Why apply for a foundation programme as an international student?

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.



What university admissions staff look for when considering applications

Admissions staff at leading universities have an in-depth knowledge of what type of applicant is likely to be a successful student on their course.

Admissions staff will consider the predicted grades, the personal statement and reference regarding a student’s suitability for the course. They may also use tests and interviews at one or more stages of the process.

  1. Admissions staff will check that the applicant is predicted to meet the entry requirements.

Staff look at each application and at the predicted (or actual) results in individual subjects and qualifications. In some cases this may include details of marks rather than just grades.

For many leading universities, there is also a minimum requirement for GCSE grades (or equivalent), particularly in mathematics and English.

Predicted grades and GCSE (or equivalent) grades are important in helping admissions staff assess an applicant’s academic potential.

  1. Admissions staff will look for evidence that the applicant has good subject knowledge and is enthusiastic about the course. The personal statement should demonstrate this.

Admissions staff look for a personal statement that clearly outlines why the applicant wants to study that particular subject, what interests them about the subject and what they know about it.

Students only have one personal statement and it should be relevant to all five choices.

The personal statement can be used in different ways depending on the university and the course applied for. Some university admissions teams score a personal statement against set criteria, while others will check that it is broadly satisfactory.

For many competitive courses, it is the personal statement that can make the difference between an offer and a rejection.

  1. Admissions staff will look for an appropriate and supportive reference from the applicant’s school.

The reference should be written by someone who knows the student and should concentrate on his or her academic ability and suitability for the course that is being applied for.

  1. Many courses do not use interviews or additional tests. However, interviews and tests may be used for courses that receive a very high number of applicants or have additional professional requirements.

There are many different approaches. Interviews and tests may be used to differentiate between very strong applicants or to assess professional suitability, for example, for the medical profession. Some courses may require other types of additional information such as a portfolio of work. The key is to do your research and plan ahead so that if you are required to sit an additional test or provide additional work you are prepared.

Applying to highly selective courses – top tips

Applying to highly selective courses – top tips


Highly selective courses are those that receive many more applications than they have places. Universities are likely to specify that students have or are predicted particular grades, often in required or preferred subjects. Admissions tutors need to be able to differentiate between large numbers of well qualified applicants and will be looking for excellent UCAS applications that contain well written and subject focused personal statements and appropriate references. If you are applying for one of these courses then you need to be well prepared.


  •  Be realistic. You will need to be able to achieve the required grades. Very competitive courses have little leeway in grade requirements when accepting students. You will need to check the requirements for each individual institution – not only A-level/IB level qualifications but GCSE level as well.
  • Check deadlines and find out whether you will be asked to sit a test or submit written work as part of the admissions process. If so, do some practice.
  • Ensure you have a good understanding of the subject that you are applying for. Even if you have studied a subject before it may be very different at undergraduate level.
  • Apply for similar courses in the same subject area. You can only submit one personal statement on the UCAS application and it will need to be focused on the course you wish you study.
  • Do your research. Look in detail at the modules on offer at different institutions and see if they reflect what you are interested in. Ensure that you understand the structure and composition of the course, including how it is taught and assessed.
  • Develop your subject knowledge. Follow the latest developments in the media, online and in specialist publications. Try to experience the subject as well as reading about it. Download lectures and podcasts and try to visit relevant places. Look for summer schools, masterclasses and public lectures offered by universities.
  • Develop your transferable skills. Think about work or voluntary experience that may give you practical knowledge and skills – this is particularly useful for courses linked to professions.
  • Invest time and effort in writing an excellent, appropriate personal statement – this will make a real difference as to whether you receive an offer or not.
  • Talk to the person who is writing your reference, discuss the courses that you are applying for and what you have done to prepare. Look at the advice given by universities.


Whatever stage you are at – whether you are just starting to think about university or are in the process of making an application – we can help. Contact us hello@ukstudyoptions.com


Preparing for Results Day

Worried about how A-level exams went or already have your results but haven’t had your offers confirmed?  Read on….

While some students (those taking the IB or international qualifications) will have received their results already, for the majority of students the big day is Thursday 17th August 2017 when A-level results are published.

If you already have your results and have met your firm choice offer then your university should be in touch to confirm your place. If they haven’t then it is worth checking to see if they are waiting for you to send confirmation of your results to them. UCAS receive many results directly from exam boards but if your qualification is not on their list https://www.ucas.com/ucas/undergraduate/apply-and-track/results/sending-exam-results you will need to send official confirmation of your results to your universities.

If you already have results but have not met the grades for your first choice university and have not heard from them, then you should call admissions and ask whether they have made a decision about whether to take you. They may let you know immediately or ask you to wait until A-level results day to find out whether they will confirm your place or decline it. This is because the universities need to wait until the A-level students have their results in order to determine whether or not they still have places available and consequently whether they are prepared to be flexible over offers. Remember that if you have made the grades for your insurance choice university then you will have a place at that backup university whatever the final outcome at your first choice.

