Career Path

Foundation Years

If you think university is the right track for you but aren't sure how to get there, consider a foundation year. Foundation years are a way to study a degree at university if you don't meet the standard course entry requirements.

Foundation years are an extra year of study taken at the start of an undergraduate degree which cover the basics of the subject. They are designed to give everyone in the year a good base knowledge of the subject so they can meet the standard entry requirements of the course. Most universities offer foundation years, but the range of subjects varies between each institution. 

Who is a foundation year for?

Most foundation year courses advertise themselves as being aimed at students who are missing a qualification in a relevant field, however they are suitable for anyone who doesn't meet the entry requirements onto a standard bachelors or masters degree. On a foundation year you will probably find that your course is made up of equal numbers of mature students, school leavers who have studied a wide range of subjects, and school leavers who have studied subjects related to the degree, but who got lower grades than required for direct entry to an undergraduate degree. Basically, anyone is a suitable candidate for a foundation year.

Foundation years vs foundation degrees

Foundation years are an extra year of study added on to an undergraduate degree. They allow students who don’t meet the entry requirements for a standard course to fill in any gaps in their learning and go on to complete a full BSc or MSc. Foundation years often have lower entry requirements than standard three or four year undergraduate degrees. Foundation years are usually the first year of a full degree scheme, which means changing the university you attend after you complete the foundation year can be very difficult. 

Foundation degrees are combined academic and vocational qualifications in higher education. A foundation degree is equivalent to two thirds of an honours bachelor’s degree (BSc or BA) and must include an option for students to progress on to a full honours degree if they wish. This progression is usually done via joining the third year of a full honours degree or through a dedicated top-up course. Many institutions allow foundation degree students to join the second year of a full honours course in a different but related field. Students may also transfer to a different university or college to take the additional study needed for a full honours degree. 

The benefits of a foundation year

The idea of adding another year on to your degree may seem difficult financially, and facing another four years in education can seem unappealing, however a foundation year offers many rewards too. As well as making your chosen degree scheme accessible to more people, a foundation year is a really good way to get used to university life with a less overwhelming workload. Having already had a year to get used to living on your own and to get to know your lecturers, it makes joining the first year of an undergraduate degree much easier. Foundation years are aimed at anyone wishing to enter your field regardless of prior qualifications. They mostly cover GCSE and A Level subjects, before moving on to cover a few topics you’ll cover on the standard first year of the degree. Because of this you can guarantee that you’ll start off covering something you know a little about, and when you finish the year you’ll definitely have all the knowledge you need to get a good understanding of the rest of the course.


Emily Truman

Emily is an undergraduate student studying Physics with Planetary and Space Physics at Aberystwyth University,

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