What is a Foundation Degree, and Should I Do One?


This blog will explain what a foundation degree is, provide examples of foundation degree courses and reasons why you may decide to do one. There is also a short testimony about a graduate’s experience completing a foundation degree. At the end of the section on foundation degrees there is a list of websites where you can find more information on foundation degrees.

At the end of this blog there is a section explaining what a foundation course is and there is a short testimony from a graduate on her experience completing a foundation course before going on to study at university.

What is a foundation degree?

A foundation degree is a combined academic and vocational qualification which is equivalent to 2/3 of a full bachelor’s degree. It can lead to a full degree. Unlike full degrees, there are no set entry requirements so you can explore different subject areas without limitations. Foundation degrees combine academic study with work-based learning so they are a great way to start your journey into Higher Education, whether you decide to study full time, part time or even online.
Foundation degrees can be studied at university or some colleges.

Foundation Degree Courses

Many universities and some colleagues offer foundation degrees. To complete a foundation degree full time would take two years. Some examples of courses are:

  • Computing and IT
  • Business
  • Games development
  • Popular music
  • Scenic construction
  • Teaching assistance
  • Nursing associate
  • Psychodynamic counselling

A foundation degree can provide you with the rounded skill set needed to a career in a directly related industry. Graduate recruiters will often ask for a bachelor’s degree as an entry requirement into the company, you could top up your qualification if the career you choose requires this.

What’s the difference between a Foundation Degree and a Bachelor Degree?

A Bachelor’s degree is 360 credits whereas a foundation degree is 240 credits, so effectively it is equivalent to two thirds of a bachelor’s degree.

There is a clear progression route from a foundation degree to a full Bachelor’s degree, often achieved by doing a one year top up year and most universities offer this within the same institution or at a partner college. The top up information will be available when you’re applying, so you’ll be able to make an informed decision on where you’d like to study.

“I studied a Foundation Degree and it gave me the flexibility I needed to study in my chosen area, without moving away from home as I had a young daughter. It also only took two years out of my life as opposed to three and I was able to work alongside my studies. It was the best decision I ever made!” – Sarah Allen, University of Northampton

How to apply to a Foundation Course?

To start off with, you’ll need to have an idea of the subject you’d like to study. After that, it really is as simple as searching for courses to find the one that is best for you. You may want to have a look at your local University/College to see if they offer the course you’re interested in.

If you want to apply for a full-time foundation degree course you should check to see if the college or university is listed as a UCAS course provider as you may need to apply through UCAS. You can find out more information on this on the UCAS website. For part-time foundation degrees you will need to apply directly to the college or university providing the course.

In terms of entry requirements, they really do vary depending on your personal circumstances and the course you’re applying to and this information will always be available on the university website. Quite often for students who are under 21 without significant work experience, courses will ask for two A-levels or equivalent vocational qualification. For those older students with relevant work experience, formal qualifications may not be needed.

Foundation Degree Cost

Students studying foundation degrees are eligible for the same funding as full degree students. You may be eligible for tuition fee loans from student finance if the foundation degree is your first undergraduate qualification and the foundation degree is through a UK recognised institution.
As with full degrees, funding differs if you’re studying full or part time and there may be additional support if you’re a parent or if you have a disability. If you’re lucky enough to be in employment, your employer might even offer full or part funding towards your foundation degree.

For more information on this, visit the student finance website. Universities may also have their own grants and bursaries, so it is worth looking through their website for advice eligibility and how to apply for these.

My experience studying a foundation degree, Ellie Smith.

Ellie Smith shares her experience of studying a two-year foundation degree at a university in the northwest of England.

What did you study and why?

I studied a foundation degree in Bakery and Patisserie Technology at a university in the northwest of England. I chose to study this course because I had just completed a Level 2 Apprenticeship in a bakery which opened my eyes to the many job opportunities within the food industry. Many of the jobs which appealed to me, such as a Food Technologist, required a degree so this pushed me to find a food course. I really wanted to develop my knowledge of different ingredients and increase my skills in making a variety of bakery products. All of the modules in the course really appealed to me, which made me excited to study the course.

