ESL level 4-5: University Preparation

Length: 7 or 14 weeks
Location Offered: Nanaimo Campus

Do you want to attend a university in Canada but need to improve your English? Our University Preparation program offers a skills-based curriculum that prepares students for academic success. It will take you from an intermediate to an advanced speaker of the English language in just 2 levels. After successfully completing University Preparation level 5, you can begin your certificate, degree or diploma studies at our university.

Enter University Preparation in two ways: with an IELTS or TOEFL score, or by successfully completing Language Foundations level 3 at our university.

As an ESL student at our university, you will have access to our learning centre and be able to participate in sociocultural activities organised by the International Education faculty.

Course Structure

One level of University Preparation is 14-weeks.
A 14-week level is divided into two 7-week courses, each of which covers two skills.
To finish one level of University Preparation, both courses need to be completed.

Program Details

  • 20 hours per week of instruction.
  • Start in January, February, April, June, August, October.
  • Small classes, highly qualified, friendly, approachable teachers, and a wide range of learning materials.
  • Students in University Preparation 5 may be eligible to take one academic credit course.
  • Graduates from University Preparation 5 can enter Vancouver Island University degree, diploma and certificate programs directly (as long as academic pre-requisites met).
  • A minimum grade of C (60%) is required to pass any of the University Preparation levels.

Application Deadline

Students are encouraged to apply three months before the start of the program to allow enough time for visa processing.

Students can choose between six start dates per year. The schedules are outlined here.

Students must have basic English skills before entering the English as a Second Language (ESL) programs.

The ESL program cannot accept students who are at the very beginning level of using English.

Students will be given an English language level assessment test when they arrive at Vancouver Island University to confirm their basic English knowledge. If a student does not pass the level assessment test, the student may not be accepted into the program.

Vancouver Island University accepts international students under one of the following conditions:

  • direct applications (online or paper applications);
  • applications through authorized representatives;
  • institution-to-institution exchange programs;
  • sponsorship through inter-governmental agreements;
  • winner of academic competitions or international scholarships.


All students must:

  • hold a valid status in Canada: visitor status for ESL courses up to 6 months in length or study permit for longer courses;
  • complete a Vancouver Island University ESL language assessment test (or equivalent)

Please keep in mind that students applying for conditional admission to an undergraduate (or diploma, certificate or trades) program at VIU, or thinking of applying upon completion of the ESL program, will still be required to provide proof of high school graduation and their secondary school transcripts.