If you’re thinking about going to university, you’ll have realised that there are a wide range of different programmes you can take. Some of your options include the typical 3-year degree, an HNC, an HND and even an integrated master’s degree and so many more. You might have even come across the term foundation year.
Foundation years are often talked about a lot less in comparison to other university programmes and as a result, students can often feel confused about what foundations years actually are and uncertain about whether or not they’re right for them. Not to worry, in this article we’ll take you through everything you need to know about foundation years and whether they will be the right choice for you.
Continue reading to learn more about what foundation years are, what you do in them and whether or not they’ll be worth taking for you. This article will take you through everything from their entry requirements to the costs involved and other little technicalities.
Table of Contents
What is a foundation year?
If you’re looking into whether a foundation year will be right for you or not, it’s important that you know all the facts to help you make your decision. The first step in doing this to fully know what a foundation year actually is.
A foundation year is very simply a year of university study that study that is taken before students do their actual degree at university. This foundation year will typically be an integrated part of your bachelor’s degree programme and so on completing it, students would then go on to study their full degree at the same university.
Although in some cases, students may be able to take a stand-alone foundation year or may even be able to change university after completing their foundation year.
The idea behind a foundation year is that it is designed to prepare students for studying at university level. Due to this, a foundation year is aimed at certain types of students, such as ones who didn’t meet the grade requirements to go straight onto the bachelor’s degree, students that have been out of education for a while as well as ones that aren’t too sure about university study.
You can learn more about what a foundation year is and who it was designed for by checking out this page on Arden University’s website.
What do you do in a foundation year?
As previously mentioned, a foundation year is designed to help you prepare for university level study. However, you might be wondering how it actually goes about doing this.
During a foundation year, students will typically take modules in a similar way to how they would during a bachelor’s degree. For a foundation year, as well as a bachelor’s degree, students need to get 120 credits for the year.
This is done by taking and passing modules, which will have credits attributed to them, allowing them to get 120 in total. You can learn more about how credits work at university by checking out this Think Student article.
While a foundation year is structured quite similarly to a year of a bachelor’s degree, the content itself is a lot more noticeably different. During a foundation year, the modules are more general than the specific degree area that they will go onto study.
These modules will typically be focused on building the student’s skills for university study. This is particularly in areas such as essay writing, data handling and mathematical skills and students may even be required to take on their own extended essay or independent project.
While it will depend on the university, the student may also do general modules based on the subject area of their degree. For example, if they are planning to do maths or a STEM related degree, they may be able to do foundation modules in programming and sciences. Whereas, if they were planning to progress onto an English degree, they may take foundation modules in the humanities or for critical thinking and analysis.
You can learn more about what is involved in a foundation year by checking out this Think Student article.
Is it hard to get into a foundation year UK?
Foundation years were designed for students, who aren’t quite ready for university study, to prepare them for a full degree. As a result, foundation years are easier to get into than it would be for a full degree in terms of their entry requirements.
The exact grades or UCAS points required for you to get into the course will fully depend on the university. For example, Manchester Metropolitan University typically requires students to have at least 72- 80 UCAS points. Whereas the University of Cambridge requires students to have 120 UCAS points.
Another factor that can determine if you can get into a foundation year is whether you meet the eligibility. Some universities will particularly focus their foundation year courses on students who have education disadvantage or faced some kind of educational disruption. In some ways, this can make it harder to get into a foundation year like this as you will need to meet the eligibility requirements.
For more information about the eligibility and entry requirements for a foundation year, check out this page on the University of Cambridge’s website. For more information about Manchester Metropolitan University’s entry requirements, look at this page on their website.
Is a foundation year harder than A-Levels?
As previously mentioned, a foundation year is a course that’s designed to prepare students for university study. However, you might be wondering how it compares to A-Levels and other post-16 courses, such as the Cambridge Pre-U qualifications, which also help to prepare students for university study.
One of the main ways in comparing these different qualifications is to try and determine which one is “harder”. To do this, we can compare them in terms of the level of these qualifications.
Post-16 qualifications, such as an A-Levels, BTECs, T-Levels, the Cambridge Pre-U qualifications and others are generally level 3 qualifications. At this level, these qualifications are forms of further education. You can learn more about further education in this Think Student article.
Despite being typically done at university, a foundation year will normally be a level 3 course. This makes it equivalent to A-Levels and other qualifications like this.
Therefore, it could be argued that a foundation year is just as hard as A-Levels, particularly when comparing their levels.
However, some universities may offer their foundation year programmes at level 4. For example, the University of Oxford states that students can receive a certificate of higher education (CertHE) on completing their foundation year course if they wish to study elsewhere.
In the UK, certificates of higher education are level 4 qualifications and would normally be the equivalent of the first year of a bachelor’s degree. To learn more about certificates of higher education, check out this Think Student article.
In this case, the foundation year at the University of Oxford is harder than A-Levels, in terms of level, especially as you have the opportunity to get a separate qualification from it. For more information about the University of Oxford’s foundation year course, check out this page on their website.
If you would like to learn more about what qualification level a foundation year is, check out this guide by the University of Surrey.
Are foundation years free?
As we’ve already looked at in this article, foundation years are typically at the same level as A-Levels. Due to this, you might be wondering if they are also free for students to take.
Foundation years count as a form of further education as they are level 3 qualifications and due to this, they are free if you take them when you are under the age of 19. However, this only applies if you take the foundation year as a separate course to a degree.
If you do the integrated foundation year with the degree, you won’t be able to get to do it for free. This is because the full degree programme is a form of higher education, which is not generally free.
However, you will still be able to apply for student finance within this year. Also, you might find that some universities offer lower fees or additional bursaries to help you with this year.
Is it worth doing a foundation year?
Now that we’ve looked at what all this important information relating to foundation years, we can now look at the pros and cons of taking a foundation year that important to consider when deciding if you should take one. The following advantages and disadvantages are based off information that we have already looked at in this article.
|Advantages of a foundation year||Disadvantages of a foundation year|
|Foundation years allow you to go to university even if you didn’t meet the entry requirements for the standard course.||Foundation years are an extra year of university so it will take longer to finish your degree.|
|Foundation years can give students more confidence and the essential skills needed for university study.||Foundation years will increase your student debt if taken as a part of a full degree.|
|Foundation years can be free if taken separately to a degree.|
|Foundation years may give students a separate qualification on completion of the course at some universities or higher education providers.|
As you can see, there are considerably more advantages of taking a foundation year than disadvantages. This would suggest that yes, doing a foundation year is worth it.
However, it is important to remember that this decision is purely up to you and deciding whether or not doing a foundation year will be worth it will depend on your situation and what your goals are.