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Language Schools in the United Kingdom

Sue Coulthard ARELS

There are estimated to be more than 1000 organisations in the United Kingdom that provide language courses for international students. From such a choice, it can be difficult to identify the organisations that guarantee quality standards for their customers. Simon Freeman, Deputy Chief Executive of the Association of Recognised English Language Services (ARELS), explains the benefits of selecting an ARELS member school.

ARELS Membership and Services

The Association was formed in 1960 by a group of far-sighted English Language Teaching (ELT) providers, who recognised the need for a young profession to associate on a national level. From these very small beginnings, the Association has grown to a membership of 215 organisations from the private sector, providing a complete range of ELT services to the world. These organisations include small, family-owned schools, medium sized schools, large United Kingdom-based chains of schools, and schools that belong to global chains of institutions operating in a number of English-speaking countries. The range of service provided spans the following:

courses for juniors from as young as six years old;

courses for teenagers with homestay and residential accommodation;

General English courses for young adults;

examination courses preparing for internationally recognised examination (such as Cambridge First Certificate);

University preparation courses, including preparation for IELTS examinations;

courses for pre-service and in-service professionals, and business executives.

There are ARELS member schools situated throughout the United Kingdom, offering quiet countryside locations or London city-centres sites, with all destinations in between.


In partnership with the British Council and BASELT, ARELS manages the English in Britain Accreditation Scheme. The aim of the Scheme is 'to protect international students studying or planning to study English as a foreign language in the United Kingdom, by offering access to a range of services which meet agreed quality standards.' Members of the Scheme are rigorously inspected and re-inspected, currently on a three-year cycle, to ensure that the standards of provision are satisfactorily maintained. The individual standards are:

Management. 'The management of the organisation will operate effectively and responsibly, in accordance with its publicity and to the benefit of its students.'

Resources and Environment: 'The resources and environment will support and enhance the studies of students enrolled with the organisation.'

Teaching and Learning: 'Programmes of learning will be managed to the benefit of students; teachers will be professionally prepared and given appropriate support to ensure that their teaching meets the needs of the students.'

Welfare: 'The needs of students for information, leisure activities, pastoral care and security will be met; any accommodation provided will be suitable, and the management of the accommodation systems will work to the benefit of students.'

It is an essential condition of membership of the Association of Recognised English Language Services that members are accredited by the English in Britain Scheme.

Value Added

In addition to satisfying the requirements of the English in Britain Accreditation Scheme, the Association and its members are involved in a wide range of activities that enhance the experience of international students taking their courses in the United Kingdom. These include:

provision of products and services to facilitate a study programme in the United Kingdom including insurance, banking, help in selecting the right school, advice on which examinations are available, and where to buy study materials;

involvement through lobbying activities in the formulation of government policy on issues that affect the international student coming to the United Kingdom - for example, acquisition of the appropriate visa;

regular meetings in a national forum to discuss issues and devise policies to further improve the educational experience of international students in member schools;

an ongoing training programme for all levels of staff in member schools, to ensure that that the skills and services available to international customers are of the highest standard.


ARELS members work to a Code of Practice that provides a range of guarantees. These go beyond the minimum guarantee represented by English in Britain Accreditation, and ensure that:

complaints are taken seriously and resolved to the satisfaction of the student, who has access to an independent ombudsman as part of the investigation procedure;

teaching is of the highest standard; extensive training programmes improve the standards of member schools;

courses are designed around the student's age, country of origin and level of English;

schools listen to their students and act on recommendations;

all publicity materials describe the school and its services accurately;

accommodation is carefully and regularly checked;

special care is taken to protect very young learners;

homestay providers accept only one speaker/language into their homes, undertake to help students continue with their studies, and respect students' different cultural backgrounds.

These guarantees are only available to international students who book courses with ARELS member schools.

Further Information

For more information on ARELS and its member schools please contact us at:

The Association of Recognised English Language Services (ARELS)

56 Buckingham Gate

London SW1E 6AG

Telephone: 020 7802 9200


Sue Coulthard

Marketing and Promotions Manager


Association of Recognised English Language Services (ARELS)

56 Buckingham Gate

London SW1E 6AG


020 7802 9200