Pre-Sessional Programme Student Handbook

Welcome to Aston University and the Pre-Sessional Programme in English for Academic Purposes

This programme will help you gain the relevant language and academic skills necessary for success on your future course here at Aston.

The programme is delivered and managed by the Centre for English Language and Communication at Aston (CELCA), which is located on the 8th floor of the North Wing.

View our 2019 Student Handbook.

If you have any further questions the CELCA staff will help you in whatever way they can. 

We hope your time with CELCA will be productive and that you enjoy the programme.

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston is a long established research-active University, known for its world-class teaching quality and strong links to industry, government and commerce.  It is also an inclusive, forward-thinking and diverse institution, deeply committed to ensuring all of its students are happy, comfortable and satisfied. 

Whether you’re a UK, EU or international student looking for advice on managing money, wanting to join or even set-up a student society or wanting guidance and support when looking ahead to your future career, Aston has friendly and experienced professionals ready to help.

We take supporting our students very seriously – backed up by the government’s National Student Survey (NSS) in which Aston has achieved an overall satisfaction rate of at least 89% for the last four year years (above the national average of 86%).  We are equally dedicated to equipping our students with the skills needed to thrive in the world of work. Aston is ranked among the top four universities for helping students secure work placement years during their studies, helping them gain invaluable experience.

With the aid of such careful employment planning from our award winning Careers team, Aston’s graduates are some of the most employable in the UK.  Six months after graduation, nearly eight out of ten Aston alumni are in graduate level destinations – an employability rate comparable to those of the traditional elite universities.

As Aston celebrates its 50th year as a University in 2016 and welcomes its new Vice-Chancellor, we are constantly adapting to the changing needs of our students. In keeping with the University’s progressive motto, ‘Forward’, we pledge to continue to do so.

HH Sig

Professor Helen E Higson OBE
Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor

CELCA is a teaching unit within the School of Languages and Social Sciences. It was established over 20 years ago to provide English for Academic Purposes programmes and support tutorials for international students whose first language is not English.

We now offer a wide range of preparatory and year abroad/exchange credit-bearing programmes at pre-undergraduate, undergraduate and postgraduate level. We also offer English language tutorials to support students who are already studying for Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral degrees.

A number of our staff specialise in the field of intercultural communication and deliver modules on degrees at undergraduate and postgraduate level at Aston University. Some also contribute to modules focusing on Academic and Professional Communication, Applied Linguistics and TESOL.

All our staff are friendly, well-qualified, experienced and committed to helping international students succeed on their academic programmes and achieve their personal goals.
To learn about the structure of CELCA or to find your classroom tutor’s contact details, please refer to the CELCA staff webpage.

If you have any problems or queries, please speak to any member of the programme staff. We are here to help you.


This programme aims to equip you with the necessary English language competencies and academic skills required to cope with the demands of a degree programme delivered in English and help you succeed in your future studies at Aston University. You will also develop your communication skills so that you feel more confident communicating in a cultural environment different to your own.

Learning Outcomes

The programme will enable you to:
  • understand the nature and features of full-length academic lectures delivered in English (e.g. identifying the parts of a lecture, recognising transition markers, identifying importance markers, guessing the meaning of unfamiliar words from context), including those related to your future academic discipline
  • understand the nature and features of full-length academic texts written in English, including those related to your future academic discipline
  • understand the nature of plagiarism and collusion and their consequences
  • critically evaluate sources of information
  • produce cohesively and coherently written research proposals and reports in English
  • deliver effective individual and group presentations in English
  • understand a variety of spoken and written texts in English
  • express yourself in speech and in writing, using some of the language of your future academic discipline
  • express yourself in speech and in writing using language that is formal, objective, explicit and hedged
  • work effectively as part of an intercultural team
  • use the Library catalogue effectively
  • use electronic sources of data/information
  • conduct independent research.

