At university, there are a range of different courses that you can study. Some of these will be independent courses, whereas other are a part of another programme, such as a degree. This is the case for foundation year courses.
However, while it’s well and good knowing that a foundation year is part of a degree programme, it’s a different story when trying to figure out what students actually do during one. In this article, we’ll look at exactly that.
In short, in a foundation year, students take more general modules to prepare them for university study. This may include modules that teach students about essay writing skills, basic mathematics skills and data handling skills. It may also include modules, where students are to take on their own project or extended essays.
Other than more general modules, students also take modules that are more specific to their subject area. These will often be in the form of introductory subject modules.
Continue reading to gain a better insight into foundation year courses and what students actually do during them. This article will show you the difference between what’s involved in foundation year courses and other courses that can be studied at university, such as actual degrees or even foundation degrees.
Table of Contents
What is a foundation year?
The first step to understand what students actually do during a foundation year is to understand what one actually is. It isn’t just its literally definition that we need to look at but also the purpose and use of these courses.
Simply put, a foundation year is an extra year of study at the beginning of a bachelor’s degree course. A foundation year is often a part of a bachelor’s degree programme and will typically lead directly onto a full bachelor’s degree at the same university. However, it might be possible for students to transfer to a different university after the foundation year course has finished.
The purpose of a foundation year course is to prepare students for a full bachelor’s degree. This is particularly for students, who didn’t quite meet the entry requirements for the degree that they’re interested in, students, who have been out of education for a while or students, who are unsure about university study.
For more information about foundation years, check out this guide on the Arden University website.
What do you do in a foundation year?
As previously mentioned, foundation years are designed to prepare students for undergraduate study. As a result, what a student actually does in their foundation year is meant to reflect this.
Due to the foundation year programme being designed for a different purpose, there are still some quite obvious differences. This is particularly to do with what students are actually studying during this year.
Unlike for a bachelor’s degree, a foundation year course will typically involve students taking modules that are not specific to their degree area. Instead, these modules will generally be focused on helping them to build up essential skills needed for university study.
This can include modules, such as ones to improve essay writing skills, basic mathematical skills and data handling skills. It also might include modules, where students are taking on their own independent project or extended essay to complete.
While the foundation year won’t exactly be specific to the full bachelor’s degree that the student will go onto study, it will typically still build students up with specific skills and modules to improve ability understanding for the full degree. For example, for a Maths degree programme, on their foundation year, the student will most likely do some foundation maths modules, as well as other foundation modules in related areas such as, sciences or programming.
Alternatively, for an English degree programme foundation year, the modules are likely to be more focused on developing students critical thinking and analytical skills. However, it’s important to note that each university will have their own way of running these foundation year programmes.
Due to this, you may find that at some universities, the set up both in structure and content is entirely different to what has been described here. Please only take this as an overview of what universities do for foundation year courses rather than an exact guide.
Look at this page from Royal Holloway University for more on the content involved in different foundation year programmes.
How is a foundation year structured?
As previously mentioned, a foundation year will typically be a sort of preliminary year that is integrated into a bachelor’s degree programme. While this describes the structure of the whole bachelor’s degree with a foundation year programme, let’s dive into the structure of the foundation year itself.
Foundation years are typically structured in quite a similar way to bachelor’s degrees. By this, I mean that they are split up into modules, which will have credits attributed to them. The exact structure of the foundation year will vary depending on the university and the subject area of the degree programme that you are planning to go onto, as mentioned above.
While the structure can be fairly similar to that of a regular bachelor’s degree year with the main difference being the content, another significant difference in structure is how the course is run. For bachelor’s degrees, the course will be run by the department in charge of your subject area.
Whereas, for a foundation year, this course may be run by a separate department to the subject area that you will progress to. For example, for the University of Sheffield, foundation years are run by the Department of Lifelong Learning.
For more information about this, check out this page on the University of Sheffield’s website. You can also find out more about how credits on a foundation year work in the section below.
How many credits do you need for a foundation year?
At university, credits are something you need to earn in order to pass each academic year of your course. Students can earn credits by passing modules, as each of these modules will have a certain number of credits attributed to them.
In the UK, students will typically need to achieve 120 credits each academic year of their undergraduate degree. However, as we have already established, a foundation year works slightly differently from the typical year of a degree at university.
Despite this, for a foundation year, students will still need to gain 120 credits for this year of their course. As previously mentioned, this is done through students passing modules that they take during this foundation year.
You can learn more about just how many credits students need for a foundation year by clicking on this guide by the University of Surrey. Also, if you’re interested in learning more about university credits and how they work, check out this Think Student article.
Is a foundation year the same as a foundation degree?
There is often a lot of confusion between the terms foundation year and foundation degree and at times they may even be mixed up due to sounding so similar. In fact, one of the main questions people often have relating to these terms is whether they are the same thing or not.
However, a foundation year is not actually the same thing as a foundation degree. Instead, a foundation degree is a separate, standalone qualification, in comparison to a foundation year typically being an integrated part of a bachelor’s degree.
Look at the following sections to get more information about what foundation degrees are and more on how they are different from foundation years.
What is a foundation degree?
A foundation degree is a type of undergraduate degree programme that students can take at university. Foundation degrees were designed to allow students to undertake a placement in the workplace alongside their university studies, making it a more vocational qualification.
Unlike other qualifications, such as an apprenticeship, students will typically spend the majority of their course studying at university, although the exact split depends on the university and the course.
Although it is still a type of undergraduate degree, a foundation degree is only a level 5 qualification. This means that it is at a lower level than a typical bachelor’s degree, which is a level 6 qualification.
Also, unlike the typical bachelor’s degree programme, a foundation degree will only last 2 years if taken full-time. If taken part-time it may last about 3 or 4 years.
If you would like to get more information about what foundation degrees are, you can check out this Think Student article.
What is the difference between a foundation year and a foundation degree?
While the terms foundation year and foundation degree may sound very similar, they are actually very different qualifications. Having learnt what a foundation degree actually is, we can now properly dive into what these differences are.
|Foundation year||Foundation degree|
|Level||Level 3 qualification||Level 5 qualification|
|Length||1 year (2 years, part-time)||2 years (3-4 years, part-time)|
|Description||Prepares students for a degree by teaching skills and introductory modules.||Type of undergraduate degree that combines university study with a work placement.|
|Cost||Free (for 17- 19-year-olds, if separate)||£9,250|
As shown in the table, a foundation year will typically be at level 3. This would make it a form of further education and equivalent to other qualifications, such as A-Levels or Highers, rather than a form of higher education and equivalent to other degree-level qualifications.
However, there are some exceptions to this. For example, at the University of Oxford, on completing their foundation year, students can receive a certificate of higher education (CertHE) to allow them to study elsewhere.
Unlike a typical foundation year, a CertHE is a level 4 qualification, making it a form of higher education. You can learn more about CertHE qualifications, by looking at this Think Student article.
If you would like to learn more about the University of Oxford’s foundation year, check out this page on their website. For more information about what level a foundation year is, check out this guide by the University of Surrey.
Another thing that may need a little more explanation is that the foundation year course is free. This is only the case if you do the foundation year separately to your degree. In this case, as a level 3 qualification, your foundation year will count as a form of further education and so as long as you are under the age of 19, you won’t have to pay.
However, you will still have to the typical tuition fee loans if you do it as part of your full degree. This is because it is technically a form of higher education as you will go on to do a full degree.
However, it might be possible to get an extra bursary for this year or lower fees. It’s important to note that this will fully depend on the university.
To learn more about whether a foundation year is free, look at this article by Bright Knowledge.