English language requirements

All teaching at Sussex is in the English language and you must be sufficiently fluent in English to be able to benefit from your education.

Students sit in a lecture theatre at the University of Sussex

If your first language is not English you will need to demonstrate that you meet the University’s English language requirements for the degree you have applied for. You can do this in a number of ways:

If you have not taken an English language test yet, or do not have a current valid test score, you can still apply for courses, but any offer you receive will normally be conditional on meeting our language requirement.


Our English language requirements

You can find details of our specific English language requirements for your degree, expressed in terms of IELTS scores, in the entry requirements section for each PhD degree. 

We also accept a number of other English language qualifications.

We have three main levels of English, depending on the course applied for: higherstandard and lower. For some of the qualifications listed below, our entry requirement is set at the same level for all courses.

In terms of IELTS, these three levels are:

Higher: A small number of degrees have a requirement of IELTS 7.0 overall with at least 6.5 in each component.
Standard: An IELTS score of 6.5 overall, with at least 6.0 in each of the four components (Listening, Reading, Speaking and Writing). 
Lower: For postgraduate degrees in Mathematics and Physics, the requirement is IELTS 6.0 overall with at least 6.0 in each component.

We would expect English language qualifications to have been achieved within the two years before the start of your course.


Other accepted qualifications

We accept a range of English language proficiency tests and English language qualifications. Students from certain countries are exempt from our English language requirements: 

Proficiency tests

  • Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE)

    For tests taken before January 2015: grade B or above

    For tests taken after January 2015:  

    Higher - 185 overall, including at least 176 in each skill
    Standard – 176 overall, including at least 169 in each skill 
    Lower - 169 overall, including at least 169 in each skill

    Check our English language requirements above and the specific requirements for your degree in the PhD prospectus to find the English level you need to study at Sussex.

    We would normally expect the CAE test to have been taken within two years before the start of your course.

    You cannot combine scores from more than one sitting of the test. See Cambridge English: Advanced for more information.

  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE)

    For tests taken before January 2015: grade C or above

    For tests taken after January 2015: 

    Higher - 185 overall, including at least 176 in each skill
    Standard – 176 overall, including at least 169 in each skill 
    Lower - 169 overall, including at least 169 in each skill

    Check our English language requirements above and the specific requirements for your degree in the PhD prospectus to find the English level you need to study at Sussex.

    We would normally expect the CPE test to have been taken within two years before the start of your course.

    You cannot combine scores from more than one sitting of the test.

    See Cambridge English: Proficiency for more information.

  • IELTS (Academic)

    Higher -7.0 overall, including at least 6.5 in each component
    Standard – 6.5 overall, including at least 6.0 in each component 
    Lower - 6.0 overall, including at least 6.0 in each component

    Check our English language requirements for your degree in the PhD prospectus to find the English level you need to study at Sussex.

    IELTS scores are valid for two years from the test date. Your score must be valid when you begin your Sussex course. You cannot combine scores from more than one sitting of the test.

    If you are applying for degree-level study we can consider your IELTS test from any test centre.

    However, if you need a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) for an English language or pre-sessional English course (not combined with a degree) the test must be taken at a UKVI-approved IELTS test centre.

    See the IELTS website for more information.

  • Pearson (PTE Academic)


    Higher - 67 overall, including at least 62 in all four skills
    Standard – 62 overall, including at least 56 in all four skills 
    Lower - 56 overall, including at least 56 in all four skills

    Check our English language requirements above and the specific requirements for your degree in the PhD prospectus to find the English level you need to study at Sussex.

    PTE (Academic) scores are valid for two years from the test date. Your score must be valid when you begin your Sussex course. You cannot combine scores from more than one sitting of the test.

    See the Pearson website for more information.

  • TOEFL (iBT)

    Higher -95 overall, including at least 22 in Listening, 23 in Reading, 23 in Speaking, 24 in Writing
    Standard – 88 overall, including at least 20 in Listening, 19 in Reading, 21 in Speaking, 23 in Writing 
    Lower - 80 overall, including at least 19 in Listening, 19 in Reading, 21 in Speaking, 21 in Writing

    Check our English language requirements above and the specific requirements for your degree in the PhD prospectus to find the English level you need to study at Sussex.

    TOEFL (iBT) scores are valid for two years from the test date. Your score must be valid when you begin your Sussex course. You cannot combine scores from more than one sitting of the test.

    See the ETS website for more information.

    The TOEFL Institution Code for the University of Sussex is 9166.

