Refine your writing, get help and understand what’s expected of you during your studies.

Continue to develop your English for academic study

Whatever your level of study or academic background, all students are expected to continue developing their academic skills. We run a number of development opportunities that you can take advantage of. This free support could help to improve your academic abilities and assessment results.

If you are on one of our degree programmes and English is not your first language, you can take advantage of workshops, sessions and tutorials run by English Language for Academic Study (ELAS).

ELAS offers a range of opportunities, including:

  • workshops focusing on academic English language, skills and culture
  • ‘time to write’ sessions, where you can put into practise what you learned at our workshops
  • drop-in sessions to ask questions and find the support you need (no booking required)
  • pre-booked tutorials to seek advice and feedback on your work.

We’re here to help you understand and adjust to the changes of university life at Sussex.

You can enrol through our Canvas platform. Here you’ll find more information about what we offer, including the timetable for workshops and other sessions, as well as how to book these. You will also find self-study resources.

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Visiting and exchange students

If you’re a Visiting and Exchange student, you can also take full-time or part-time English language modules throughout the autumn and spring terms alongside the ELAS sessions.

One-to-one writing suppport

If English is not your first language, you can have one-to-one tutorials with a professional author of literary merit. They can advise on all aspects of the writing process, including:

  • how to plan and draft
  • creating a strong argument and
  • proofreading and editing your work.

They are based in the library.

Understand UK academic culture

Many students take time to adjust to university study, particularly if they have moved from school, returned to study from work or have moved from a different academic culture. Some students are surprised by the lack of formality around campus, particularly in classes – for example, many staff are happy to be called by their first name. When starting a new degree you should expect differences, but try to enjoy the change.

The academic requirements of studying at Sussex may be different from where you’ve studied previously.

Academic culture and expectations vary according to the subject and the level of study.

You’ll generally be expected to:

  • work independently, studying on your own outside of class
  • develop critical judgment, which means an ability to assess whether an argument is coherent and well supported by evidence
  • learn in a variety of ways – some subjects involve learning large amounts of factual data while in others a critical approach is considered more important.

Your course syllabus should outline what’s required of you for each piece of work.

Check Sussex Direct for your course deadlines. These are strictly enforced at Sussex.


Many lecturers provide outlines of their lectures in a hand-out or on Canvas. Read these in advance. It’s helpful to have a copy during the session, either printed out or digitally.

You need to make notes but you don’t need to write every word. Many lectures are recorded so you can listen again.

If there is something you don’t understand, make a note to ask after the lecture or during a seminar where discussion is encouraged. It’s likely you won’t be the only person with questions. 

All lecturers have a different style. It might take time and practice to get used to someone’s style. This will get easier as your vocabulary improves.


Seminars are smaller sessions where contributing your ideas and discussing them with your tutor and other students is encouraged.

Make notes before the seminar of any points you would like to discuss.

Seminars can be challenging if you are not used to them. Don’t worry, many other students initially feel the same. Try to contribute, even if it seems difficult at first.


On most courses you get a reading list. You’re not expected to buy or read every item on the list but your tutor will highlight the things you must prioritise.

It can help to set up a reading group to discuss readings before a lecture or seminar. This will give you confidence that you have understood the concepts and ideas, and help you practise speaking about them.

Sources of support

If you are having difficulty with your studies, discuss this with your Academic Advisor or course convenor.

If your problem relates to a specific module, speak to your course tutor. All tutors have designated times when they are available to see you. If you can’t make these times, email them.

Seek advice early rather than wait for a problem to become serious; there is usually a solution.

More help

You can also get support from:

  • advisors in the Student Centre, who can discuss more general problems, either personal or related to study skills, that may affect your work
  • Disability Advice, who can advise on specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, and put any necessary reasonable adjustments in place
  • Skills Hub, where there are a range of guides
  • Student Mentors, who are already studying in your School and can advise you on your work.

Academic integrity and good practice

It’s important that the work you submit is your own and meets our academic integrity standards. These may be different to previous places you studied.

Academic misconduct

If you understand our standards, you’re unlikely to be investigated for types of academic misconduct.

If your work is investigated for possible academic misconduct, speak to your academic adviser or course convenor.

The best thing is to know how to avoid academic misconduct in the first place.

You can also get impartial advice from the Support and Advocacy Team in the Students’ Union.

More language opportunities

There are other ways to learn a language on campus.

Language Café

You can practise any language, and help others speak your language, at the Language Café run by the Students’ Union. This is also a good way to socialise.

Language short courses

If you want to learn another language, you can take a non-accredited short course. We offer lunchtime and evening classes in many different languages.