Our Diploma Programme (16 to 19 years)

Our Diploma Programme (DP) is a challenging two-year course for 16–19-year-olds that is the gold standard of international education.

The aim of the DP is to equip students with all the necessary skills and qualities to study at the world’s top universities and fulfil all their personal and academic potential.

This is achieved through an absorbing and holistic curriculum that’s focused on expanding knowledge, developing critical thinking skills and helping creativity and individuality flourish.

The DP curriculum comprises of:

  • Studying six courses from six subject areas: three at Higher Level (HL) and three at Standard Level (SL)
  • Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) activities
  • A critical thinking course entitled Theory of Knowledge (ToK)
  • An extended essay of about 4,000 words

Some questions you may have

The DP is studied at the Conway Street and Cleveland Street sites of our Westminster campus.

Both of these sites offer excellent facilities and resources, including well-equipped IT labs, science labs, art and music rooms, a design technology lab, and much more.

Because of the superb locations of the sites, students can also make the most of what the surrounding areas have to offer, including world-class museums, art galleries, theatres, parks, historic buildings and much more.

Visit our Westminster campus page for further details.

A Diploma student’s day starts with registration at 8.40 and typically finishes at 16.10, although some classes do run until 17.00. During this time, students have a lunch hour at either 12.50 or 13.40.

Typically, every day features six periods, with each one lasting 50 minutes. These periods are occupied with lessons, although a student may have some free periods during the week.

The size of our DP classes is typically between 5 to 16 students. We believe this small class size optimises the teaching and learning experience, and encourages students to speak more confidently and freely, and collaborate more.

The DP features six subject areas:

  • Studies in Language and Literature
  • Language Acquisition
  • Individuals and Societies
  • Experimental Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • The Arts

From these subject areas, a student must pick six specific courses to study (three at standard level and three at higher level). This selection needs to be either:

  • one course from each of the six subject areas
  • one course from four of the subject areas and two courses from one of the other areas, as long as this selection meets the requirements of the International Baccalaureate.

For full descriptions of all the courses that a DP student can study, please take a look at our Upper Seniors curriculum guide.

Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) activities require a student to dedicate time to creative projects, physical activity or voluntary work. You can find out more about this in our CAS section.

Theory of Knowledge explores the foundations of knowledge and introduces students to university-level critical thinking.

This involves students reflecting on the nature of knowledge, and on how we know what we claim to know. The course is assessed through an oral presentation and a 1,600-word essay.


The extended essay is an independent, self-directed piece of research, finishing with a 4,000-word paper. A student largely writes it during the second semester of Grade 11 through to the end of the September of Grade 12.

We offer over 20 languages at Diploma level. These include Arabic, Chinese, Danish, English, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish. We also may be able to offer other required languages.

Find out more in our Languages section.

Throughout the year, DP students have a wide range of extra-curricular activities to get involved in. After every one of our three school terms, students can then change their choices if they want to. This is so they can sample as many of our free clubs as possible and mix with a wider range of students.

Some of the extra-curricular activities we may offer are:

Biomedical society                           Concert band                           Debate club

Environment club Network             Global Issues                           Model United Nations

Open choir                                        Physics club                              School Production

Student newspaper                         Wine society                             Yearbook club


Find out more in our Extra-curricular activities section.

We offer DP students many opportunities to practise and compete in a wide range of sports. These include:

Athletics           Badminton       Basketball

Climbing           Football            Golf

Softball             Tennis                Volleyball

Find out more in our Extra-curricular activities section.

We have recruited outstanding Diploma Programme teachers from around the world who encourage a global perspective and educational adventure.

They also place great importance on assessing the individual needs of each student and providing the tailored academic and personal support they need.

Each of the six subjects studied in the Diploma Programme is marked out of seven, meaning a student can receive a maximum of 42 points for the subjects they study.

Students can also earn up to three extra points for their extended essay and the Theory of Knowledge element of their studies.

Overall, an IB diploma is awarded to students who score at least 24 points out of the 45 points available.

Visit our Admissions section for comprehensive information about applying for a place at Southbank. You can also contact our Admissions team on admissions@southbank.org or +44 (0)20 7243 3803 if you have any questions.

Universities in the UK and around the world compare the IB Diploma Programme very favourably against A-levels.

This is because students study a holistic curriculum that helps them to be reflective, internationally minded, well-rounded and at ease with critical thinking.

In addition, the Diploma Programme is widely recognised as being harder than A-levels, and there’s much less evidence of grade inflation in its results.

As a result, many Southbank students have gone on to successfully apply for places at highly respected universities in the UK, North America and the rest of the world.

Find out more about what makes the International Baccalaureate curriculum so special.

Learn more about the university destinations of our Diploma Programme students

IB Diploma Programme scholarship


The aim of our scholarship is to enable a talented student to pursue the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at Southbank. It is a two-year award, dependent on a student’s sustained performance and progression, beginning in Grade 11 and finishing in Grade 12 when the student graduates.

For more information about the scholarship and how to apply for it, please visit our Milton Toubkin Scholarship page.

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