Why you should consider a foundation year

Dr Steve Briggs, Director of learning and teaching excellence
June, 2023

If you're not sure about going to university, or you're a mature student considering a return to education, a foundation year (FY) gives you the chance to experience studying a university course

Foundation year or foundation degree?

Note that a foundation year is not the same as a foundation degree. A foundation year gives you access onto a degree course, whereas a foundation degree is a standalone qualification equivalent to two years of a three-year degree. Find out more about foundation degrees.

The development of the foundation year has opened doors for those who may have previously thought university wasn't an option, whether for academic or personal reasons, from school leavers to busy working parents. It can be seen as a stepping-stone into the world of higher education (HE), particularly if you don't have the right qualifications to go straight onto your chosen degree.

What is a foundation year?

A foundation year gives you the opportunity to get an understanding of your field before progressing to the full three-year degree programme. As well as subject knowledge, you'll get used to the HE context and gain the skills needed for higher level study. For example, at the University of Bedfordshire, initial sessions focus on career aspirations and opportunities, existing transferable skills, an introduction to your chosen subject, and writing essays.

A variety of subjects can be studied with a foundation year, and many degrees now offer this as an option.

These include subjects such as:

  • biological sciences
  • business
  • education
  • social studies
  • sport.

As an alternative route for getting into university, a foundation year can ease you back into education while providing access to the degree of your choice. If you successfully complete the foundation year, you can progress immediately into the first year of a degree.

Who should take a foundation year?

A foundation year offers a supportive environment if you've been out of education for a few years and are nervous about embarking on a university degree. For example, as a mature student you may be worried you'll be the only person over 25 in a room full of teenagers, but this isn't the case. More mature students are going to university than ever before. In fact, at the University of Bedfordshire, more than half of the student population is aged 21 or over. This presents you with a fantastic opportunity to mix with people with a shared interest.

What are the entry requirements?

If you're considering doing a foundation year, you shouldn't be put off because of a lack of formal qualifications. If you have work experience and passion for your subject area, universities will look at your profile and advise whether they can accept you, or what else you need to do prior to starting the course. Many universities across the country are now offering degrees with a foundation year so there's plenty of choice.

In terms of finance, students are currently eligible to take out student loans for the full four years of their degree with a foundation year. When applying to a university, be sure to ask about their available bursaries.

What else do I need to know?

The foundation year is firmly linked to the degree you'll progress onto. It allows you to meet with your peers in the year above, so you'll know what to expect when you move onto a degree. You're typically taught by tutors who'll be with you throughout your degree, and you also complete the type of assessments you'll be taking in subsequent years, preparing you for what's to come.

You'll get plenty of support in understanding how the foundation course works and what's needed to reach the required standard. As a foundation year student, you're a university student from the day you register, and will benefit fully from the facilities and opportunities available to all students.

Ready to apply for a foundation year course?

To search courses that include a foundation year and make your application, you'll need to do this through UCAS.

You can also get further guidance on how to apply for university 2023.

Find out more

How would you rate this page?

On a scale where 1 is dislike and 5 is like

success feedback

Thank you for rating the page