Education: Laying The Foundations

If you have the long term aim of gaining formal qualifications at a higher level, but without currently having the necessary qualifications required to access the course, you’ll need to have some kind of introduction to study. Foundation courses allow you to prepare for the rigours of further and higher education before you’re thrown in at the deep end.

Although foundation courses were originally designed to ease international students into the British way of studying for further and higher education qualifications, the foundation courses which are offered at colleges and universities up and down the country are also perfectly suited to Service-leavers who may possess the requisite skills and experience to access further and higher education but do not have the necessary qualifications.

While a career in the military has many positives in terms of the skills and unique experience acquired, it may leave you short when your service is over and you’re looking to get into further and higher education with many of the qualifications available to other school leavers unavailable to those who have joined the military at a young age.

Bridging The Skills Gap

Foundation courses act as a bridge between your current qualifications, skills and experience and the entry requirements for entry into UK universities. They allow you to plug the academic gaps on your CV and develop the core skills needed to make it in your chosen vocation. They can prepare you for a variety of subjects such as: business, finance, management, computing, law; Art and Design; engineering; social science, science, pharmacy, media, and humanities. Many foundation providers even offer preparatory courses for those wishing to study medicine.

Although it may seem like an unnecessary delay between your time in the services coming to an end and your transition to working on civvy street, a foundation course can actually be of great benefit with many courses offered in partnership with prestigious universities which can often guarantee transition to an undergraduate course, provided you’ve achieved the necessary grades throughout your course.

Choosing The Right Course

There are a number of providers which offer these courses and choosing the right one is as important as choosing which course you wish to study. There are 15 colleges and 12 universities which offer foundation courses and many are based in central or southern England.

It is important to remember that while these courses are intensive and last for one year, many providers have pre-existing agreements which can tie you into attending their partner institution for the duration of your undergraduate studies. This can be both a blessing and a curse as it may be good news to have almost guaranteed access to a course, but can also hold you back if you find yourself limited geographically. However, many programmes will see the student based on campus, benefitting from full university status with complete access to libraries, equipment and sporting facilities and this familiarity can often assist in the transition between foundation course and actual degree.

University Foundation Programme

The University Foundation Programme is an intensive course based in both London and Bath which offers students an entry route to undergraduate degree courses at almost all UK Universities. This particular organisation is unaffiliated with any institutions, meaning that those who achieve the certification are then able to use it to apply to any university in the UK.

They offer a range of courses designed to boost the core skills of applicants in the following areas:

  • Architecture, Art and Design
  • Business and Finance
  • Engineering and Computing
  • Law, Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Pharmacy & Medical Science


Foundation Course vs. Foundation Degree

Aside from foundation courses, there are other methods of study designed to assist those with less academic experience achieve their goal of completing a Bachelor’s degree. Unlike the foundation course, which prepares you for university entry at a first year level, a Foundation Degree takes you through the first part of Bachelor’s course, allowing you to study at a higher vocational level.

What Does A Foundation Degree Involve?

A Foundation degree is a vocational higher education qualification, which equates to the first two years of study at Bachelor’s degree level. These courses act as a qualification in their own right and cover the levels of study at year one) and year two. Once you have completed your Foundation degree, you can then choose to continue onto a top-up degree to gain a full Bachelor’s award.

Foundation degrees are flexible in the way they are taught and you can study most of them on a part-time or full-time basis. They are focused on preparing you for the world of work, so you can expect plenty of work-based learning alongside your time in the lecture theatre. A full-time foundation degree will usually take about two years to complete, and part-time courses may take longer. Completing an honours degree following on from a foundation degree will normally take an extra year.

There are no set entry requirements for foundation degrees. Formal qualifications are not always necessary as appropriate commercial and industrial experience can be more relevant. All foundation degrees take into account work experience and, in some instances, it may be possible to accredit existing company training received by an employee with foundation degree status – this is generally investigated on an individual company basis.


Medical Foundation Courses

Those who have taken an active interest in the medical field after reading our features may be interested to learn that there are also a number of foundation courses available for medical studies through a number of renowned institutions.

These courses are undertaken prior to an undergraduate medical degree and aim to offer applicants a more thorough level of preparation for the undergraduate medical degree experience which, for many, can be incredibly intensive. Some of these are a route for learners with an existing high quality academic record in non-science subjects, while others are designed to widen access to the medical profession.

We recommend that you contact the relevant institutions which run the courses before making any decisions on whether these “pre-med” courses are right for you.

Medical Foundation Courses are available through:

  • University of Bradford, School of Life Sciences (in partnership with University of Leeds, School of Medicine)
  • Cardiff University, School of Medicine
  • University of Dundee (University of), Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing
  • University of Durham, Phase 1 Medicine
  • Keele University
  • King’s College London, University of London
  • University of  Liverpool,Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
  • University of Manchester, Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences
  • Norwich Medical School (UEA)
  • University of Nottingham, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
  • University of Sheffield, School of Medicine
  • University of Southampton, School of Medicine
  • University of St Andrews, Centre for International Foundation Programmes

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