Your Go-To Guide to Foundation Courses UK


  1. What is a foundation course?
  2. Are foundation courses a good option?
  3. Alternative options to consider
  4. What are the requirements for a foundation course?
  5. Is a foundation course worth it?
  6. Are foundation courses free?
  7. Where can I study a foundation course?
  8. How can I decide what to do after secondary school?

There are plenty of routes to go down after finishing secondary school. Some of you may have your sights set on one of the top universities in the UK, while others may be keen to study abroad or take on a flexible online course

If you’re currently establishing your path moving forward, foundation courses may have come up as you look into your options. You may be wondering what a foundation year is, and what a foundation year is like for students…

In this article, we’ll give you an overview of what foundation courses are all about, and help you determine whether a foundation course at a UK university or college may be a good option for you.pc-study-keyboard

What is a foundation course?


A foundation course is a year-long preparation course to be completed before starting a degree in the UK. Foundation courses are commonly undertaken by British and international students looking to build a foundation before starting an undergraduate course at a UK university.

University foundation programs provide additional preparation for young people in terms of academic understanding and knowledge, essentially offering a fast-track route to undergraduate degree studies. For international students who would like to start a degree in the UK, taking on a foundation course at a British university or college may be necessary. 🏫

However, foundation courses aren’t just for internationals hoping to secure a place at a UK undergraduate course. Studying foundation courses at university is also relevant to students from the UK who didn’t achieve high enough results on their A-levels to gain entry to a degree at one of their desired universities.

While many school-leavers with lower grades will still be able to secure a spot at a college or university in the UK, taking on a foundation year will increase their chances of receiving offers from a better university. This way, studying a foundation course is an investment, offering students access to a wider range of institutions and better job prospects after graduation. 👔

You may be wondering, “what is a foundation degree worth?”. Well, foundation courses provide the necessary qualification to gain entry to a wide range of undergraduate degrees at universities and colleges around the UK. 

Foundation courses are different from foundation degrees which are standalone qualifications that take around 2 years, combining the development of workplace skills with academic learning. 


Are foundation courses a good option?


Foundation courses in universities are a great option for young people who require some extra preparation before taking on an undergraduate degree, whether you’re an international student for whom a foundation course is required or whether you’re a British student hoping to improve your academic output prior to taking on a degree. 

UK foundation courses are well-suited for international students who have completed their high school exams but have had less than 13 years of education in total, and who are keen to begin their first degree in the UK. These foundation programmes are primarily aimed at young people who have spent their time as pupils studying a curriculum that isn’t British, but who would now like to pursue a degree at a university in the UK. 🗺️

For international students

For international students, completing a year-long foundation course will ensure that you fulfil the requirements for entry to a UK undergraduate degree. A foundation course will plug any gaps in your academic knowledge, help you improve your English language skills and give you a better understanding of British culture ahead of your longer-term university degree at a UK establishment. 

For British students

If you are a British student who is finishing or has already finished secondary school, a foundation course may also be a good option to help you gain entry to the undergraduate degree of your choice and set you up for success. If you haven’t done as well as you had hoped in your A-levels or changed your mind about the direction you’d like to take, doing a year-long foundation course will ensure that you can get straight onto your chosen degree afterwards. 

For older students

Foundation courses are also suitable for older people who left secondary school years ago, and who lack the qualifications required for entry to the undergraduate degree they’d like to start. By taking on a foundation year, they will be able to refresh their academic knowledge and understanding, plug any knowledge gaps, and gain the necessary qualification to go on to study an undergraduate course at a UK university. 💻


Alternative options to consider


Foundation courses are a great route for some young people to take, but keep in mind that you may be interested in doing something else. An apprenticeship is a great alternative to going to university, allowing you to work towards a degree while earning money and gaining important work experience. For entrepreneurial spirits, the Young Enterprise Scheme is a great qualification supporting secondary learning. 

Some school-leavers may be keen to attend one of the best universities in the world, while others may want to take on a gap year to have a chance to travel, work or gain a better understanding of what path they’d like to take moving forward. It is important that you choose the best option for you.

An important step is to consider what you’d be most interested in, to research the many different options available, and to seek support and guidance from teachers and parents. 🎓


What are the requirements for a foundation course? 


The entry requirements for a foundation year depend on the individual circumstances of the student and their preferred degree and location. 

For students in the UK who would like to undertake a foundation course in order to live up to their academic potential, the entry requirements are fairly flexible without too many formal qualifications. For mature students and people who have missed out on schooling due to health reasons or any other issue, it’s usually possible to gain entry to a foundation course even if certain qualifications haven’t been achieved. 

