The Rise in Popularity of Summer Courses

What Exactly Is a Summer Course?

Institutions across the UK and USA in particular have for several years been trumpeting their growing summer course numbers. This may seem strange in an era of globalisation but shrinking economies, where, increasingly, providers are taking the product to the market rather than waiting for it to come to them. The international summer course, however, goes against that trend for 2 powerful reasons:

  1. It’s short- therefore less expensive. You may not have $25,000 or more per year to spend on your child’s education, but $4,000 may be seen as a worthwhile investment, bringing rewards in the form of better English language skills, increased confidence and social skills, and stronger motivation to study, for example.
  2. The whole point of a summer course is to go away  from the home environment, to enjoy a new experience in a different culture, safe in the knowledge that even if there are things you don’t like so much, you will soon be back home.

In the past, summer courses were all about English language. Typically, they would offer something like 15 hours of classes per week (mornings) with activities and excursions in the local area in the afternoons and a social programme in the evenings and at weekends. This was the standard format for adults and children alike. They would take place in language schools and  in boarding schools and other public institutions which were empty for the summer holidays. Apart from the language schools which ran their own special summer courses, they were usually managed by companies specialising in the provision of holiday courses. I remember as a young teacher spending my summer holiday working for a summer course provider, teaching English to mostly French and Italian teenagers who had come to England to improve their language skills, in the borrowed  classrooms of the local technical college.

Over the years, however, the summer course has evolved into a highly sophisticated type of programme, offering a huge range of activities and options for different course formats, and with specific courses aimed at different age groups. (There are even “summer courses” which are, in fact, winter courses- Australia, keen not to be excluded from the lucrative summer course opportunities enjoyed by countries in the northern  hemisphere, offers special courses at this time of year in its tropical zones so that students will not be reminded  that it is actually mid-winter in Australia!).

So, to summarise the current summer course scene, we can group courses in several different ways:

  1. By country. The big sellers are the UK, the USA, Canada, Malta (which is a base for many UK language schools). Australia and Singapore are  joining in as strong EFL regional providers in Asia-Pacific, and Spain is promoting its Spanish language courses.
  2. By type. Most courses usually contain at least some EFL, and the range of choices is:
  • totally EFL focused (e.g. IELTS or Cambridge Preparation, or university pre-sessional courses or intensive general English)
  • English+ fun activities
  • English + cultural activities (ag visiting cities, learning about local history, geography, literature etc.)
  • English + sport (for example, a football academy, run by a Premier League football team)
  • English + Drama/Creative activities (with visits to plays/the theatre/cultural festivals etc., or film-making and visits to film studios)
  • English + other subjects, such as Business, International Relations, Science and technology (maybe with units to prepare for university education)
  • English for teachers- involving education-focused workshops with teacher trainers from international organisations or local universities

There is, however, an increasingly wide range of non-EFL courses: Young Entrepreneurs, Introduction to Architecture /Art & Design, for example, or university “taster” courses, where students spend a 3-4 weeks on a university campus taking classes in various academic subjects. There are also totally non-academic courses available involving just about any activity or interest one can think of, as well as beginner or high level courses in other foreign languages. Spain is particularly attractive for this, being a well resourced tourist hub with a Mediterranean climate, a fantastic diversity of landscapes, wonderful, historic cities and a relaxed, friendly, social environment. Spanish is also one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, so learning Spanish in its heartland is a great way to spend a summer! (For information on Spain contact us directly).

3. By age group:

  • Young Learners (6-16)
  • Teens (14 – 17)
  • Adults (16 and over)

Aside from the obvious difference between what children, teens and adults are interested in doing, there are strict rules in most countries about working with children (usually 16 is the age below which students are classified as “children”). For example, children under the age of 16 must be in full time education during the academic year, so holiday courses can only be offered when they are out of school. There are specific laws and regulations governing  the number of teachers per group of children, and where they can stay and who looks after them, and the facilities that must be available for them. For this reason, good Young Learner courses, with 24 hour care and attention,  tend to be more expensive than adult courses, where adults may be left to do what they want for part of the time.

Accommodation for these courses is of 2 types:

i) residential, which means all the students stay together in a residence (usually on the campus where they will study), in dormitories or shared or single rooms, depending on the facilities available.

ii) homestay, which means the students will live with a host family for the time they are studying and will eat at least 2 meals per day with them.

Summer courses run continually throughout a period lasting from 6-9 weeks through June, July and August. The actual dates will depend on when the venues are available. For example, in the UK, most school and university terms are not completely finished until at least mid-June, so the summer course students cannot arrive until the regular students have gone home. Language schools with their own classrooms and plenty of host families can offer a longer summer period. Usually, students will attend for 2, 3 or 4 weeks. With English language courses, they can usually have as many weeks as they want in that period, but more specialised courses may have a fixed time.

Finally, while most courses allow individual students to sign up and join a group, some only take bookings from ready-made groups who arrive and depart together and stay together.

How Much Does It Cost?

Costs vary enormously according to a combination of factors.

