Please find below some answers to our most frequently asked questions. If you do not find the answer you are looking for, or if you want to ask us anything else please contact us.

Your Course

What can I learn at Riversdown?

We teach you English language through immersion training courses that are each highly customised to the specific needs of each student. We specialise in constructing and delivering an individualised and premium learning experience to international professionals whether from business, government or academia. 

We also specialised in integrating both advanced communications skills training (negotiation, presentation delivery and professional skills) and cross cultural training into your language programme.

What is “Immersion” learning?

Immersion learning is where you are totally surrounded by the language you are learning throughout the day from morning until night. You are taught in your target language and you are constantly practising what you learn with people around you. It is an extremely intensive, but very effective method of improving your language ability efficiently and effectively.

Can I organise extra sessions between 5pm and 7pm?

Of course we try to accommodate any special requests you may have and we have previously had students organise extra study sessions during this time or even after dinner. This time is usually allotted for homework assigned by your teachers and to allow you some rest before dinner and social activities with staff and other students.

This time period can also be useful for you to catch up with your own work or business requirements in your own room or private study area. 

Which course should I choose?

That is entirely up to you and depends on your desired intensity of study. Of course the more one-to-one sessions you have with your instructor the faster your potential progress with active tuition and constant individual attention focusing on specific learning tasks.

Feel free to contact us and we can discuss your learning goals, desired timeline and budget. Then we can recommend the best possible package for you taking these elements into account. 

How many weeks should I study at Riversdown?

Again this depends on your individual needs, your current English ability and the level you wish to attain through immersion training.

1 – 3 weeks is usually perfect to improve conversational fluency, general linguistic confidence and / or to focus on a particular area or specific set of skills – for instance technical vocabulary, presentations or preparing for a new international role.

If you wish to dramatically increase your English ability from your current level – again it depends on the individual – we would usually recommend a longer stay, or several separate stays with a blended e-learning programme in between to sustain your progress and keep improving. The most important parts of language acquisition are simply good teachers, happy students and lots and lots of practice!

Do you provide integrated blended learning programmes?

Yes we do. You can choose from a range of e-learning options with your Riversdown training team (skype video, audio and web-ex sessions are the most favoured by our clients) in order to continue your learning after your time at Riversdown or between visits to maintain your progress. 

E-learning packages are also available as a stand-alone option if you are not able to come to Riversdown

Please visit our E-Learning page for more information

What does the Riversdown Social President do?

Every week one of our students is selected to be the Riversdown Social President. They play a part in helping encourage their fellow students to engage and get involved in the evening social activities.

The position is also designed to give this student an extra opportunity to practise their public speaking skills when they outline the day’s events at lunch and dinner, and introduce speakers for the farewell party.

Can I apply to be Riversdown Social President?

We can certainly take your request into consideration, although the position is usually reserved for returning students. However if you are an especially enthusiastic first time student, then we are very happy to consider you. 

How many one-to-one sessions will I have per day?

You can have up to eight  one-to-one sessions per day with your instructor as part of our Super Intensive Package. Our other packages include seven sessions (Intensive), six sessions (Dynamic) and five sessions (Flexible).

If you have between 5 – 7 instructor led sessions per day, your other sessions are carefully directed self-learning tasks set by one of your training team, who then assess the  progress you make during these self-study sessions.

Will I receive a report on my studies?

Yes, all of our students receive a detailed post-course report shortly after they leave Riversdown with recommendations for further study.

What is included in my course fee?

