If your education or experience gained so far has not given you the qualifications or ability in the English Language to start on a degree course in the UK, you have to gain additional qualifications. This does not mean that your school leaving certificate is second rate or inferior, just that you are not prepared for the type of courses that are offered in the UK. One possibility is for you to enrol on a course leading to A levels at a school or college, the other is to take a Foundation programme. In the past, some of these programmes have been called Access courses, but that name has largely disappeared.
There are many foundation programmes offered by UK education, and they are given a variety of names including:
- International Foundation Programme
- University Foundation Programme
- Foundation Diploma
- Foundation Certificate
Of these, the first two are much more common than the others. These programmes usually last one academic year and on successful completion allow entry to university undergraduate degrees (see below).
You need to be careful not to confuse these courses with a Foundation Degree. It is not the same type of course. Foundation Degrees are undergraduate courses designed for people who are working in the UK and study at the same time. These programmes are not suitable for international students.
Types of courses
The British Council Education UK website lists over 760 Foundation (and Access) courses. If you consult the website, you will see that they are grouped according to subject area and no general Foundation course is offered. If a student studies for A levels, they have to select three of four subjects and these are usually those subjects relevant to the course they wish to study at university. Similarly, Foundation programmes are designed for types of university courses.
There is a great deal of variation in the courses offered and what follows is only a summary of what is available. We can offer general guidelines on what you need to think about when considering a Foundation programme and also if you are seriously interested in taking such a programme it is a good idea to seek help from experts, such as those available at Education Advisers Limited.
Foundation programmes are offered both by universities, and by private colleges and similar institutions. The important questions you need to ask are:
- do they offer the course I want?
- do they welcome international students?
- is the programme recognised or accredited (all university courses are accredited)?
- does the programme lead to automatic entry on to an undergraduate course?
- where have previous students gone on to study?
When you start looking at courses, you will see that some institutions offer only a restricted range of courses, while others have a more comprehensive list. In a few cases the courses are designed for UK students, some of whom may have selected inappropriate A level subjects for the course they want to study at university.
The UK has a rigorous system of inspection and assessment of all courses. All university courses are accredited, but for colleges and other organisations you need to be sure that they have been approved by an organisation such as the British Accreditation Council.
Programmes that offer automatic entry on to an undergraduate degree course (assuming you successfully complete the programme) are usually closely associated with a particular university. Further, the programme may have been designed by that university. However, you may be restricted to courses at that university only, because the programme is not accepted by any other universities. Other Foundation programmes may be accepted by many universities for entry into their courses. When considering a programme, you need to find out where previous students have gained entry, but remember that it may not be possible to guarantee entry at a particular university.
Most Foundation programmes offer some level of English Language tuition. If your first language is not English you should be sure that the amount of tuition is suitable for your needs and that your level of attainment at the end of the programme is sufficient for the degree course you want to study.
Wherever you study, the programme is going to require hard work. Many places that offer Foundation programmes have a section on their website that warns you in a statement such as “an in depth and intensive study of academic subjects”, or “an academically demanding course that prepares students for university”. However you will receive training in a number of skills needed by university students. These include analysis of concepts, assessing and interpreting evidence, evaluating connections between ideas, critical opinion forming and opinion formation.
Qualifications for entry
Foundation programmes are designed for and to encourage students without the traditional entry qualifications afforded by the IB or A Levels. They offer the best possible grounding for entry into a wide range of undergraduate degree programmes to students from all around the world. Therefore the qualifications needed for entry are very varied. Good school-leaving certificates and similar qualifications from most countries are usually accepted.
You will need to have some ability in English and this varies between the different programmes. However in general the level of English Language for entry into Foundation programmes is less than for undergraduate courses. In many programmes, English Language tuition is offered and this has the advantage that the teaching is directly relevant to university study.
If you are considering an application for a Foundation programme, it is a good idea to get in touch with Education Advisers Limited who will be able to check your qualifications and also guide you to the courses in those areas that most interest you.
The fees charge by the organisations that off Foundation programmes vary widely. In a brief survey the range appeared to be between about £13,950 and £17,900, depending on the subject chosen, and remember this is just for the tuition. You will need to have additional money for living and any extra costs that might be involved.
In general, programmes that are science, computing and business based are more expensive than arts subjects. Also programmes offered by universities tend to be cheaper than independent colleges. You need to check costs carefully so that you have a clear idea of the total cost of any study you are planning to start.