Adult students - Tier 4 (General)
Your course of study
This page explains the types of course that you can study as an adult student under Tier 4 (General).
You must study a course at an acceptable level, and there are additional requirements for certain types of course.
You may be able to do a work placement as part of your course, and a short preparatory course (known as a 'pre-sessional course') - if you need one - before you begin your main course.
As well as being at an acceptable level, your course must be provided by an education provider which is a licensed Tier 4 (General) sponsor. For more information about sponsors, see the Your education provider page.
What is an acceptable course of study?
You must be applying to:
- study full-time in the UK on a course that meets the additional requirements below; or
- undertake a recognised Foundation Programme as a postgraduate doctor or dentist in the UK (see 'More information' below); or
- work as a student union sabbatical officer in the UK.
If you will be studying full-time on a course other than a Foundation Programme, the course must also:
- lead to a qualification at or above level 6 on the revised National Qualifications Framework (NQF) or its equivalents; or
- be a short-term 'study abroad' programme as part of your higher education course at an overseas institution (see 'More information' below); or
- be an English language course at or above level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR); or
- be an English language course at any level, if you are a government-sponsored student or if the course is a pre-sessional course which you are taking before a degree course - but only if your confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) was assigned before 21 April 2011; or
- involve at least 15 hours per week of organised daytime study. 'Daytime' is 08:00 to 18:00, Monday to Friday.
(If you are studying English as a foreign language, this qualifies as 'an English language course'.)
If the course is below revised NQF level 6 or equivalent and is not an English language course or a study abroad programme, it must:
- be approved at or above level 3 on the NQF or Qualifications and Credits Framework (QCF), or accredited at or above level 6 in the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF), if you will be studying with a Highly Trusted sponsor; or
- be approved at or above level 4 on the NQF or QCF, or accredited at ar above level 7 in the SCQF, if you will be studying with a sponsor that has an A (Trusted) or B (Sponsor) rating; or
- be a pre-sessional course to prepare you for your main course of study in the UK (see 'More information' below).
Level 3 of the NQF is equivalent to a UK 'A level'. Level 6 of the revised NQF is equivalent to a UK bachelor's degree.
Depending on your education provider and the level of your course, you may be able to do a work placement as part of the course. (See 'More information' below.)
If you have previously studied in the UK under Tier 4 (General) or under the student rules that were in force before 31 March 2009, your Tier 4 Sponsor cannot assign a CAS to you on or after 4 July 2011 unless:
- your new course represents academic progress from your previous study; or
- you are re-sitting examinations or repeating modules; or
- you are making a first application to move to a new institution to complete a course that you started elsewhere.
For example, you can be assigned a CAS to study for a new qualification at a higher academic level than your previous UK course, or to study for a qualification that complements or enhances your previous studies at the same level.
Higher education course at an overseas institution
If you are already enrolled on a higher education course at an overseas higher education institution, you can do a short-term 'study abroad' programme in the UK as part of your course. Your overseas course must lead to a qualification that is validated by UK NARIC as being at or above UK degree level. For more information about validation of overseas courses, visit the UK NARIC website.
You will not need to send us evidence that your overseas course is at the right level. Your education provider sponsor will check this before it assigns a confirmation of acceptance for studies to you.
Postgraduate doctors and dentists: Foundation Programme
A recognised Foundation Programme for postgraduate doctors or dentists is an acceptable course under Tier 4 (General). You must already have successfully completed a recognised UK degree in medicine or dentistry from:
- a Tier 4 (General) sponsor; or
- a UK publicly funded institution of further or higher education; or
- an institution that is included as a recognised body or a listed body on the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills website.
Additionally, you must have had permission to stay here as a Tier 4 (General) student, or as a student under the rules in place before 31 March 2009. This permission must have covered your final academic year and at least 1 other academic year of your studies leading to your UK degree in medicine or dentistry.
We will allow you to study on a recognised Foundation Programme as a postgraduate doctor or dentist for a maximum of 3 years.
Course to prepare you for a main course of study ('pre-sessional course')
A pre-sessional course is an intensive English language course, or any other course, to prepare you for your main course of study in the UK.