Everything is included, and we will meet you when you arrive at your UK airport. There should be no other significant necessary costs during your stay. Included are:

Personalised learning from 09:00 to 17:00, Monday to Friday, combining face-to-face and guided self-study sessions, depending on the exact course option you select

  • All training materials
  • Free transfers to and from Southampton, Bournemouth, Heathrow or Gatwick airports
  • Private, on-site accommodation with private bathroom, including personal laundry
  • Excellent dining (breakfast, lunch and 3 course dinner with wine)
  • Morning and afternoon social learning breaks with tea, coffee and snacks
  • Wireless internet in all training rooms and bedrooms
  • Access to computer-aided learning systems
  • Online cultural resources at CultureActive
  • Free access to all sporting and leisure facilities
  • Evening social activities (all included in course fee except optional visit to theatre)
  • Full-day excursion on Saturday for clients staying 2 weeks or more
  • Visits to local companies to meet people from your professional area, if appropriate
  • A copy of “When Cultures Collide” by Richard D. Lewis
  • Full end of course report with detailed recommendations for future study
What is the average age of your students?

The majority of our students are senior professionals between the ages of 35 and 60, although we welcome students of all ages over the age of 18.

Who will be my fellow students?

We welcome anyone who wishes to come to study at Riversdown. The majority of our students are international professionals –  senior business executives, politicians, civil servants, academics, VIPs and other private individuals.

The intimate nature of Riversdown House provides you with an excellent opportunity to meet, get to know and network with a variety of fascinating people from all over the world working in all different industries.

Do you take Children or teenagers?

Our minimum age for students is 18 years old.

Can I visit with my partner?

All of our rooms are double rooms so we are usually very happy to accommodate persons who wish to travel to Riversdown with their partner. If they are staying for the whole week and would like to participate in the activities too (which we fully encourage), there is normally a surcharge added to cover overheads. Please contact us for further details.

Can I study languages other than English at Riversdown House?

Yes you can. Although the majority of our students come to study English, Riversdown is also the perfect environment for intensive, one-to-one foreign language study without you having to leave the UK. This is organised on a bespoke basis so please contact us for further information.

In the past we have taught languages as varied as Japanese, French and Arabic on a one-to-one basis.

What nationalities are your students?

Our students come to study at Riversdown from all over the world. We have had students from over 67 different countries.

Can you help me prepare for a specific project?

Absolutely! Every single one of our courses is individually customised according to your requirements. So if you need to prepare for a keynote speech you will deliver at an international conference, we can focus specifically on that during your course.

Is Riversdown House accredited?

Yes, Riversdown House is accredited by the British Council, which offers you an extra, independent assurance of the quality of both your training and the learning environment.

What does British Council Accreditation mean?

Please find below an excerpt from the British Council Accreditation UK 2014/15 handbook available on the British Council Website (http://www.britishcouncil.org/accreditation_uk_handbook_2014-15.pdf

Accreditation UK is a specialist voluntary quality assurance scheme for providers of English language teaching (ELT) services in the UK. The Scheme is open to language schools, home tuition providers, further education and higher education institutions, international study centres and independent schools.

The Scheme operates as a partnership between the British Council and English UK. 

The Scheme was established in its present form in 1996 with the coming together of separate quality assurance schemes for private and state sector providers, which had been set up under the auspices of the British Council in the early 1980s.

The aim of the Scheme is to give an assurance of quality to international students who are studying or planning to study English language in the UK. This is achieved by external inspection, ensuring that providers that are accredited through the Scheme meet agreed quality standards.

These standards are agreed through consultation with accredited providers and the professional association English UK which represents them. Providers that meet Scheme standards are ‘accredited by the British Council’ and should advertise themselves as such using the Accreditation Scheme marque.

British Council accredited providers have a continuing obligation to work to the agreed standards, and make a declaration each year that they are doing so. They are re-inspected every four years, and each year a number of accredited providers, selected at random, undergo an unannounced interim visit.

What is the longest time a student has studied at Riversdown?

We have had students stay with us previously for between six months to a year. In those instances they were usually from countries with little or no English training and they needed to achieve an advanced level of fluency as quickly as possible.

Can I request a specific teacher?

If you are returning to Riversdown again and wish to be taught by a particular trainer then of course (depending on their availability) we will try our best to accommodate your request.

