International foundation courses prepare international students for study at a UK university when they do not meet all the necessary academic or English Language requirements. Sometimes there can be a misconception that foundation programmes are for students whose school results are not high enough for direct entry. In reality many international students with excellent grades need to complete a foundation course simply because of the differences in school education around the world. Some countries have 12 years of pre-university education, followed by 4-year undergraduate degrees. If these students want to go to university in a country which has 13 years of pre- university education followed by a 3-year undergraduate degree (such as the UK), they will usually be required to take a foundation programme.

Most UK one year foundation programmes are offered either directly by a university or through a partnership with a corporate provider such as INTO or Kaplan. Corporate providers may deliver the programmes either on the university campus or use their own centre facilities. Student attendance will be monitored and plenty of weekly contact hours provided. Completion of a foundation programme does not result in a formal qualification. Instead, most providers form partnerships with universities to allow progression onto an undergraduate degree (subject to achieving required results during the foundation course).

Unfortunately there is no standardisation in the way foundation courses are named or marketed, however the most common terms used are ‘foundation programme’, ‘foundation year’, or ‘undergraduate pathway’.

All foundation programmes generally have 4 main strands: academic content, English language tuition, study skills and cultural adaptation but the proportion of time allocated to each differs significantly between programmes. In addition, most foundation courses aim to prepare students for a specific area of study – the most popular disciplines are Business & Economics and Engineering & Technology. This is done in a variety of formats e.g. some market one programme in which the student can select different modules in order to focus on a particular area, whereas others market multiple programmes where the study content is controlled by the university and the subject focus is pre-determined.

Some foundation courses will also accept international students who have studied A-levels or IB but who haven’t quite achieved the required grades to apply for direct entry to an undergraduate course.  King’s College, for example, will take students on some of their specialised subject pathways but not all of them.

The variety of courses on offer by a multitude of providers means it is necessary to really do your research in order to select a programme that is suitable for you as an individual and that is likely to give you the best opportunity to gain entry to your preferred undergraduate degree course.

Have further questions or queries regarding foundation courses?  Contact the UKSO team for informed and independent advice.