Why you should consider a foundation year

Dr Jenny Cann, Associate dean (quality) and foundation year lead
March, 2019

If you're undecided about going to university, or you're a mature student considering a return to education, a foundation year gives you the chance to experience studying before fully committing

Going to university is a big step. If you've been out of education for a few years, it can be a daunting prospect. For mature students in particular, there may be the added worry of whether university is really for you - will you have anything in common with your fellow students.

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.

What is 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, at the University of Bedfordshire, initial sessions focus on career aspirations and opportunities, including a review of your existing transferable skills.

You'll be surprised at how much you have to offer when it comes to studying - something you might not have thought about before. Having a fresh start generally revives ambitions and aspirations and this is reflected in the results of the majority of our mature students who gain high grades and feel fully prepared for their degree-level study.

As an alternative route into university, a foundation year can ease you back into the education environment while providing access to a range of undergraduate courses.

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.

Who should take a foundation year?

A foundation year can be seen as a stepping stone into the world of higher education, particularly if you don't have the right qualifications to go straight onto a degree programme. A variety of subjects can be studied on a foundation year, from social studies and business management to biological science and sports therapy.

Courses are broad enough to offer a good introduction to a subject, but they also provide enough depth for you to gain credible vocational skills from expert tutors.

A foundation year is also ideal if you're unsure whether you want to go to university. You can get an understanding of your field of interest before progressing to a full degree programme. As well as subject knowledge, you will get used to the higher education context and gain the skills needed for higher level study. If you successfully complete the foundation year, you can progress immediately into the first year of a degree.

If you've been out of education for a number of years, 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, over 50% of the student population is aged 21 or over. This presents you with a fantastic opportunity to mix with people you may not encounter in everyday life.

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. These include the University of Surrey, Middlesex University London, University of Southampton, University of Nottingham and Durham University.

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. At the University of Bedfordshire you may also be entitled to receive a £2,000 bursary - payable over four years, and dependent on attendance. Foundation year fees at the University of Bedfordshire are £9,250 for 2019/20.

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 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.

Find out more

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