Weekly Timetable

Pre-Sessional Weekly Timetable
This is a guide only. You will be given a weekly timetable by your tutors with details of classes and classrooms.

You can locate your classroom(s) using the floorplans available here.

Each week you will receive between 16-18 hours of direct tuition (20 for 4-week students). In addition, you will be expected to carry out a number of hours of private study each day. You will also have regular one-to-one and group tutorials to discuss your academic progress.

Programme Structure

For the start and end dates of the Pre-sessional programmes, see the "Course dates and fees" section HERE.

You can see a summary of public holidays and university holidays HERE. Please note that the University will be closed on these days.

The 30-Week Pre-sessional programme is divided into 5 modules. You must pass every module that you are enrolled on in order to successfully complete the Pre-sessional programme.
CELCA Module Diagram
Modules 1, 2 and 3 concentrate on developing your grammar, vocabulary and communication skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing), as well as academic language and skills. Modules 4 and 5 focus more on subject-specific English that is relevant to your degree programme, as well as more advanced academic skills.  

NOTE: 4-week Pre-sessional students join for weeks 1-4 and follow their own schedule.

The week numbers work backwards; the first week of Module 1 (30-week Pre-sessional) is called week 30, the next week is week 29, etc. The final week of the programme is called week 1.
Pre-Sessional Week Numbers
Pre-sessional General Subject Split

For a full list of modules and assessments, please refer to the "Subject guide and modules" section HERE.

Academic Skills for UK Study – LA2112 (4-week)

For students who already have direct entry to their degree programmes: the Academic Skills for UK Study course is designed to help you hone your academic and study skills so that you can be better prepared for your degree programme. During your time on the course you will have an opportunity to develop awareness of academic conventions and practices, learn about formality and academic style and practise emulating typical academic text types such as essays, reports, proposals, research projects and literature reviews. Additionally, you will develop your academic listening strategies, practise giving academic presentations, take part in seminars and work in culturally diverse groups. The course will also cover critical approaches to reading and help you refine your research skills.

Trips and Social Events

A number of trips will be scheduled during the programme. Please check the CELCA notice board for details.

Students who would like to get involved with organising social events for all the Pre-sessional students should contact Emily Waibel, who may be able to assist and to advise.

Practising your spoken English

Additional conversation/speaking classes are arranged during the programme. Details will be available on the CELCA noticeboard on the NW 8th floor.

We assess all areas of your language skills in a number of different ways.

Formative assessment (which gives you the opportunity to receive feedback on your progress but does not contribute towards your overall mark) includes activities such as:

  • Participation in class activities
  • Intercultural team-work ability
  • Completion of weekly class and self-study tasks
  • Research proposal
  • In addition to at least 90% attendance and punctuality


Summative assessment is the assessment which gives you your overall mark for the course.  A range of assessment activities are used including:

  • Written class tests
  • Reading tests
  • Speaking tests
  • Listening tests
  • Group or individual presentations
  • Coursework assignments, essays or projects


Your module tutor will explain the assessment to you at the start of each module.

Pass Marks & Marking of Assessments

All assessments are marked according to the Pre-sessional Programme marking criteria. Your tutors will discuss these criteria with you for each assessment.

To successfully complete the Pre-sessional programme you must pass all your modules.

The pass mark for each module is:

  • 40% for undergraduate students and 
  • 50% for postgraduate students.

Written Assessment Deadlines

It is very important that you hand in your work on time. You will lose marks for work that is submitted late.

You will need to submit an electronic copy of your work. Your tutor will give you clear guidelines for each assessment.

If, for any reason, you are unable to submit an electronic copy of your work, please inform the classroom tutor or your personal tutor.

You must be here for all assessments. For details of Attendance and Leave of Absence, see Rules and Regulations section below.


You will be provided with regular, detailed feedback in both written and verbal form by your academic tutors throughout the course. Regular one-to-one and group tutorials will be arranged for you. Feedback from your assessments will be provided at the end of each module.

