Foundation students at St Andrew's Castle

Before you study a degree programme, you can take a pre-sessional Academic English course to build your confidence in English and develop the study strategies to enable you to perform to the best of your ability on your degree.

Achieving grade C in your assessments enables you to progress to your degree.


Choose the pre-sessional course that is right for you, depending on your English level and the language demands of the degree you plan to study. Note that assessment on longer courses relies significantly more on coursework than on timed examinations.

Why choose the Heriot-Watt Pre-sessional courses?
  • Aligned to your degree programme – You work on a variety of coursework and exam tasks to assess your language and study proficiency. Our assessments are similar to those on your degree using texts from your specific subject. This makes it easier for you to transfer the knowledge, skills and attributes you acquire on our courses to your degree studies.
  • Innovative course design - You will use a coursebook, Access EAP: Frameworks, which was nominated for a British Council award for innovation in course design. This means you are getting a high quality course that is directly relevant for your degree studies.
  • Intensive timetable of study – You will have 20 hours of classroom study supplemented by regular writing and speaking tasks and activities outside class with feedback to improve your language and study performance.
  • BALEAP Accreditation – Our summer pre-sessional courses are accredited by BALEAP: the global forum for EAP professionals, which maintains the standard required of specialist courses in English for Academic Purposes. To be ‘BALEAP accredited' is a recognised sign of quality for students looking for courses that will help them study effectively. 
  • Highly Trusted Sponsor – You need a Secure English Language Test (SELT) such as IELTS to enter Pre-sessional and Foundation courses, but you do not need to retake a SELT at the end of the Pre-sessional. You can progress to your chosen degree at Heriot-Watt University if you attend all classes and pass your assessments with an average Grade C.

BALEAP logoBALEAP maintains the standard required of specialist courses in English for Academic Purposes. BALEAP accreditation is a recognised sign of quality for students.

What will the course teach me?

The Pre-sessional courses will help you to develop graduate attributes including:

  • a sense of ‘research-mindedness' with a more analytical perspective on practice
  • the ability to identify problems, formulate questions, interpret data to seek answers
  • the ability to communicate complex ideas to different audiences, to listen and negotiate effectively
  • the ability to derive meaning from complexity judging on the basis of evidence
  • an openness to learning & positive orientation to new ideas & ways of thinking
  • a tolerance for ambiguity and unfamiliarity

You will continue to develop these attributes as you study on your degree.

Upon the successful completion of any one of our Academic English courses, you will have developed confidence in using English so that you can:

  • understand the main ideas in complex speech on both concrete and abstract topics
  • read independently, adapting your style of reading to different texts and purposes
  • obtain information, ideas and viewpoints from highly specialized sources within your field
  • communicate spontaneously, adopting a level of formality appropriate to the circumstances
  • give clear detailed presentations on a wide range of subjects related to your field of interest
  • write clear detailed texts, synthesizing and evaluating information and arguments from a number of sources
  • give clear descriptions, express viewpoints and develop arguments, using some complex sentence forms and a range of vocabulary.

You will also develop an orientation to studying which enables you to:

  • understand how knowledge is advanced through an exploration of problems in a field
  • understand what the research process involves and how to approach research design
  • critically evaluate published or unpublished sources and research results as evidence to support claims
  • exercise autonomy and initiative in time management and project management related to the research process
  • reflect on how you have developed and achieved the learning outcomes of the course.
Sample timetable

Please see the attached sample timetable.

Find out more

If you have any questions about our Pre-Sessional Academic English courses, contact us at