The English language needs of students in teacher education programmes have become an issue of concern. There has been an increase in the numbers of local and international students, the range of their backgrounds and the diversity of their language needs. This paper explores the question of what constitutes effective English language support for students, focusing on the development of provision for a group of 110 overseas-trained teachers undertaking teacher education at the University of Sydney between 1999 and 2002. Data are drawn from focus group interviews, semi-structured interviews with students and staff and student learning journals. The paper proposes an integrated and flexible model of English language support involving content-based units, tutoring/mentoring programmes and self-directed study. Such a model may be useful for English language support for different groups of English as a second language (ESL) students in other contexts at tertiary and secondary levels.