If you are in this uncertain position or if you are an A-level student concerned that the exams didn’t go according to plan then it is certainly worth working out a strategy in advance of August 17th.

UCAS have now issued a list of Clearing vacancies – this is a list of courses that still have places available. Be aware though, that this list is fluid and many universities will only add courses to Clearing once the A-level results are out. If you have concerns over your results then this is the time to do some additional research. Go back to your original shortlist of universities and courses – is there somewhere that has slightly lower entry requirements? Give the universities a call, explain your situation and ask whether they are likely to be making Clearing offers – get ahead of the game! If you have applied for a particularly competitive course then look again at allied courses and subjects that may be similar in content but less popular.

On A-level results day you need to be prepared – it can be stressful. Check in advance that your contact details are up to date, ensure that you have your Track sign in to hand and that your phone is charged. If you are not going to be available to talk to universities then make sure that you have ticked the nominated access box on the UCAS form and given details of a trusted individual to act on your behalf. Check with your School or College to make sure that you know when you can pick up or receive your results. UCAS Track should go live at 08.00 UK time on 17 August, so it may be that you are able to see whether your universities have accepted you before you receive your results.

Hopefully all will go well on Results Day, but whatever happens it is important not to panic and to take your time over making decisions.

What makes medicine applications different (2)

What makes medicine applications different (2)

In the second blog of this series we consider some of the course related factors that need to be considered by prospective medical students.

Course length and qualifications

The standard medical course (for school leavers) is usually five years long. There are over 30 UK institutions offering standard courses, which lead to a variety of primary medical qualifications – MBchB, MBBS, BMBS, MBBCh, MBBChir, BMBCh. While this variety can appear confusing, students can rest assured that these qualifications are all variations of ‘Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery’ and are all validated by the GMC (General Medical Council).

At some universities (Oxford, Cambridge, UCL and Imperial) an extra 6th year of study leads to an intercalated or additional degree as a compulsory part of the course. This extra qualification is optional at many more medical schools, although it is worth noting that selection for the intercalation programme may be competitive and only open to the top ranking students in the year.

For students who have high academic achievement but who don’t hold the science subjects required for entry to a Standard course there is the option to apply to a six-year ‘Medicine with a Preliminary Year’ course. These are either Standard Entry courses with an additional year at the start, or sometimes the preliminary year is taken as a standalone one-year course. This is not an option for students who haven’t achieved the required grades to meet the entry requirements of Standard courses.


How much a medical course will cost you in tuition fees depends on whether you are classed as a Home/EU fee payer or an Overseas fee payer and on the institution you apply to. The difference in fees for Home and Overseas students is substantial (for more information read our ‘fee status’ blogs) and to further complicate matters there are different fee systems in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The universities will assess each student’s application for Home/EU fees on their own merits. Home/EU students are responsible for their tuition fees in the pre-clinical years but the NHS pays the tuition fees for years 5 and 6 in full.

Type of course

 Although all UK medical schools adhere to standards set by the GMC each course is different and each uses different teaching methods. It is therefore very important that applicants think carefully about the type of learning that would suit them best. Courses can generally be divided into:

  •  Traditional pre-clinical and clinical – as practised by Oxford and Cambridge. These courses start with 2 years of mainly lectures and tutorials covering science based modules. These are followed by three years of a clinical course which will include GP placements and hospital work in addition to subject based lectures. This course structure often appeals to students who wish to have a solid grounding in the science before much patient interaction.
  • Integrated – this method is now practised by the majority of medical schools and combines theory with patient contact from the very start of the course. In contrast to the traditional courses, scientific knowledge is taught by topic rather than discipline. Integrated courses can be further subdivided into those that specialise in Problem-based learning (PBL), Case-based learning (CBL) and Enquiry-based learning (EBL) all of which may appeal to the student who is a good independent learner and proactive in their approach to  study.
    • PBL is practised by Manchester, Glasgow, Queen Mary, Peninsula, Sheffield, Keele, Hull and York, Barts and East Anglia. Here the emphasis is on peer-to-peer teaching, small group learning and problem solving. Different medical schools use PBL to a greater or lesser extent, some teaching entirely by PBL with others using the method only occasionally.
    • CBL is offered by Liverpool, Cardiff and Glasgow. This is very similar to PBL and uses virtual ‘trigger’ cases to prompt learning of a particular area of the curriculum.
    • Enquiry-based learning (EBL) as practised by Birmingham.  Again this is similar to PBL but learning starts with the posing of questions, problems or scenarios.


As well as differing in terms of teaching style, structure and patient contact, UK medical schools also differ in their methods of selection. Research is key in order for students to fit themselves to the school that best suits them and we will consider some of these differences in the next blog.