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Foundation Degrees

Foundation Degrees are vocational courses designed and delivered in partnership with employers to give people the relevant knowledge and skills required for business.

They are offered by universities in partnership with Higher Education colleges and Further Education colleges.

This type of course can be very flexible, which means that they are available to:

  • people already in work 
  • those who would like to make a career change and 

How long is a Foundation Degree?

A full-time course usually takes two years. Part-time courses may take longer, although this is not always the case.

What are the entry requirements for a Foundation Degree?

Universities and colleges set their own entry requirements for each course.

Formal qualifications are not always necessary as commercial and industrial experience can sometimes be more relevant.

It's best to contact the institution you wish to apply to, as some courses may have specific requirements.

How much do they cost?

Fees for foundation degrees vary, but you may be able to get financial support, especially if you’re studying while working.

You’ll also still be entitled to the same student finance as other higher education students.

  • Contact the university or college to check costs and whether you can apply for funding.
  • If you’re currently employed, the company might be able to support you too.

How do I choose a Foundation Degree?

Whichever foundation degree course you choose, you will gain role-specific skills, as well as a range of highly sought-after qualities as an employee. However, it's important to pick a subject you'll enjoy as studying for a foundation degree requires motivation, high levels of organisation and the ability to adapt to different working environments.

Popular foundation degree subject fields in 2016/17, according to HESA's Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education data, include:

  • academic studies in education
  • others in subjects allied to medicine
  • social work
  • nursing
  • sport and exercise science
  • hospitality, leisure, sport, tourism and transport
  • business studies
  • animal science
  • drama
  • management studies
  • agriculture
  • design studies.

Before settling on a subject and course, it's important to research the entry requirements for your chosen career. You can do this by exploring relevant job profiles.

Search for foundation degree courses in the UK through UCAS.

You should also keep a look out for university open days and events aimed at prospective foundation degree students.

How do I apply for a Foundation Degree?

It is a good idea to contact the university or college you are interested in and ask for further information about the course and university/college to make sure it is right for you.

Many universities and colleges have an online prospectus, or you can contact them and ask them to send you one through the post.

The courses on the foundation degree course search section at UCAS also have a course contact telephone number.

If you call them up, this person will be able to provide you with specific information about each course and what it involves.

When you are sure you have found a course you are interested in, the next stage is making your application.

Applying for a part-time Foundation Degree

You will need to apply directly to the university or college offering the foundation degree course.

Each university or college will have their own method of entry, but it is likely that you will have to complete an application form.

Applying for a full-time Foundation Degree

All full-time courses which are taken at a university or college in the UCAS scheme will need to be applied for through UCAS.

You can check if the institution you want to go to is in the UCAS scheme by checking the list of universities and colleges.

If the course is not on the UCAS website, you should apply direct to the university or college offering the course.

You can complete a UCAS application using the Apply system.

The course information required to complete a UCAS application can be found on the Course Search and help will be available throughout the process.

Can I extend it to a full degree?

Most candidates studying a full-time foundation degree choose to extend their studies to a full degree the following academic year. However, with no time limit on topping up a foundation degree, this doesn't have to be done immediately - as many students return to their studies at a later date.

If you decide to change subjects for your full degree, you may need to complete more than one year's additional study to graduate with the right amount of credits.

If this subject has little or no relevance to your foundation degree, you may not be allowed to transfer and be expected to start a Bachelors degree from the first year. This will depend on the modules you've studied and credits you've gained. Alternatively, you may be able to enter the second year. Transferring to a programme within the institution that validated your foundation degree is the easiest way to make the switch.

Funding for top-up degrees as part of your first degree is not unconditional, so check with Student Finance and your university to see what's on offer.

Postgraduate courses aren't covered by Student Finance, as loans can only be used for full Masters courses and not to top up to a higher qualification.

Candidates completing a PGCE can consider applying for funding from the Department for Education (DfE).

What can I do once I've completed my Foundation Degree?

Upon completion of the qualification, if you're looking to enter a directly-related industry, the rounded skillset a foundation degree provides should be what you need to kick-start your career.

As you look for jobs, it's worth noting that many graduate recruiters will ask for a Bachelors degree as an entry requirement, so you might need to be prepared to stay on and top up your qualification.

Most UK graduate schemes will ask for a Bachelors degree of at least a 2:1, but alternative routes into these structured programmes are emerging. PwC, Deloitte and KPMG now have more flexible entry requirements that involve critical thinking tests, relative work experience and other merits not related to a degree.

If you have a career path in mind, check whether foundation degrees are accepted as you start looking for graduate jobs.

For those wanting to do a Masters course, you will need to complete a full Bachelor's degree first. Once you have this, you'll be able to head straight into postgraduate study, and may even be eligible for some PhDs.

If you're looking to become a primary or secondary school teacher, you'll need to obtain a Bachelors degree in order to be accepted onto the teacher training Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) course. Find out more about how to become a teacher.

Further information

For more tips and advice on applying for a Foundation Degree, please see: