ELICOS(English Language Intensive Course For Overseas Students) Manual-Australia



The English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS) sector is a very important one in the Australian education system. This is because it:

  • provides international students with a wide variety of options to learn English;
  • enables students to enter other education sectors at all levels.

Because there are such a large number of courses available, you need to be confident in selecting the right one for your students. This is especially true if they want to continue studying in Australia after completing their ELICOS course.

Focus Questions

  1. What types of ELICOS centres exist in Australia?
  2. What types of ELICOS courses would be suitable for a student who wants to continue studying in another sector?
  3. How are other short courses different from ELICOS courses?
  4. What English language proficiency tests are accepted in Australia?
  5. What are the usual language requirements to enter a VET course?
  6. How is the quality of ELICOS courses maintained?

Introduction to ELICOS

The English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) sector is an important one within the Australian Education system.
In November 2017, there were 152,606 international student enrolments in the ELICOS sector.

*source International Education website

English language training commonly takes place in dedicated colleges or centres. These centres are completely focused on the needs of international students, so they have highly developed support services for such students.

English language training is also very often the first type of course an international student may undertake in Australia. So, ELICOS colleges have well-developed reception, orientation and accommodation placement processes to reflect this fact.

ELICOS students typically come on a student visa, a tourist visa or a working holiday visa. People on a tourist visa are only permitted to study for a maximum of three months and those on working holiday visas for a maximum of four months. Individuals wishing to study in Australia for longer than this should apply for a student visa.

Those ELICOS students who hold a student visa are covered by the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act (see B – 2). However students on tourist visas, working holiday or other visas are not covered by the ESOS Act.

ELICOS courses can be taken by students as stand-alone courses. This means that the student wishes to improve their English proficiency and then return to their home country. According to EA’s statistics, 39% use the language course as the first in a pathway of courses leading to formal qualifications in the other sectors.

Types of ELICOS centre

There are about 300 accredited ELICOS centres across Australia. There are many types of centres and they can be:

  • located in all of Australia’s major cities as well as in a range of regional locations,
  • private or government operated,
  • independent or attached to a high school, TAFE college or university,
  • small boutique colleges or large international providers.

Types of Courses

ELICOS providers and courses need to follow a careful quality assurance process. This specifies the minimum qualifications of teachers, class sizes, types of facilities, and the number of study hours per week.

ELICOS courses are accredited by either Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) or Australian Skill Quality Authority (ASQA) as non-award courses outside of the AQF. However, a small number of courses are accredited as VET courses on the AQF. The nature of the accreditation body should not influence the quality of the educational experience for the student.

Australia offers a wide range of ELICOS courses designed to meet the varying needs of students with different reasons for learning English. Full-time ELICOS courses tend to have these features:

  • Their duration generally ranges from four to 48 weeks,
  • They are taught at all levels of proficiency from beginners to advanced.
  • They comprise of at least 20 hours of study each week.
  • They usually have flexible commencement dates, so students can enroll at any time during the year.

Often ELICOS courses are taken in sequence with formal courses of study in other sectors. They are packaged together with one or more courses. Sometimes these further courses are offered at the same institution.

There are five major categories of English language courses generally offered in Australia to international students:

  1. General English
  2. English for Academic Purposes (EAP)
  3. Secondary School Preparation
  4. Examination Preparation
  5. English for Specific Purposes (ESP)

In addition, some ELICOS centres have developed and deliver specific courses to suit the needs of particular clients; for example courses that may concentrate on executive English, corporate ELICOS training or Study Tour Programs (these programs usually combine English language study with other activities e.g. travelling or sporting activities).

  1. General English

These courses help to improve English skills in reading, writing, listening and speaking. Students can enter at any level, from elementary to advanced, and they progress at their own pace.

Students are generally tested and placed in an appropriate class level at the start of their studies. Classes at each level focus on everyday English, and often include a variety of activities.

General English is suitable for individuals or for holiday groups, and as preparation for the English for Academic Purposes courses.

  1. English for Academic Purposes (EAP)

EAP courses are designed to help students succeed in university studies by improving their English and academic study skills. They help students achieve the level of English language proficiency needed to undertake tertiary studies at Australian and International universities (usually around IELTS 6.0 to 6.5 or TOEFL Paper 530 to 570 or other equivalent language tests). A large percentage of students who complete the courses enrol in Australian universities.

EAP programs are generally offered as full-time courses of approximately 10 weeks for each module. EAP courses generally start and finish at dates which match with the university’s academic semesters. This allows students to move easily into formal degree courses.

  1. Secondary School Preparation

These programs are generally designed to:

  • develop speaking, listening, reading and writing skills,
  • inform students about the education system in Australia,
  • familiarise students with teaching methodologies they will encounter in their secondary studies,
  • introduce specific subject areas and assist with subject selection.
  1. Examination Preparation

While not offering formal qualifications, many English courses focus on preparing students for external English proficiency examinations such as:

  • Cambridge exams (PET, FCE, CAE, CPE, & BEC), which are the most popular,
  • the IELTS exam,
  • the TOEFL exam,
  • the TOEIC test.

These courses are generally provided for students aged 17 and above and involve intensive test practice. They cater to people who wish to:

  • enter educational institutions,
  • work in English-speaking countries,
  • obtain a qualification that is valued by employers in their home country.
  1. English for Specific Purposes

These courses are generally specialised to meet a specific student need for technical English proficiency. They are often designed specifically for a small student group with similar needs. Courses that are less than 13 weeks in length are often taken while on a tourist visa.

This category also includes “Business English” courses that are designed for adults seeking job specific English language training. Generally the courses are intensive and focus on improving student’s use of English in the workplace. Most programs expect students to arrive with strong general English skills, and generally start at intermediate and move through advanced levels.

  1. Short Courses for non-student visa holders
    Students may obtain a tourist visa to study English for less than 3 months, or if on a working holiday visa,

study a maximum of 4 months. These students may undertake the same programs and classes as

student visa holders. Note that students studying for less than four months can still apply for a student visa if they wish to.

If the students come as a group, then they can have a specific program tailored for them. This is usually known as a ‘study tour’.

Study tours usually have these features:

  • they are designed for students studying in their own country either in High School or in Higher Education and take place during holiday periods.
  • they combine tourist or specialised activities with English study.
  • they are often structured around a particular group of students coming from one source

overseas (a school, university or workplace).

Study Tours are not covered by the ESOS Act nor the National Code. So, they do not need to meet any specified requirements in terms of hours of study, teacher qualifications, or facilities.

English Colleges that are members of English Australia must conform to best practice guidelines when offering study tours. English Australia can also protect non-student visa holders in the event that if a college closes, affected students are placed in another program.

Agents need to ensure that students who select a study tour are clear about the expectations of the program of study.

Study tours can provide all types of Business and English language packages. Often these tours can be coupled with business conventions and conferences. However, affordable tours can cater to all groups, from school students and tourists to special interest technical groups wishing to further their studies in their specific area of interest.

Many different types of special interest tours and holiday group travel tours are available. Some examples include:

  • Agriculture
  • Mining and smelting
  • Eco-tourism and Environmental Projects
  • Back-packing group tours with adventures & English lessons
  • Aged care, Nursing and Dietician studies
  • Living English with practical experiences
  • High School & Junior High School holiday tours
  • Specialised technical and information tours
  • Trade missions, Government and VIP tours
  • University, Holiday & Graduation tours and conventions
    No formal qualifications are awarded at the completion of these kinds of courses.

English Language Tests

The IELTS, TOEFL, CAE Cambridge and PTE Academic tests are the major testing systems used worldwide for entry into academic programs, including Australia. They are all accepted by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in regard to student visa applicants who need to demonstrate appropriate English proficiency.

  1. IELTS (International English Language Testing System)

IELTS is the most commonly used English Proficiency test in Australia and is accepted by all our academic institutions. Also, US academic institutions are increasingly accepting IELTS for admissions purposes.

The IELTS test consists of 4 modules that test the complete range of English language skills which students commonly encounter when studying or training in the medium of English. The IELTS test is available in two formats: Academic and General Training. All candidates take the same Listening and Speaking Modules. However, the two formats have different Reading and Writing Modules.

The Academic test is suitable for candidates planning to undertake higher education study. The General Training test is suitable for candidates planning to undertake non-academic training or work experience, or for immigration purposes.

The IELTS test is also available on computer with results normally released within 5-7 days.

  1. The TOEFL test – (Test of English as a Foreign Language)

TOEFL tests the ability of candidates to use and understand English at a university level. Computer based testing is offered throughout most regions of the world. In addition, Internet-based tests (TOEFL® iBT) are also available in many countries. In areas where computer access is limited, a paper-and-pencil version of the test is administered.

  1. CAE Cambridge test – (Certificate in Advanced English)

CAE is a thorough and demanding test of all areas of language ability of the candidate. It is available in a paper-based and a computer-based format. The CAE exam consists of five modules: reading, writing, use of English, listening and speaking (speaking is a face-to-face exam with two candidates and two assessors).