The pre-sessional course does not need to lead to a qualification, but it must be at the acceptable level for Tier 4 (General) students unless it is:
- a pre-sessional course at an independent school, which may include some academic study as well as English language, to prepare you for your main full-time course at National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 3 or above; or
- a pre-sessional English language course which you study immediately before taking up an unconditional offer of a full-time course at NQF level 6 or above, and which is covered with the main course of study under a single confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) issued by your Tier 4 sponsor; or
- a pre-sessional English language course which will allow you (if you successfully complete it) to study a full-time course at NQF level 6 or above. You must have the same Tier 4 sponsor for both courses, and that sponsor must have already given you a CAS for the pre-sessional course and a conditional offer for the main course.
If a pre-sessional course meets 1 of these requirements, it can be at any level.
If a pre-sessional course is below the acceptable level for Tier 4 (General) students, you may want to apply to study under a different immigration route. However, you cannot switch into Tier 4 if you are in the UK as a child visitor or student visitor - you will need to leave the UK at the end of the pre-sessional course and apply from abroad for permision to study your main course here.
If you have a unconditional offer
If you have an unconditional offer of a place on your main course of study at a UK higher education institution (university), we may give you permission to study in the UK for both your pre-sessional course and your main course. We will only do this if your pre-sessional course will:
- be with the same education provider as your main course; and
- last no more than 3 months; and
- end no earlier than 1 month before your main course's start date.
Your education provider will need to assign you a single CAS that covers both the pre-sessional course and the main course.
If you have a conditional offer
If you only have a conditional offer of a place on your main course of study, or if your pre-sessional course provider is separate from your main course provider, you will need to apply to us for permission to do the pre-sessional course first.
If you successfully complete the pre-sessional course, you can apply from inside the UK to extend your stay under Tier 4 and take your main course.
Under Tier 4 (General), you can do a work placement as part of your course of study, provided that the work placement is an assessed part of the course and the course is:
- at degree level or above; or
- a foundation degree course (but only if your confirmation of acceptance for studies was assigned before 21 April 2011); or
- provided by a Highly Trusted sponsor.
If your course involves a work placement, your education provider will be responsible for you throughout the work placement.
In certain circumstances, you may be able to do a work placement as part of your course, providing it is an assessed part of your course. We will decide if you can do a work placement together with the amount of time you can spend on the work placement. This will depend on the level of your course and where you are studying.
If you are doing a course at NQF level 6 or above, with a recognised body, higher education institution or as part of a study abroad programme, any work placement you take must be no more than 50 per cent of the length of the course in the UK, unless there is a legal requirement for a longer period of work placement.
Example 1. You can study a 2-year Master's degree course involving 12 months' study with your education provider and a 12-month work placement.
If your course is at NQF level 5 or below with an highly trusted sponsor, or if you are studying a course at any level with a sponsor that is not an higher education institution, any work placement you take must be no more than 33 per cent of the length of your course in the UK unless there is a legal requirement for a longer period of work placement.
Example 1. You can study for an NQF level 4 diploma involving 20 weeks' classroom learning (with a minimum of 15 hours' taught study each week) and a 10 week work placement arranged at the end of or at any time during the course.
Example 2. You can study for an NVQ level 3 qualification with a work placement run concurrently with the course: 20 hours' classroom study each week with your education provider, plus 10hours' work placement.
If you are coming to the UK for a 'study abroad' programme as part of a higher education course at an overseas higher education institution, you may do a work placement as part of the programme - but it must be no more than 50 per cent of the length of your study in the UK.
Can you do extra studies while you are in the UK as a Tier 4 student?
You are allowed to do extra courses (such as evening courses) in addition to your main studies. The course can be on any subject, and does not have to relate to your main course of study.
You do not need to get our permission in order to do extra studies, and you do not need to tell your Tier 4 sponsor. But you must ensure that the extra course does not stop you from doing the course that you have permission to stay for.
Policy guidance for Tier 4 students
- Tier 4 policy guidance PDF 674KB opens in a new window
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