English qualifications

  • AS/A Level (GCE)

    Grade C or above in English Language

    Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE)/ AS or A Level: grade C or above in Use of English

  • French Baccalaureat

    French Baccalaureat: a score of 12 or above in English

  • German Abitur

    German Abitur: a score of 12 or above in English

  • GCE O Level

    Grade C or above in English

    Brunei/Cambridge GCE O Level in English: grades 1-6

    Singapore/Cambridge GCE O Level in English: grades 1-6

  • GCSE or IGCSE

    Grade C or above in English as a First Language

    Grade B or above in English as a Second Language

  • Ghana Senior Secondary School Certificate

    Grades 1-6 in English language when awarded before 1993

    Grades A-D in English language when awarded between 1993 and 2005

  • Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE)


    Higher  Level 5, including at least 4 in each component in English Language
    Standard  Level 4, including at least 3 in each component in English Language
    Lower - Level 4, including at least 3 in each component in English Language

    See our general English language requirements above to find the appropriate English level for the course you are applying for.

  • Indian School Certificate (Standard XII)

    The Indian School Certificate is accepted at the grades below when awarded by the following examination boards:

    Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) – English Core only:

    Higher  80%
    Standard  70%
    Lower – 70%

    Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) - English:

    Higher  80% or Grade 2
    Standard  70% or Grade 3
    Lower – 70% or Grade 3

    Check our English language requirements above and the specific requirements for your degree in the PhD prospectus to find the English level you need to study at Sussex.

  • International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB)

    English A meets the Sussex requirement, or English B at grade 5 or above (Higher or Standard level)

  • Irish Leaving Certificate

    Grade C (Honours) or above in English

  • Malaysian Certificate of Education (SPM) 1119/GCE O Level

    Grades 1-6 (for awards up to 2008) or grades C or above (for awards from 2009) in English Language.

    The qualification must be jointly awarded by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES).

  • West African Senior School Certificate

    Grades 1-6 in English language when awarded by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) or the National Examinations Council (NECO)

Exemptions

If you are a national of one of the countries below, or if you have recently completed a qualification equivalent to a UK Bachelor's degree or higher in one of these countries, you will normally meet our English requirement.

Qualifications obtained by distance learning or awarded by studying outside these countries cannot be accepted for English language purposes.

You are normally expected to have completed the qualification within two years before starting your course at Sussex.

If the qualification was obtained earlier than this, we expect you to be able to demonstrate that you have maintained a good level of English. This includes living in an English-speaking country or working in an occupation that required you to use English regularly and to a high level.

This list is determined by the UK’s Home Office, not by the University of Sussex.

  • List of exempt countries
        • Antigua and Barbuda
        • Australia
        • Bahamas
        • Barbados
        • Belize
        • Canada**
        • Dominica
        • Grenada
        • Guyana
        • Ireland
        • Jamaica
        • New Zealand
        • St Kitts and Nevis
        • St Lucia
        • St Vincent and the Grenadines
        • Trinidad and Tobago
        • United Kingdom
        • USA

    ** Canada: you must be a national of Canada. Other nationals not on this list who have a degree from a Canadian institution will not normally be exempt from needing to provide evidence of English.

Pre-sessional English

These courses are taught at Sussex and focus on English for academic purposes and study skills, rather than exam preparation.

You focus on comprehension for lectures and seminars, critical reading and research projects, note taking, academic writing and other study skills.

A pre-sessional course also prepares you for the culture and practice of studying in the UK.

If you successfully complete the appropriate pre-sessional English course, it can be used to meet our English language requirements and gain entry to your chosen degree.

Find out more about our pre-sessional English courses.


English language and visa requirements 

Sussex's English language requirements for degree courses are set at a level that exceeds the minimum requirements for obtaining a Tier 4 (General) Student Visa.

As a Tier 4 Sponsor, the University of Sussex can make its own assessment of each applicant's English language ability when issuing a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) for degree-level study.

We do not need to base the assessment on a UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI)-approved Secure English Language Test (SELT). So if you are taking an IELTS test it can be from any IELTS test centre. 

Our CAS will state that we have made our own assessment of your English ability, and you will not need to provide evidence of this with your visa application.

However, if you take our pre-sessional English course, and require a CAS to attend this, you need to demonstrate your English ability for the pre-sessional with a recognised SELT.

This needs to be an IELTS from a UKVI-approved IELTS test centre or the Integrated Skills in English test from Trinity College London and you must submit it with your visa application.



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