Academic Tutors

Throughout your programme, you will have the opportunity to work with a number of different class tutors. You will be assigned an academic tutor at the start of each module who will usually be the teacher of your afternoon class. Your academic tutor will discuss your progress with you, help with your study plan, and advise about how to focus your private study. 

You may also make an appointment with the Student Adviser to discuss general matters. For advice on where to get help with personal issues, please contact the Student Adviser.

Note: The External Examiner is Mr J. Wrigglesworth, Sheffield Hallam University.

Access to quality library, learning resources and information technology is an essential part of your learning experience. As a Pre-sessional student, you will have full access to all university facilities from the day you enrol. Our facilities are extensive, up-to-date and accessible.

Wireless internet access is available throughout the campus in academic areas, study areas, common rooms, accommodation and most cafés.

The Cadbury Room on the 10th floor of the North Wing is a open from 9.00am to 5.00pm Monday-Friday for self-study. 

Open access multimedia equipment

Rooms NX6A, NX6B and NX13, which are also on the 10th floor of the North Wing, have audio-visual resources and computers for student use. Rooms are open from 9.00am to 5.00pm from Monday to Friday, for use by all students of the School of Languages and Social Sciences.

Please note that food and drink are not allowed in the Cadbury Room, NX13, NX06A or NX06B.

Main Library

The University library has four floors and contains 200,000 volumes, PC labs, photocopiers, printers, group and silent study areas. There is also online access to over 14,000 electronic journals, e-books and other online information resources. The barcode on the University Identity Card shows your Library membership number. You will also be given a Personal Identification Number (PIN) when you enrol, which you can use to check your account and to perform the self-service functions of borrowing, renewal, reservation, etc. If you do not know how these work, you should ask at the enquiries desk on the ground floor of the Library.

CELCA Webpages

A number of links to useful electronic resources are available on the CELCA webpages.

Time- keeping, Absences and Attendance

You are expected to arrive on time for your class. Any lateness will be noted on the register and be counted towards your 90% attendance requirement. If you are regularly late for class, you will be contacted by the Programme Director to discuss the matter. Lateness will be counted as unauthorised absence.

If, for any reason, you think you will be significantly late for class please contact the Programme Director by email or by telephone on 0121 204 3733. This will be regarded as an absence and you may be asked to provide evidence to support your reason.

Late arrivals
Please note that the University cannot be held responsible for late arrivals, including visa delays.

For this reason, we do not refund any part of the Pre-sessional fees if you arrive later than the advertised start date.

Please also note that if you arrive late, you are expected to catch up with the work that you have missed. See your Academic tutor for advice.

Sickness and absences

If you are sick and cannot attend class, you must email Chantal Burden, the Programme Director on before 11.00 am.

Please make sure you provide the following details in your email:
  • name and student ID
  • your group name
  • contact telephone number
  • the reason why you are absent
  • how many days you think you will be absent

You will need to provide relevant documents for any prolonged absence before returning to class.

Attendance and Leave of Absence

Please Note: Your attendance will be monitored and you must attend at least 90% of all classes in order to pass the programme and to fulfil the conditions placed on you by the UK Home Office. We have a legal duty to inform the UK Home Office if your attendance is poor.

Please do not arrange any holidays during the Pre-sessional  course, nor any appointments (if this cannot be avoided you will need to provide evidence of your appointment).

If you need to return home during the Pre-sessional programme for a legitimate reason, you must inform Chantal Burden, the Programme Director, BEFORE you leave the UK. You will need an ‘authorised leave of absence’ letter from Aston University in order to re-enter the UK.

All decisions for authorised absence and acceptable documents are final and will be checked by the UK Home Office.

Please note:  If you do not attend for a period of 10 days without an authorised absence, you will be withdrawn from the course and reported to the UK Home Office on the 10th day of absence.


