have met our English language entry requirements.

Achieving grade C in your assessments on our pre-sessional academic English courses enables you to progress to your degree at Heriot-Watt University.

Online teaching during COVID-19

Due to the ongoing pandemic, all of our 2020 pre-sessional English courses will be taught and assessed online.

At the current time, pre-sessional programmes are not offered at the Dubai or Malaysia campuses.