We aim to match you up with a trainer equipped with the specific skills for your learning requirements.

Can I improve my presentation skills?

Yes, this is one of the specialised services we offer to help you improve your professionals skills at the same time as you study English. One exercise is where we film you giving your presentation and then you and your trainer review your delivery step-by-step together.

What level of English do I require to come to Riversdown?

Any level of English is permitted because every single course is individually customised. We regularly have intermediate to advanced learners who want to focus on very specific skills for an individual project and stay for a couple of weeks, but we have also have complete beginners with virtually no English stay for months.

How quickly will I improve through Immersion?

The sincere answer is that progress depends on the individual student. 

What we can tell you is that the immersion learning you receive at Riversdown from our experienced training staff is designed to maximise your potential relative to other learning methods. It will be one of the most (if not the most) intensive, exhausting, but also rewarding learning experiences you will ever have encountered. 

To re-assure you, over 95% of thousands of our students surveyed have rated their course and trainers as “very good” to “excellent” and we have never had a dissatisfied student who has asked for a course refund. If your own course does not meet with your satisfaction we will happily refund the cost of your tuition.

How long is each session?

Your trainer-led classroom sessions are 40 minutes in length, with two ten minute review sessions each day. 

Other providers have one hour sessions, why don’t you?

First of all we have chosen to maintain 40-minute sessions because that is what we believe is the most effective option for your learning and concentration. Immersion learning is already very intense, but there is a limit to how much each individual can absorb each day. 

Secondly, at Riversdown the learning process is continuous throughout the day for more than 12 hours and the formal sessions are only one part of an integrated approach that makes you interact and practise with fellow students and staff all day long. 

Longer sessions are more important with in-company training where you receive isolated sessions once or twice a week and need more time to warm up. At Riversdown you are immersed in learning from when you wake up until you sleep so you are using and practising your language skills all the time.

Finally, if you still want full hour sessions with no breaks – we can certainly arrange that! However we advise you that we have designed your daily timetable based on decades of experience in maximising your learning efficiency and therefore your return on investment. If you want an intensive learning experience then we believe our Super Intensive Course will easily suit your needs. 

Can I decide what to study?

Yes, and we hope you want to too! Our aim at Riversdown is to provide you with a completely customised and responsive learning experience not standardised English 101. Sometimes our students change their mind about what they need to study during the week and our trainers respond immediately to adjust and modify the learning programme.

All of our courses are individually designed and customised for your specific needs. If you feel that any single session has not been well organised or has not been useful for you then we will refund you the cost of that session. 

Our training team will be in touch with you before you arrive with a pre-arrival test and a short phone conversation in order to assess your level of English so we can prepare your course as fully as possible.

We will also be in touch with you and / or your training department to discuss exactly what areas, skills and vocabulary you wish to focus on, and whether you would like to undertake special training in, for instance, negotiations, cross culture or presentation delivery.

Will I have privacy?

Yes. With its secluded location in the English countryside Riversdown provides every student with his or her private room and bathroom. In addition, you have your own individual classroom which is yours alone to use throughout the duration of your course.

Do you teach British or American English?

Our instructors are native English speakers from the UK. However we teach English suitable for any international professional environment so you will be able to use the English you learn all over the world without any problems.

If you wish to acquire specifically American vocabulary then we can easily incorporate that into your individually customised course.

How much English Practice will I get?

You can have up to eight one-to-one instructor led sessions per day.

However that is only one part of the programme. You will be surrounded by English, with the opportunity to practise and interact for over 12 hours each day – at meals with native speakers, during social learning breaks and during evening activities / excursions.

I have very basic English – can I still attend one of your courses?

Yes, of course you can. We have learners of all abilities at Riversdown. Most of our students are of an intermediate ability, but we have had extensive experience with complete beginners too.

Riversdown is an ideal environment to gain both competence and confidence quickly, and your course is entirely customised to your level and abilities.