Why did you choose a foundation degree over a bachelor’s degree?

The thought of studying a course for 3 or more years did not appeal to me, so when I found a foundation degree which was only for 2 years, I decided to go for it. After having a few years out of education, I was nervous to go back into education and have to learn modules, write assignments and complete exams. I quickly got used to it again and really enjoyed learning lots of new knowledge and really surprised myself of how many assignments I could write about topics I had never learnt about before. Also, the course which I chose was slightly lower in price than a Bachelor’s degree which also attracted me to the course.

What will you do with your foundation degree? Will you complete a top up year?

There are many job opportunities now I have completed my foundation degree, so I have the decision to either pursue a job or to complete a top up year. The top up year would not be Bakery and Patisserie Technology but would be in Food Manufacturing with Operations management. By completing the top up year, this would increase my knowledge even further of the food industry and not limit me to jobs only within the bakery industry as well. At the beginning of my foundation degree, I did not plan to continue on with the top up year, but after learning so much on my course, I thought that another year would be beneficial. It would enhance my job opportunities and increase my knowledge even further, so I am definitely considering continuing with it.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

There are so many career routes that I can choose between and being one of the worst decision makers, I think I am going to find it difficult to pick which career path to go down. The foundation degree has opened my eyes to many jobs that I did not even know existed, so my future is full of possibilities and options. A Food Technologist sounds like a really interesting job; this involves creating and developing new food products for the market. The foundation degree included a module for food product development which helped me gain experience in this area. I am just keeping my options open and wait and see what doors open for me in the future.

What is a foundation year?

A foundation year gives you access to a degree course. It can help prepare people who are not quite ready to study a full degree. A foundation course can also be a way to gain access on to a degree course if you do not have the right qualifications to go straight onto a degree programme. A foundation course can help people decide whether university is right for them if they are unsure about studying a full degree. It is an opportunity to get an understanding in a field of interest, whilst getting used to the higher education context and skills needed for a higher level of study. On completion of a foundation year, you can progress into the first year of a degree.

My experience studying a foundation year, Katie Piper.

Katie Piper shares her experience of studying a one-year foundation course at local college before going on to study a three-year bachelor’s degree at an East Midlands university.

What did you study and why?

I studied a Foundation Course in Art and Design at a local college because I couldn’t decide what to study at university. A lot of my friends were very sure of what degree they would like to study but I wanted to be sure I wanted to pursue an education in Art before I committed to the three-year bachelor’s degree course. During this year I also took part in some voluntary work in a day centre for disabled adults once a week where I was able to have a glimpse into where my art course might be able to take me in the future.

Why did you complete a higher foundation course in art and design?

Ever since I was a child, I loved art and drawing and throughout the many church services that my parents took me to as a child I would fill notebook after notebook with doodle, drawings and designs. As I got older, I realised that I was able to use paint on canvas to represent landscapes, people and objects and I began to enter competitions and sell my artwork. I enjoyed displaying my work alongside other artists in my local area and learning from their techniques.

How did this year help you during your studies at university?

My foundation year taught me many things such as self-discipline and also the importance of working as part of a team. We had the opportunity in the college to try many different areas of art and design such as photography and screen printing which gave me a good step forward when I started university and we did similar workshops in first year.

How do you use your studies in your career?

I work in a Graphics company that is run by my husband. We primarily wrap vehicles, and I would say that design plays a big part in my career as well as photography and also the ability to work to deadlines and as part of a team.

Any top tips?

I would say taking an extra year to decide which degree to take was a good decision for me as it allowed me to further explore an education in art without the pressure of committing to a three-year degree. If you are sure about your career then a Foundation Course might not be right for you, but if you have any doubts at all then a year is a good amount of time to help you decide. A three-year course is a big commitment, and you want to be sure it’s right for you before jumping in head first.

More information on foundation courses