  • Location: the UK, USA, Canada and Australia are in a similar price range, but the major cities will always be more expensive than other areas. For example, in the UK, the most expensive areas are London, Cambridge and the south-east; in the USA the East Coast, Florida and California are most expensive; in Canada Vancouver, Montreal  and Toronto are more expensive than, say Winnipeg or Halifax; in Australia Cairns and Darwin are cheaper than Sydney, Melbourne, Perth etc.
  • How many hours of study are included: the most basic summer courses have 15 hours of tuition, but you can also opt for 20, 24 or even 30 hours of tuition per week in some cases, and the cost is higher the more tuition you have.
  • The kind of activities involved: ordinary sports, games and local visits are cheaper than any kind of specialised activities such as excursions to festivals, pro-soccer lessons, anything using expensive equipment (such as canoeing, horse riding etc) or anything involving field trips  to cities further away.
  • Accommodation types and age group: homestay accommodation is always cheaper than residential, and shared rooms are cheaper than single rooms. For children, costs will be higher because there must be 24 hour supervision and they must be accompanied every time they go out of the campus.

How to Choose a Summer Course

The first thing to do is to consider your budget. For a person over 16, you would need at least $2,500- $3,000 for a 2 week course in the UK, USA, Canada or Australia including airfare.  For a child under 16 you should allow a minimum of $3,500-$4,000. Then decide   where you would like to go and  fix your possible dates and only focus on courses available within that window. The next  thing is to look at what is available for the age group you are seeking and match that to your budget. There are literally hundreds of choices in the UK and USA particularly, so it is better to limit your choices as early as possible in order to find the best match.

Most people in Vietnam would want to find an agent to work with as professional education agents  only work with properly legally accredited course providers who will guarantee the care and safety your child needs. The agent will also do all the paperwork for you and make all the arrangements for your child to be picked up  at the airport. You should be aware that many agents will want to sell the courses offered by their partners and if they do not have a wide range of locations or course types, or just one or two partner providers, you may not get the best selection available.


The summer is only 2 short months away and many courses starting in June may already be full. It is not too late to book your course, however. At TEC we have a huge range of courses still open, and activities, locations, prices  and course types to suit everyone.Give us a call today -04 37664523 / 53  (Hanoi) or 08 22102126 / 7 (HCMC).

My Pick of the Best Summer Courses for 2016- still available!



Art & Design Summer course- 30 hours per week with professional artists.                              Age: 15-18                                                                                                                                                             Duration: 1 – 6 weeks between July 3rd and August 14th 2016                                                                  Cost: GBP1,150 per week including residential accommodation, meals,  all tuition, full social programme. May be combined with intensive English.

Click here for more information


Date: 31st  July – 6th August 2016.                                                                                                               For students at the end of year 11 or 12 with IELTS 5.5 or equivalent                                                                                                       Fantastic introduction to Malaysia and to the UK university campus there- “taster” classes in a wide range of subjects, cultural and social programme including discovering Kuala Lumpur.                                                                                                                                                                        Cost: only US$350 including airport transfer, tuition, accommodation on campus, excursions (with food). Does not include airfare , insurance or regular meals (available on campus at very low cost).


Click here for more information



Date: from 1 – 9 weeks between July and August 2016                                                                                Age: 13-18                                                                                                                                                             Residential Accommodation                                                                                                                                           15 hours of ESL per week + adventure activities and excursions in Canada’s “Ocean Playground”, Nova Scotia                                                                                                                               SPECIAL: families can travel together- parents and older brothers/sisters can study at a language school for adults in the same area.

Click here for more information

AGE 18+ , IELTS 5.5+

University “taster” summer programmes at:

The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus International Summer ProgrammeJuly 12- 27 2016:  fantastic course in beautiful location -high quality and low fees .  Choose from options including Intensive Mandarin, International Development,   Doing Business in Asia, Creative Writing and Documentary Film-making.

 Cost: US2,225 including tuition, accommodation, social and cultural programme,           regular excursions with food. Does not include regular meals (very cheap in Malaysia), air fares, insurance, optional extra excursions.

SPECIAL: students can keep their room on campus for up to 2 weeks before or after the course in order to have a holiday/explore Malaysia. This is an extra cost.

Click here for more information

Kingston University  London : July 2016: 1 month summer course with or without English language . Topics include British Art & Architecture, Exploring Cultural London, London Global City of Enterprise, London and its Literature and Live Theatre….more

The University of East Anglia, UK. July 2016- 1 month. Huge range of credit-bearing course options including Future Medicine, Intercultural Business Communication, International Accounting, Psychological Research in Practice….more

The Summer School at Jönköping International Business School (JIBS), Sweden

August 6-19, “Developing Dynamic Family Enterprises”. Open to graduate students from all over the world. Credit-based course with final examination, consisting of lectures, case seminars, special topic seminars, company visits, guest lectures, with full cultural and social programme.  IELTS 6.5 or equivalent required. more

The Education Company has a huge range of courses in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Ireland,  Malaysia and Singapore. Please contact us directly for more information in English, or go to  our website in Vietnamese.


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