I already have an advanced level of English. Will I still benefit from a course at Riversdown?

Many of our students have an intermediate to advanced level of English before they arrive.

Because each of our courses is individually customised to your requirements, you can focus exactly on what you need. Our advanced students usually come with specific goals – for instance to improve their presentation skills, price negotiation abilities – or to prepare for a new role where a specific set of vocabulary is required.

We can tailor your course so you can concentrate on the exact areas you need to.

What can I do on Sundays?

If you are staying for more than one week then students usually take Sunday to relax and complete any extra tasks set by their teaching team. For the really energetic, extra lessons are available at the weekend (see details here). We are also happy to help you organise any extra trip or excursion you wish to go on, either accompanied or independently.

In the afternoon new students also begin to arrive and welcome drinks take place at 7:00pm, followed by dinner at 7:30pm, where you will have the opportunity to meet each them.

What is the social programme?

Every evening after dinner a specially structured activity / excursion takes place with one or more native speakers that is designed to encourage students to practise the English they have learned in an informal and relaxed setting at the end of the day. Example activities include cross cultural lectures given by experts, excursions to local historical towns, a trips to the theatre (additional ticket cost).

Is the social programme compulsory?

The social programme is included in your fee and you are certainly encouraged to attend as it is a fundamental part of your immersion experience. However if you do not wish to attend certain activities then that is fine.

Do I have free-time during the day?

Yes, our students usually take some time off in the last half hour of lunch break after their meal with their instructor, before lessons begin again, and from 5pm to 7pm between the end of lessons and the start of dinner. Tasks and homework set by your trainer can be completed during this time. If you wish to have more spare time during the day then you can select a package with fewer instructor-led sessions.

How many teachers will I have?

Each student usually has around three trainers per week, with one acting as your head instructor who specifically monitors your progress and coordinates the activities of your teaching team to make sure your learning programme is smooth and effective.

We use a number of trainers during your course to make sure you are exposed to different styles of English to make your learning experience as stimulating and complete as possible.

Accommodation and Facilities

How old is Riversdown House?

The original manor house was built in the fourteenth century, with foundations resting on the site of an ancient Roman settlement dating back to the first century AD. Some of the spectacular original features of the house including wooden beams can be seen in student rooms such as “Valhalla” and “Pukaro”.

What Sporting / Leisure Facilities are Available?

On the Riversdown Estate you have: 

  • Two all-weather tennis courts
  • 9-hole golf course with six month residency of PGA golf professional, John Harris
  • Gymnasium with multi gym, free weights and cardiovascular machines
  • Bicycles and helmets to tour the surrounding countryside
  • Authentic Finnish-built Sauna
  • Outdoor Swimming pool (summer only)
  • Grass Tennis Court (summer only)

All sporting equipment (golf clubs, tennis rackets etc.) are provided for you to use during your stay free of charge.

We can also arrange horse-riding and various other leisure activities in the surrounding area. Please contact us for further information.

Can I use the facilities if I am not currently a student?

Our facilities are usually reserved for the exclusive use of our students and clients. However, if you are one of our former students then we would be delighted to welcome you back as our guest. Please do contact us ahead of time to check on availability.

For all other enquiries about using Riversdown as an individual, or for corporate seminars please contact us.

Will I have my own private room?

Yes, each student has his or her private room.

Will I have my own bathroom?

Yes all of our sixteen student rooms have their own personal bathroom, with 14 of these being en-suite.

How many students rooms do you have?

We limit our capacity to 16 students per week. This is to ensure that we are able to deliver the best, highly customised and premium learning experience to each individual student, which is simply not possible with larger numbers.

Where do the weekend excursions usually go?

Students decide amongst themselves where they would like to go during the week. Typical destinations include London, Oxford, Bath and Stonehenge. Full day saturday excursions are included for students staying one week or more, however one week students can still attend for an additional fee.

