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This free ESL lesson plan on university has been designed for adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

Going to university is incredibly important to many people across the world. For most, it is a way to guarantee a good career later in life. These days, however, the value of university is being questioned as many graduates struggle to find the kind of job they were expecting for the amount of debt they have accumulated. Others simply do not have the means to go to university. In this ESL lesson plan on university, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as their university experience, the importance of university and whether university is worth the money these days.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for International Day of Education, which takes place in January. For more lesson plans on international days and important holidays, see the calendar of world days to plan your classes for these special occasions.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.


Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

Vogue | Is University Really Worth It Any More?

The article is written by a 31-year-old English graduate who asks the £50,000 question – is university worth the debt? She mentions how much value her degree has given her compared to other subjects like medicine and law, and talks about how degrees will be devalued even more in the post-corona world. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was said? Can they think of any ways they might disagree with the content of the article?

Video activity
To save time in class for the conversation activities, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below and answer the listening questions in Section 3 of the lesson plan at home. There are intermediate listening questions and advanced listening questions so teachers can decide which would be more appropriate for their students. Check the answers in the class.

The video for this class is called “US students head to Germany for free degrees” by BBC News which looks at students from the United States who are taking advantage of free university education in Germany.


The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means and if they agree with it. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including how the students’ university experience was, how their degree has affected their life and whether or not everyone should go to university.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with university such as higher education, halls of residence and tuition fees. This vocabulary has been chosen to boost the students’ knowledge of less common vocabulary that could be useful for preparing for English exams like IELTS or TOEFL. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the listening questions. Before checking the answers, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about university. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as whether university is too expensive, the most valuable and least valuable subjects to study and the connection between university education and a country’s economic performance.


After the class, students will write about their opinion of university. This could be a short paragraph or a longer piece of writing depending on what level the student is at. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise and improve their grammar with the feedback from their teacher. For students who intend to take an international English exam such as IELTS or TOEFL, there is an alternative essay question to practise their essay-writing skills.


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