For international students hoping to take on a foundations study program in the UK, the entry requirements for foundation courses are more formal. The requirements non-UK students will need to fulfil will depend on what they’d like to study and what institution they’re hoping to attend. 📋

In general, the entry requirements and documentation that the applicant will need to submit include the following: 

  • A minimum IELTS score of 4.5 or equivalent 
  • Certificate from higher secondary school 
  • Transcripts from higher secondary school
  • A reference letter from one of your secondary school teachers 
  • A personal statement
  • A scanned copy of your passport and visa (if required)

Young people from non-English speaking countries who don’t have any formal qualifications for the English language may need to complete a language course before they can start a foundation course in the UK. 

For international students who need to improve their English before starting their foundation course, or would like to work on their English skills as they go through their foundation year, online tutoring may be helpful. At GoStudent, we have a number of great tutors available who can help foreign students develop their English reading, writing, speaking and listening skills – no matter their level and ability. 


Is a foundation course worth it?


Hopefully, you’ve gained a better understanding of what foundation courses are all about, but you may find yourself wondering, “is a foundation year worth it?”. 

There are several benefits of doing a foundation year. If you are a British student looking to build on your existing knowledge, skills and grades in order to secure spots at universities, studying a foundation course is a fast track to a better degree. 

If you are an international student looking to secure a place at a UK undergraduate degree course, a foundation course may be a necessary step in your academic journey. 

A clear advantage to foundation courses is the fact that there are a number of different types of foundation courses available. UK foundation courses can prepare you for a range of different subjects, such as business, law, art and design, engineering, medicine and humanities. 

A foundation program will offer you the chance to build on your knowledge during the foundation year, meaning that you’ll be better prepared for the degree you’re keen to begin afterwards. ✔️

A UK university foundation programme can help you create a path towards the degree or institution you’d like to attend. Some providers of foundation courses have well-established partnerships with a range of different universities and other institutions, allowing for a clear progression path to your desired university. 

The potential disadvantages of a foundation year include the added cost as well as the time required to complete the course. If you are keen to get started with a course and would prefer not to add a year to your studies, opting for a course you can go right into may be a better option – for example at your local college or starting an online course independently.

However, for many, taking on a foundation course will be a fantastic investment in order to gain entry to a higher-quality degree at a university of their choice. ☝️

Studying a foundation course represents laying the foundations of future academic success. The year-long course may secure you a spot at a better institution, help you perform better on your course, and ultimately achieve better qualifications at the end of your degree – meaning your job prospects upon graduation will be better too. 


Are foundation courses free?


Those who are interested in taking on a foundation course may be asking themselves, “are foundation courses free?” Finances are an important part of planning future studies, so doing some research to determine the cost of the foundation course that may be relevant to you is a key step. 

The cost of a foundation year will depend on a few things. If you are under the age of 19 and taking on a foundation course at a UK sixth form or college, this will usually be classed as further education. This means that you won’t have to pay any fees on the foundation programme, but it also means that you won’t be eligible for any additional financial support.

If your foundation year will be part of a longer degree, you will need to pay an extra year of tuition – though some universities charge lower fees for foundation years. However, you can take out student loans for the full four years of your degree, including a foundation year. You can also enquire to the university or institution you’re interested in attending to find out whether there are bursaries or other support schemes available that may help with the cost. 💰


Where can I study a foundation course?


There are a number of universities offering foundation courses in the UK, so there are plenty of options depending on what establishment you’d like to attend and where you’d like to be based. 

Here are some of the UK universities and institutions offering foundation courses: 

  • Bath Academy
  • Bell Cambridge
  • Bellerbys College
  • University of Buckingham
  • Brooke House College
  • Cambridge Education Group
  • Cambridge Seminars College
  • Central College Nottingham
  • Chelsea Independent College
  • Coventry University
  • David Game College
  • De Montfort University
  • University of Edinburgh
  • Edge Hill University
  • INTO
  • Kaplan International Pathways
  • King's College London
  • Kings Education
  • London South Bank University
  • London Metropolitan University
  • Loughborough College
  • Loughborough University
  • Oxford Brookes University
  • Queen Mary, University of London
  • University of Salford
  • Sheffield Hallam University
  • SOAS University of London
  • University of St Andrews
  • St Clare's Oxford
  • Study Group
  • University of Westminster
  • University Foundation Programme

If you’re interested in studying a foundation course, it’s a great idea to do some research to determine what programmes or institutions may be best suited to you depending on where you’d like to be based and your goals for the future. There are many great options available! 


How can I decide what to do after secondary school? 


If you are still considering your options for what path to take, you may appreciate some guidance. There are plenty of routes available, and some of you may be wondering whether university is right for you at all. 

Reaching the end of your time at secondary school can be a stressful period, with lots of coursework to do in order to finish your studies. Alongside the coursework, you’re also looking ahead and planning what to do in the future, and awaiting the results of their exams or A-levels. 

Most young people appreciate their parents’ guidance and support in making these big decisions that will shape their future lives and career, but the decision on what to do is ultimately yours. Though your parents will have your best interest at heart, ultimately this big decision is yours to make.