Will I have internet in my room

Yes. All of our bedrooms have free wireless internet (wifi).

Wifi is also available throughout the learning centre and in your individual classroom.


What kind of food do you serve?

We provide a continental breakfast every morning. In addition you are also provided a cooked lunch and dinner is a special three course meal with starter and desert served with wine.

Lunch and dinner are typically European dishes from France, Italy or the UK.

Halal and kosher meals are also available on request and our chefs can also cater to any other dietary requirements if informed in advance.

Are drinks included?

Wine is included every day with dinner for guests who wish to partake. Complimentary drinks are also served for Welcome Drinks on Sunday and Farewell Dinner and Cocktails on Friday at the end of your course. 

In addition, during your study day coffee, tea and juice is freely available in your learning centre.

At other times extra soft drinks, alcoholic drinks and snacks are available for purchase from the bar which is open 24 hours a day in the main house.

Do you serve halal / kosher food?

Yes we do. Our kitchen has a separate Halal fridge and our cooks have been trained in Halal food preparation. We try to  accommodate any dietary, cultural or religious requirements you may have during your stay.

Booking and payment

What do I have to pay extra for?

Your course fee is inclusive and so there should be no other significant expenses during your stay

Occasionally one of the optional social activities is a trip to the cinema or theatre and the extra charge (usually around £10-35) is added to your personal expenses bill payable at the end of your course.

Additional drinks and snacks from the mini-bar at the main house.

Coffee, tea, biscuits and fruit are always freely available. Wine is complimentary and provided every day with a three-course dinner. Cocktails and drinks are also provided for welcoming our new students on Sunday evening and the farewell dinner every Friday.

How much does it cost?

Our course fees vary according to how many private instructor-led sessions you have per day, and whether you choose one-to-one or closed group training. For more information please see our courses and fees page

How do I book a course?

Either contact us and / or fill out an online booking form

For organisations who wish to discuss sending multiple students please send an inquiry form or contact our Business Development Manager, Andrew Birchall.

Travel and Visas

Where is Riversdown House Located?

The Riversdown Estate is about an hour and half south west of London (UK) by car in the South Downs National Park, around 25 mins away from the historic capital of Winchester, which is serviced by regular fast trains from Waterloo Station in London.

How do I reach you?

If you are arriving at Heathrow, Gatwick or Southampton airports a private car will pick you up at the start of your course and return you to the airport after your final day at Riversdown. Transfers to and from these airports are included as complimentary in your course fee.

If you wish to travel to us by train, we can arrange a private pick-up from Winchester or Petersfield stations (both serviced by direct trains from London Waterloo).

Please find a map of our location with driving instructions here

Can you meet me at the airport?

Yes. Private transfers are included in your course fee to and from the major international airports –  Heathrow, Gatwick, Southampton and Bournemouth airports. There is an extra charge for transfers to and from other airports or locations. 

For HR / Training Departments

Do you work with academic institutions?

Yes we do. We have academics coming to Riversdown from a number of higher learning institutions around the world. Our small group courses are usually very popular. 

Please contact us to discuss your situation and how we may be able to help you

Do you have confidentiality agreements?

Yes we do. We regularly have VIPs who want to maintain a low profile to help them concentrate on their studies at Riversdown. Our country estate’s secluded environment is perfect for maximising your privacy and comfort. Please rest assured that your privacy is our utmost concern.

Cross Culture

Where can I buy Richard Lewis’ books on Cross Culture?

They can be purchased here, or through online stores such as Amazon. Several books, including When Cultures Collide and Fish Can’t see Water are also available on Amazon Kindle.

Are you available for in-company training?

Yes. Together with our team of internal trainers and extensive network of licensed partners we deliver a wide range of in-company executive and team training as well as larger seminars and training courses. Please contact us for availability and to discuss your particular needs.

Still need help deciding?

What Now

If you have all the information you need you can book your course with us below.

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