What is a Foundation Degree?

If you’ve finished your A Levels or equivalent qualification, or are about to do so, a Foundation Degree combines academic and vocational study. Find out more.

In this series, we’re creating detailed guides to the different kinds of qualifications you can take. We hope to get rid of some of the confusion and break it down so you can make an informed, confident, and stress-free choice about what is right for you.

Today, we’re going to learn all about Foundation Degrees.

What is a Foundation Degree?

A Foundation Degree is a higher education qualification. Foundation Degrees were introduced in the UK in 2001 and are offered throughout the UK by both colleges and universities with degree awarding powers, and by colleges and employers who offer courses validated by universities.

How is it different from a full degree?

A Foundation Degree differs from a full degree in two main ways.

The first is that a Foundation Degree is a shorter course, taking two years full time (a full degree is usually three years.) The resulting qualification is worth the equivalent of two-thirds of a standard Bachelor’s degree.

The second difference is that a Foundation Degree is a combination of academic and vocational study. Unlike Bachelor’s degrees, which can be purely academic, a Foundation Degree always includes a practical and vocational element which is designed to train you towards a specific job or career path.

What kinds of subjects can I study?

There are numerous Foundation Degree subjects. In general, they are vocational and career-oriented in nature. Some of the most popular Foundation Degree courses you can study include:

  • Hospitality, leisure, sport, and tourism
  • Business
  • Drama and performing arts
  • Design
  • Social work
  • Nursing

This is by no means an exhaustive list. You can use WhatUni’s course finder to find something that appeals to you.

How much does a Foundation Degree cost and where can I get financial help?

Foundation Degree fees for home students usually cost the same as undergraduate tuition fees. As of 2021, that is £9250 per year at most UK universities, though some cost less. Anyone studying at a recognised higher education institution can get financial support through Student Finance England, which you’ll only pay back when you’ve graduated and meet the minimum earning threshold.

Student loans are only available if this is your first undergraduate degree.

What sort of person should do a Foundation Degree?

Foundation Degrees are ideal for people who want to train for a particular job. If you know what you want to do and are ready for vocational training to get you there, with some academic study included, a Foundation Degree is a great choice.

If you’re not sure whether a full Bachelor’s degree is for you, a Foundation Degree is a perfect way to explore your subject and gain a qualification while only committing to two years instead of three.

A Foundation Degree isn’t an easy option! It is university-level study and hard work. You’ll need to be prepared to commit yourself and put a lot of work in for two years.

What are the entry requirements?

Foundation Degrees often don’t have set entry requirements in the same way that full Bachelor’s degrees do. That’s because people come to Foundation Degree study from lots of different entry points. Each institution and programme sets its own requirements.

Previous qualifications, like your A Levels or equivalent, will be taken into account. Relevant work and other experience can also count in your favour. For some courses, you might be invited to an interview.

What do employers think of Foundation Degrees?

Many employers look favourably on Foundation Degrees. Due to their combined academic and vocational nature, Foundation Degrees tend to turn out graduates who are highly skilled in their chosen subject and ready to join the workforce.

Because your Foundation Degree likely focused on a specific job or profession, it’s a good idea to look for jobs that are closely aligned with what you’ve studied.

Some foundation degrees also include work experience or placements, which gives you the opportunity to learn on the job. These also look great on your CV!

Can I upgrade my Foundation Degree to a full degree?

Yes, and many students choose to do so. Though a Foundation Degree is a qualification in its own right, you might want to add on an extra year to complete your full Bachelor’s degree if you enjoy your programme and want to learn more.

There are two ways to do this. Many universities will let you enter in the final year of a standard course to complete your degree. There are also dedicated one-year courses (known colloquially as “top up” courses) at some institutions.

How will my Foundation Degree be examined?

Foundation Degrees are usually graded differently to full degrees. Instead of the First, 2:1, 2:2, Third system, you’ll be awarded a Pass, Merit, or Distinction. This is not universal, and some universities and colleges do things differently.

Grading is likely to be a mixture of coursework (such as essays,) exams, and practical assessments. The exact mix will depend on your course.

Is a Foundation Degree right for me?

You’re the best person to say what kind of qualification is right for you! If you’re thinking about a Foundation Degree, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I have a reasonably good idea of what career I want to go into?
  • Am I prepared to study hard for two years?
  • Am I a practical and hands-on person who also enjoys academic work?

If you answered yes, yes, and yes, then you’re an ideal candidate for a Foundation Degree! Still not sure? Check out some of our other guides to learn more about different paths you could take.

Whatever you choose, we wish you the best and we’re here for you!

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For more information, please email info@youthemployment.org.uk or call 01536 513388.

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