All You Need to Know about International Foundation Programmes

A foundation programme is a UK-inspired study course designed to fill the gap between your current level of qualification and knowledge and the level needed to be admitted to a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree at an international university.

Foundation degrees, also known as preparation courses or pathways programmes, complement any knowledge or qualification that you might still be lacking after finishing high school.

They help students coming from different education systems around the world (Asia, Australia, Europe, Middle-East, Russia, Africa, North or South America) to align their qualification to the education system of the country where they want to study abroad.

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Who can enrol in a foundation programme?

Foundation programmes target both local and international students from all over the world. Courses for foreign students (coming from a different country) also include English language classes.

Foundation programmes can be generic, designed to prepare the student for starting a degree in a certain field, for example, foundation programmes in Business, in Computer Science or in Humanities and Arts.

Foundation programmes don’t usually award students an academic degree upon completion but guarantee a certain level of qualification that allows them to follow a higher education degree such as a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme.

Foundation courses: duration, format, and start dates

Most universities in the UK or continental Europe offer prep courses that usually take one academic year to complete (a total of 32 weeks). Preparation courses are usually divided into three semesters, or phases, each with its own number of modules.

Modules are split into minor (more generic) subjects and major ones, more specialised towards the student’s future academic path. Usually, students start their foundation degrees in September, graduating in time to start their Bachelor’s or Master’s in October, the next year.

Intensive 6-month pathway programmes are available for students who want to complete their studies faster. Faster foundation study tracks start in January and end in August of the same year. However, many international foundation programmes have flexible start dates.

Foundation programmes: assessment

The evaluation system is very similar to any other study programme and includes:

  • exams
  • presentations
  • projects
  • assignments

The foundation programme can be based in the country of study or can also be taught in the student’s local country by an institution that has an agreement with that specific university. An assessment uses a number of academic credit points, assigned differently for coursework or exams.

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When should I study a foundation programme?

A foundation programme is very useful when you have decided to study a degree at an international university, but you don’t have all the required qualifications to be admitted. The right foundation programme focuses on your particular interests, providing the best chance to become qualified for admission.

Why should I study a foundation programme?

1. Increased chances of university admission

Complete a foundation programme to be fully qualified to start an undergraduate or graduate degree at a university you like. Most students that follow a foundation programme get into great universities abroad.

2. Improve English language proficiency

Advance your English skills to meet university admission requirements. Foundation programmes for internationals always include language courses, to help you communicate during your studies and in daily life.

3. Direct access to great universities

Discover the university where you plan to study a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree and decide if it’s the right place for you. Learn more about the requirements, practices, and the country’s culture. Talk to teaching staff and students at the university to get a unique insight into your possible future.

4. Reduced culture shock

By already spending one year in the country where you want to study, it’ll be much easier to move abroad and get over the initial culture shock. This will make the beginning of your studies a lot smoother and comfortable.

It also provides you with knowledge about all the paperwork and formal procedures you’ll need to go through to study and live abroad.

5. Getting into the right mindset

Maybe you don’t have any problem meeting entry requirements for a Bachelor’s or Master’s abroad. This doesn’t mean a foundation degree would be of no use to you.

Many international students choose to take a pre-Bachelor’s or pre-Master’s in order to prepare mentally for their first year of studies abroad. It’s much easier to get going if you already know what to expect, know your location and some of your colleagues.

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How much does it cost, and how do I finance a foundation programme?

The tuition fee for an international pathway programme is usually lower than the tuition fee for a degree course. Fees range between 2,500 and 25,000 EUR per year depending on the institution that provides the preparation course, the level of study (general versus targeted), the city, the country, and many other factors.

Scholarships are available for this level of education as well. Check Scholarshipportal for more information about that and a collection of scholarships for studying abroad.

As the testimonies of the students who completed a foundation programme show, the cost of this level of education is, in fact, an investment. Not being prepared enough can lead to delays in the completion of your Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, resulting in higher overall costs.

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What qualifications do I need to be accepted to a foundation programme?

Entry requirements for most foundation programmes are usually not difficult to meet. You’ll generally need:

  • successful completion of 12 years of basic education anywhere in the world
  • basic language proficiency depending on the requirements in the country
  • proof of studying certain subjects in your high school syllabus relevant for the foundation programme

Read more about entry requirements for foundation degrees.

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