  1. The PTE Academic test – (Pearson Test of English – Academic)

PTE Academic is a computer-based exam, measuring the individual’s English ability through tasks which reflect real-life settings. The test runs for 3 hours, during which candidates are given 20 different types

of task (some of these test integrated skills (e.g. reading AND speaking). Test results are delivered to test takers online (notification by email) within 5 working days.

Test Equivalences

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection use the following equivalence table in their judgements:

English Language Tests for Student Visas


Test Score Band

PTE Academic
Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) TOEFL PBT

  1. iTEP

4.0 4.5 31 32 29 30 32 36 433 450

5.0 5.5
35 46 60 36 42 50 41 47 52 500 527 550

6.0 6.5 7.0 7.5 8.0 8.5 9.0

79 94 58 65 58 67

102 110 115 118 73 79 83 86 74 80 87 93

iTEP is an American-based online proficiency test, accepted by more than 500 Colleges and Universities in the US. It is used for placement testing and admissions and is competitively priced in comparison to the other tests. It is not well-recognised in Australia at this stage.

  1. Password Test

The password test, is another online proficiency test, based in the UK. Again, it only enjoys limited recognition in Australia. 9

Entry Points and Costs

Students may enter an ELICOS college with any level of English proficiency. However, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) assigns certain requirements to student visas to students from certain countries. So, some students may only be able to study an English course for a
limited length of time, depending on their nationality and sector in which they seek to study.

Australian education institutions can only accept students with an appropriate level of English proficiency and institutions are free to set their own English language requirements. There may
be different language proficiency levels and different measures used (eg. IELTS, TOEFL, CAE, PTE Academic or other ways to satisfy the language requirement) by different institutions in respect of
the English proficiency levels required for their courses; other than the levels required for a student visa by DIBP.

You should check the English level entry requirements with education providers.

Cost of English language courses

The average tuition costs are $305 per week, but course prices vary depending on:

  • the centre,
  • the centres’ location,
  • the length of the course.
    Study tour prices are specific to the study program and subject to negotiation.

Quality Assurance of ELICOS

Australia ensures that international students receive the high quality of English language instruction. Australia is the only country in the world to have mandatory national standards specific to English language training and international students. The quality of courses and institutions providing English training are supported by two recognised industry associations:

  • English Australia (EA).
  • National ELT Accreditation Scheme Limited (NEAS). English Australia (EA)

EA is the national professional association of ELICOS colleges, and currently it has 85 member centres.

EA also plays an important role in maintaining quality in the ELICOS sector. Its member colleges are required to:

  • abide by by-laws which provide a Code of Conduct;
  • participate in a Tuition Assurance Scheme;
  • participate in Membership Quality Assurance;
  • abide by the minimum requirements of the EA refund and transfer policies.
    EA membership provides additional assurances of high quality and fair dealing in both public and private

English language colleges.

National ELT Accreditation Scheme Limited (NEAS)

NEAS endorses English language centres in universities, colleges and high schools. Endorsed centres are granted the NEAS quality mark, internationally recognised and valued by students, teachers, agents and governments.

Useful Information Government sites

  • Australia – Country Information (DFAT)
  • Australian Demographic Statistics, March 2011 (ABS)
  • Public Holidays

Tourism sites

  • Australian Capital Tourism Corporation
  • Tourism New South Wales
  • Northern Territory Tourism Commission
  • Tourism Queensland
  • South Australian Tourism Commission
  • Tourism Tasmania
  • Tourism Victoria
  • Western Australian Tourism Commission

Weather Information

  • Rainfall and Temperature graphs (BOM)
  • you also can find weather information about cities around the world from World Climate. Standard Times

Australia has both Standard Times and Daylight Saving Times (note that GMT stands for Greenwich Mean Time).






Eastern Standard Time (EST)

New South Wales Australian Capital Territory Victoria

+ 10


Central Standard Time (CST)

South Australia Northern Territory

+ 9.5


Western Standard Time (WST)

Western Australia




Daylight Saving Times





Eastern Daylight/Summer Time (EDT)

New South Wales Australian Capital Territory Victoria

+ 11


Central Daylight/Summer Time (CDT)

South Australia

+ 10.5


Western Daylight/Summer Time (WDT)

Western Australia

+ 9.0


No Daylight Saving Times – use Standard Times

Queensland Northern Territory

+ 10 + 9.5

7:00pm 6:30pm

Refer to the Bureau of Meteorology for the start and finish dates of daylight saving times.