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Durham University

You do not have to speak a foreign language or study Modern Langauges to undertake a Global Opportunity as many of our work, study and volunteering partners offer placements in english. Knowledge of a foreign language may open additional opportunities, help you to prepare for a period abroad and assist your cultural integration while abroad. The University's Centre for Foreign Language Study provides the opportunity to learn a language alongside your degree and we would encourage you where possible to take advantage of these language classes.

Work and volunteering

International Placement Year work placements are often secured using speculative applications and through utilising networks so it may take longer than a “standard” application. Students who are unable to speak a foreign language may wish to look at larger UK companies, which have international offices or focus your search on a specific region or industry to find smaller organisations. For some placements you may need to be proficient in another language, please check the job description before you apply. For additional support, the Centre for Foreign Language Study offers a variety of language courses which may be of benefit.


Durham's non-European Study Abroad partners offer placements predominantly in English (with the exception of some specific modern languages partners). Whilst many of our European partner universities teach in English, some departments have links with universities teaching in the language of that country. You may be required by your department to have studied the language to a certain level prior to being offered a place. The typical required language level is B1. We would normally recommend an A-Level (or equivalent qualification) for students learning entirely in the host language. Students undertaking an Erasmus+ placement may have to complete an Online Linguistic Assessment (OLS). Where possible we list any language requirements against each partner, though this may change from year to year.

The CFLS slideshow below provides a description of the Common European Framework for Reference (CEFR) language levels from A1 (basic) to C2 (near native).

Centre for Foreign Language Study

The Centre for Foreign Language Study provides the opportunity to learn a language alongside your degree; we would strongly recommend that you research well in advance (ideally in your first year) the linguistic competency required by the institution(s) you are considering, as you may need more than one language course to get you to the required level. Additionally, most partner universities will offer intensive language courses for exchange students alongside courses that run throughout the academic year. We would encourage you where possible to take advantage of these language classes.

Resources: CFLS Study Abroad Slideshow 2020 (last modified: 23 October 2020).

Erasmus+ Online Linguistic Support (OLS)

The OLS system is online linguistic tool for students undertaking an Erasmus+ mobility. You will be required to do a compulsory short online assessment of your language skills before and after your placement. This is purely to assess the development of your language skills during your year abroad, and will not impact on your acceptance to the partner university. There are also optional OLS courses available to support language learning before you go on your year abroad.

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