In the UK, there are almost too many qualifications to keep track of. The government has a levelling system in place to allow students to keep track of which qualifications are available to them and when. However, there will still be courses you’ve never heard of before. A great example of this is the foundation degree.
A foundation degree is a degree programme which is spread over just two years. It involves students splitting their time between working in the industry and studying at the university. As it is only two years long, the foundation degree is not worth as much as a full bachelor’s degree. This is why it is known as a Level 5 qualification, as opposed to a bachelor’s degree is, which is counted as a Level 6.
For more information about what a foundation degree is, what it is equivalent to and how you can fund your studies as a foundation degree student, keep reading.
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What level is a foundation degree?
A foundation degree is designed to teach students certain skills which will be useful for both studying and working in the industry. They are created through discussions between universities and employers.
Foundation degrees are not the same as a foundation year. As the name suggests, a foundation year takes a single year to complete and is equivalent to Level 4 education. You can read more information about what Level 4 education is in this Think Student article.
On the other hand, a foundation degree takes two years, as long as you study the course full-time. It counts as Level 5 education in the UK. This article from the government website goes into further detail about what each level means.
What is a foundation degree equivalent to?
Foundation degrees are part of Level 5 education, which is equivalent to the first two years of a degree. When taking a foundation degree, you will have learnt most of the same material which makes up two-thirds of a real bachelor’s degree.
There are several qualifications in the UK which the government recognises as being part of Level 5 education. Some of the courses listed include BTEC awards, certificates and diplomas, and the higher national diploma.
It’s important to note that the level of a qualification does not denote how long it takes to complete. It refers to the difficulty level of what you’re studying. For example, the BTEC award and BTEC diploma are the same level of difficulty. However, they have different weightings due to the amount of time each takes to study.
A foundation degree works as a stand-alone qualification recognised by employers. However, it can also be a platform to allow you to progress into a full, three-year degree. This is why the content in a foundation degree and the first two years of university is very similar.
For more details about what a foundation degree is and the other qualifications it’s equivalent to, check out this article from Prospects.
Who are foundation degrees suited to?
Foundation degrees are perfect for students looking to keep their options open. The structure of a foundation degree means that you combine time in the workplace with your studies at university. This then allows you to choose whether you want to continue working or finish the bachelor’s degree.
Having the skills to study and a specific skillset related to a certain industry workplace also looks really great on your CV. It’s important for employers to see that you’re committed to the subject area. However, they also love to see students with experience in the workplace as they will require less training than other candidates.
Foundation degrees are designed for students who have recently finished their A-Levels. The required grades for students looking at foundation degrees are generally lower than for those looking at three-year degrees.
This is why, lots of the time, foundation degrees are an option for those who have not received the grades they were hoping for after A-Levels. You must be at least 18 years old to undertake an undergraduate degree. Although you can be older, the grade requirements for mature students are different. Therefore, generally, those who are older opt for the bachelor’s degree straight away.
Check out this Think Student article to find out more about what age you can take an undergraduate degree.
How long is a foundation degree?
As previously mentioned, a foundation degree takes two years to complete if the course is taken full-time, which you can read more about here. However, the degree can also be taken part-time. Depending on the course you’re looking at, a part-time foundation degree can take between 3 and 4 years.
This is useful for students who want the time to earn some extra money through a part-time job during their foundation degree. Some people also have other personal commitments such as taking care of family. Doing a part-time degree allows you to find a balance between your studies and the other elements of your life.
The full degree takes two years, but there are two components to the course. You must take both a work placement and studies at university. However, the course is not usually split exactly in half, although this depends on where you choose to study.
As one example, the University of Greenwich’s civil engineering foundation degree contains 120 credits worth of modules each year. They state that 30 credits of this 120 are based in the workplace. The remaining 70% of the course is spent learning at the university. You can see the structure of this degree here on the University website.
Are foundation degrees free?
Unfortunately, foundation degrees are not free of charge. This is one of the main differences between a foundation degree and a foundation year. When taking a foundation year, the university is happy to let anyone aged 17-19 learn without paying. This is because the course is only a taster, and the student will then pay for a full bachelor’s degree after completing the foundation year.
However, when taking a foundation degree, you are learning in the same way as another paying student is. The only difference is that some modules are replaced by workplace tasks, and the degree is a year shorter.
For this reason, the tuition fees for a foundation degree are the same as any other degree. For 2022 entry to university, tuition fees stand at £9250 per year, which you can read more about in this Think Student article.
Alongside the cost of the degree itself, you’ll also have to pay for the additional cost of accommodation. There will, of course, be the cost of living to factor in. This includes essentials such as heat, light and food which you need to pay for.
Do you get paid for a foundation degree?
Although you are in a workplace, you will not be paid whilst taking a foundation degree. The only time students ever receive payment for working whilst studying is during an apprenticeship. T-Level, foundation degree and work experience students are all not paid because it costs the company money to take them on.
However, it is vital to be earning some kind of income whilst studying, as it allows you to pay for the essentials. You could get a part-time job in your spare time, which is the option most students tend to choose.
Alternatively, if you need to be earning a particularly substantial sum of money, you could study part-time. This frees up some time to allow you to work hours earning a decent wage whilst also continuing to study.
Can you get a student loan for a foundation degree?
Although you have to pay for your course, you do have the opportunity to receive student finance in order to cover the cost. If you’re studying full-time and this is your first degree, you will be eligible to receive the full £9250 for your tuition through a tuition loan. This covers the cost of your education.
For more information about who is eligible for a tuition loan, have a look at this article from UCAS. If you want to calculate the tuition loan you’re eligible for, take a look at the government finance calculator.
If you’re studying for a foundation degree, you’ll also be able to receive a maintenance loan. This is used to cover all the costs outside your studies. Most students use the money to pay for their accommodation, weekly food shops and other essentials. You can choose to spend the maintenance loan however you want.
The amount you receive in maintenance loans depends on several factors. This includes your household income, where you’re planning on studying and whether you’ll be living at home or not. Have a look at this UCAS page for everything you might need to know about university fees and funding.
In order to receive the money, however, you need to apply to student finance. You can start applying from March the year of your course start date, which you can read more about here. You must apply before the deadline, which is approximately nine months after your course’s start date. For more information about what student finance is and when to apply, have a look at this article.