I've accepted a conditional offer at Brighton University to do a PGCE in Secondary Mathematics. One of the conditions is to visit a school in the UK, observe a secondary maths class there, and get to know the UK educational system.

My question is if I can do that on a visit visa? If not, what type of visa should I apply to?

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    I don't see observation of a secondary maths class and getting to know the UK educational system happening under the visitor programme. If Brighton has raised this as a requirement then it's part of your PGCE regimen and should be treated as such. But in a proper answer here I would advise speaking with the Authorising Officer. Do you want a proper answer? or have the answer(s) given already meet your needs?
    – Gayot Fow
    Feb 12, 2017 at 17:53
  • @ Gayot, If the answer given was erroneous I can delete it. I don't want to misinform the gentleman. Observing q couple classes, taking a tour of a couple schools etc would violate the terms of a visitor visa? Please advise Feb 12, 2017 at 18:10
  • @SheikPaul I wouldn't delete your answer, you have already put points on the board and that's a good thing. HOWEVER please think about those those activities you listed like conference, meeting, etc etc and note that they are highly structured events and not an open-ended and nebulously phrased 'observation'. Consider the differences and you can decide to update your answer. I would never ask that you remove it.
    – Gayot Fow
    Feb 12, 2017 at 19:01
  • @Gayot I sent an email to the embassy but they only directed me to the uk immigration website to check which visa is suitable for me ... When I did what they said I got two results: one is standard visit visa and other is temporary worker visa. I know I'm not gonna work in a school in the UK for two weeks. All I'm supposed to do is observe other teachers and ask them about the educational system as requested by Brighton University. I still don't know if I can do this with a visit visa.
    – Ibrahim
    Feb 13, 2017 at 7:40
  • 1
    @Ibrahim I disagree. I will write an alternative answer.
    – Gayot Fow
    Feb 13, 2017 at 11:39

3 Answers 3


You are pursuing a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PCGE). This is a "one-year higher education course in England, Wales and Northern Ireland which provides training in order to allow graduates to become teachers within maintained schools". Before starting the course the student is required to spend two weeks of 'observation' in a primary school.

Your question is what type of visa is required to perform the required observation. I wanted to answer this question in a canonical way first so it can provide a reference point for all related questions having to do with international students. And after that I can take up your specific question.

Canonical Answer

What follows may seem a bit baroque for the community here on Travel, but there is a lot of grey areas and ambiguity about what can happen on a visitor visa (which is our domain) versus other visa types (which is the domain of our sister site at Expats). Much of the ambiguity in the rules is intentional for reasons that are out of scope here.

Background. All educational institutions in the UK who are offering in-country programmes to international students are required to have a Tier 4 sponsorship license. This license enables the institution to provide the prospective student with a certificate that can be used to apply for a visa. Technically, the certificate is called Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies and students using internet forums refer to it as their "CAS".

Your education provider will send you a reference number called a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) once they’ve offered you a place on a course. You’ll need to enter this on your visa application.

Source: Tier 4 (General)

In order to qualify for the license, the institution must have an infrastructure in place and part of the infrastructure is to have an "Authorising Officer". Reporting in to the Authorising Officer are several other roles that must be in place before the institution can obtain their sponsorship license.

When you apply for your licence you’ll need to allocate these 4 roles to members of your staff:

Source: Apply for a Tier 4 Sponsor License


With this knowledge we can be confident that any international student with a visa question at any UK institution can present their question to the "Authorising Officer" (or one of his required staff) for resolution.

Individuals who rely solely on internet forums are asking for trouble because the student rules are subject to change (up to twice a year); forum archives and personal experiences on the other hand are static to a particular point in time and hence frequently out-of-date (this site is no exception by the way).

Specific Answer

I do not agree that the Standard Visitor Visa is appropriate for your "observation phase" because it does not have the structure and organisational rigour of meetings (conferences, trade shows and the like) that a visitor can undertake. Instead, I think the activity is part of your curriculum as a PGCE student, and so the appropriate visa is the Tier 4 you obtained (or will obtain) to take the course.