The following are not considered valid reasons for absence from class, and will not be authorised:
  • accommodation changes
  • family and friends visiting
  • studying for an exam or preparing a class task
  • bank appointments

Permission for absence must be arranged through Chantal Burden, the Programme Director, in advance. Please contact her by email on to make an appointment to see her in NW817.

Mobile phones

Mobile telephones must be set to SILENT during class times. Please note, it is not acceptable to take or receive phone calls, or send emails or text messages during class time.


Under UK law, ALL public areas are NO SMOKING areas. Please look for information on the University website for designated outdoor smoking areas.


There will be regular individual tutorials in lesson time. Tutorials will be shown on the weekly timetables. Additional tutorial sessions may be added at different times throughout the programme.


You can contact the Pre-sessional programme staff by email to make an appointment to see them.

Remember to check your Aston email every day as your programme staff will use this to communicate with you.


Blackboard is Aston University’s Virtual Learning Environment. It is a central resource for learning and stores information about your course content and extra resources. We encourage you to use Blackboard as it will be a primary communication tool in your future studies.

CELCA Notice board

Please refer to the CELCA notice board located in the 8th floor corridor by the IELTS centre for information regarding class lists and social activities.

Programme Director

You may make an appointment by email to see Chantal Burden ( or by using the WASS system. Please see her office hours on the door of NW820B.  

Class Representatives

Each class will elect a student representative. The role of the representatives is to communicate to teaching staff and the Programme Director any questions the students have or points they would like to discuss. Representatives will meet on a regular basis with the Programme Director.

The Hub

The Hub, located on the Upper Ground Floor of Main Building, brings together all of Aston’s key student support departments.

The Hub Advice Zone includes the following support services:
  • Counselling Service
  • Disability and Additional Needs Unit (DANU)
  • International Student Advisers for immigration advice
  • Registry
  • Student Advisers (for advice about academic issues, academic finance, income tax and council tax, housing and money advice)
  • Student Funds Administrator (for extra funding such as the Access to Learning Fund for UK students and the Susan Cadbury Fund for International and EU students)
To find out more visit their website HERE.

International Student Advisers

The University has specialist International Advisers to assist students with a range of issues including immigration advice about student visas and work permits, cultural and social activities and English language support sessions.

For more information contact the International Student Advisers by telephone:
+44 121 204 4567 or email: or visit the website at:


If you require accommodation, or have any queries concerning your existing campus accommodation, contact the university Residential Services directly. Information can be found HERE.

(For students already living on campus you can speak to your residence officer who has an office in the reception area of your residences).

Campus Safety

Crime on the Aston University campus is very low (the lowest of any Midlands university) and our security measures and close-knit community atmosphere help to keep it that way.

Our team of fully trained security staff are always on hand to help ensure the safety and security of the Aston community. Our campus is a safe and friendly place covered by extensive CCTV and security patrols. We also enjoy excellent relations with the local West Midlands Police, with officers covering the campus beat.

The on-campus emergency (Internal) number is 2222. See the website HERE.
At Aston our key priority is the safety of our students. We have fully trained staff on campus who can respond without delay. The campus offers a variety of notification services from smoke alarms to general notifications, as well as campus security. We want you to enjoy your experience living on campus and we therefore encourage you to take responsibility not only for your own health and safety, but that of others on campus.

Please take some time to watch the shirt fire safety video HERE and review the safety procedures below:
Pre-Sess Fire Safety

In case of fire: Do not use the lifts. Go to Car Park 12.


Accommodation Office
0121 204 4707 / 4704 / 4722

Credit Control

0121 204 4384


0121 204 4277

The Hub
0121 204 4007

Security (Emergency)
External 0121 359 2922
Internal 2222

Students’ Union

0121 204 4848


Health Centre, Boots, High Street
0121 411 0363

National Express Coaches
08705 808080

Birmingham International Airport

08707 335511

Rail Bookings

08457 484950

Visit Birmingham
0121 202 5115

Live Brum
(All Birmingham Events – Music, Theatre, Museums, Culture, Dance, Comedy)