English Proficiency Requirements for Admission to Graduate Study
To define the language proficiency requirements for incoming graduate students who are non-native speakers of English.
Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) have other requirements indicated in the policy on Spoken English Language Competency of Faculty and Graduate Teaching Assistants, Kansas Board of Regents Policy.
All applicants who are not native speakers of English.
Graduate applicants who are non-native speakers of English must demonstrate English proficiency in the skill areas of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. All students who experience challenges doing graduate work in English after arrival are encouraged to seek assistance from the Applied English Center (AEC).
For information on the spoken English requirements for GTAs, please see the policy on Spoken English Language Competency of Faculty And Graduate Teaching Assistants, Kansas Board of Regents Policy.
KU recognizes two (2) proficiency categories for graduate students:
- Full Proficiency
- Admission Proficiency
Applicants may be admitted for graduate study to campus-based programs in either of these two (2) categories. By the time they complete their degree work, these students are expected to reach Full Proficiency. Applicants to online degree and certificate programs must achieve Full Proficiency to be eligible for admission.
Students in this proficiency band do not require academic English support as provided by the AEC. Students may be categorized with Full Proficiency at the time of admission or later, after completing coursework at the AEC.
Students placed into the Full Proficiency band are fully admitted for graduate study at KU and no additional testing is required. These students will have "Proficiency Obtained" marked in their official KU academic records.
Students in this band have English proficiency in the skill areas of reading, writing, listening, and speaking necessary to begin graduate study and to succeed in their classes with some academic English support as provided by the AEC.
Students placed in the Admission Proficiency band are fully admitted for graduate study at KU, but they must complete testing with the AEC. Their needs for academic English support will be assessed by the AEC, who will place them in corresponding AEC classes or move them into the Full Proficiency band. Applicants to online degree and certificate programs are not eligible for admission in this category.
Proof of Proficiency
KU recognizes several mechanisms by which applicants may demonstrate their English proficiency. The following are acceptable means of demonstrating English proficiency for purposes of graduate admission:
- Graduation with a baccalaureate degree (or higher) earned in residence from a regionally accredited English-medium U.S. college or university, or from a foreign university which maintains substantially equivalent bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree requirements
- Degrees earned online may not be used to demonstrate English proficiency.
- When a foreign university conducts all instruction in English, the degree demonstrates Full Proficiency; applicants are not required to complete AEC testing.
- When a foreign institution certifies that a majority of instruction, but not all, was conducted in English, the degree demonstrates Admission Proficiency and applicants are required to complete AEC testing.
- Employment as an officer in the U.S. military with documentation of selection or promotion to the rank of Major or higher (or the equivalent U.S. Navy or Coast Guard rank)
- Demonstrates Full Proficiency; applicants are not required to complete AEC testing.
- Official scores from an English proficiency standardized test (e.g., TOEFL, IELTS-Academic, or PTE) sent by the testing agency to the University of Kansas. Official scores must be less than two (2) years old at the time that Graduate Admissions processes the application.
- Scores demonstrate Admission Proficiency or Full Proficiency in accordance with the established criteria.
- Satisfactory completion of AEC coursework
- Demonstrates Admission Proficiency or Full Proficiency in accordance with the established criteria.
- In exceptional cases, a department, with written support from the appropriate school or College, may petition the Vice Provost for Graduate Studies to consider alternative documentation of English proficiency. In consultation with the Executive Council of Graduate Faculty and the Director of the AEC, the Vice Provost for Graduate Studies will determine whether the alternative documentation demonstrates English proficiency at the level expected for regular admission to graduate study at KU.
- Demonstrates Admission Proficiency or Full Proficiency, depending on the documentation provided.
Proficiency Band Criteria
Applicants who complete AEC coursework or provide official scores from a standardized test listed here will be placed into a proficiency band according to this chart. Applicants whose documentation falls below standards will be denied graduate admission and advised to apply directly for full-time study at the AEC.
Applied English Center Testing
The Applied English Center (AEC) maintains a testing process for non-native speakers of English. This process serves to confirm each student's level of English proficiency and determine whether English courses will be included as a requirement of the student’s academic program. In order to graduate, students who are required to complete AEC courses must meet KU’s Full Proficiency standard as demonstrated by their performance in AEC coursework.
- Students who are admitted in the Full Proficiency band are not required to complete AEC testing.
- All other non-native speakers of English who gain admission to campus-based programs are required to complete AEC testing before beginning coursework.
- Performance in AEC testing will determine whether students can enroll in graduate courses and in what proportion alongside AEC courses.
09/01/2023: Updated to identify requirements for non-native English speaker applicants to online degree and certificate programs.
07/18/2023: Updated policy formatting and links.
01/12/2023: Updated to identify requirements for non-native English speaker applicants to online degree and certificate programs.
09/24/2021: Substantive revisions to reduce access barriers.
08/02/2021: Updated applies to section.
04/25/2020: Updated policy statement: developed by the Executive Council of Graduate Faculty in collaboration with International Affairs; approved by Provost Bichelmeyer on 20 April 2020. -- ARG
06/20/2018: Technical edit: clarify names of several TOEFL exams -- ARG
06/08/2018: Updated policy statement: new policy language approved by Executive Council of Graduate Faculty on 11 May and by the Provost's Office on 8 June. -- ARG
08/30/2017: Updated policy statement.
01/25/2017: Minor copy edits - removed repeated word and updated plural agreements
07/06/2016: Updated to remove gendered pronouns.
04/28/2016: Revised score tables to clarify acceptance of IELTS-Academic and PTE tests, as well as acceptable score ranges for the PTE. Revised Exclusions and Special circumstances to clarify relationship of this policy to federal immigration regulations.
03/31/2016: Revised acceptable means for verifying English proficiency and clarified the AEC check in requirement
01/28/2015: Revised policy language to clarify that test scores are required for international students and domestic non-native English speakers
11/26/2014: Policy formatting cleanup (table display)
10/15/2014: Policy formatting cleanup (e.g., bolding, spacing)
This policy pre-dates the KU online Policy Library. The dates listed in the approval and effective date fields reflect the date it was moved into the Policy Library.