In order to confirm my assumptions, I followed the above "canonical answer" and called the "Authorising Officer" at the University of Brighton. He was out for the day and so I spoke with one of his required staff, the "International Liaison Officer" (one Mr. Jamie Henley). We discussed your question and he confirmed that the PGCE observation phase is covered by a Tier 4 Visa and not a Standard Visitor Visa.

That constitutes your answer. Since the required visa is a Tier 4, all future questions should be taken up on the Expats site (or with your Authorising Officer in the first instance).


  • information on UK Visas and Immigration's (UKVI) required organisational structure are at Apply for a Tier 4 Sponsor License;
  • Mr Henley gave his permission to cite his name in this answer;
  • Trying to get an answer to a specific question out of UKVI is not generally productive for lots of reasons that are out-of-scope here;
  • in many cases the Authorising Officer is a grand old and respected academic whose presence is to dignify the institution's relationship with UKVI. They may not even have a solid working knowledge of the rules. Accordingly questions from students are handled by a lower ranking staff member (who absolutely must have an excellent knowledge of the rules);
  • 1
    If by PGCE observation phase u mean the placement that takes place as part of the program then I agree that it's covered with a Tier 4 visa. The condition is to do two weeks observation in a UK school before the PGCE starts to receive an unconditional offer and consequently a CAS number which will allow me to apply for a Tier 4 visa.
    – Ibrahim
    Feb 13, 2017 at 17:39
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    Right, and yes. And honestly, take up further questions with your Authorising Officer.
    – Gayot Fow
    Feb 13, 2017 at 19:01
  • 1
    Gayot is right. This is directly related to your T4 Sponsored education (a prerequisite, even) and as such should definitely be covered by your T4 Student visa. Feb 14, 2017 at 6:46
  • Thank you all very much .. I will talk with the Authorising Officer to be on the safe side.
    – Ibrahim
    Feb 14, 2017 at 12:00

Standard Visitor visa


If you visit the UK on business

You can apply for a Standard Visitor visa if you want to visit the UK for business-related activities, eg:

you’re coming to the UK for a conference, meeting or training you’re an academic and are doing research or accompanying students on a study abroad programme.

See Gayot Fow's first comment to your question.

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    Sorry for asking, but can I consider my visit some sort of training in the UK educational system?
    – Ibrahim
    Feb 12, 2017 at 16:21
  • 1
    Well the answer said training is covered under Standard Visitor Visa. If you're talking about wanting a students visa, NO. Eligibility for Student Visa: You must prove that you: have been offered a place on a course in the UK at an accepted place of study. I don't think you meet that criteria. Feb 12, 2017 at 16:27
  • 3
    I'm not talking about a student visa. I just wanna apply to the right visa as I don't wanna break any rules. If a visit visa allows me to visit the school and observe classes then that's what I'm looking for.
    – Ibrahim
    Feb 12, 2017 at 16:33
  • I believe the answer you're looking for has been already given clearly in the answer and links provided. Feb 12, 2017 at 16:39

This answer came rather late but I'm curious which visa did the enquirer traveled on?

Educational visits to schools in the UK are permitted activities for visitors on Standard Visitor Visa, as long as it is not the main purpose of the visit to the UK. The official link is here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/immigration-rules-appendix-v-visitor-rules


25 Visitors may carry out the following study:
    (a) educational exchanges or visits with a state funded school or academy or independent school; or
    (b) a maximum of 30 days study on:
        (i) recreational courses (not English language training);
        (ii) a shourt-course (which includes English language training) at an accredited institution;

provided that the main purpose of the visit is not to study and the study is not at a state funded school or academy.

Since observation does not count as a course but more of an educational visit to broaden horizon and deepen educational understandings, it should be taken as activity (a) in above picture.

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