What is a foundation program?
Maybe you’ve been scrolling through university websites and have come across the phrase “foundation program.” But what exactly is a foundation program? And do you need to complete one?
Foundation programs, also known as international foundation programs, are one-year programs completed prior to beginning university study. The goal: to prepare you with the skills and knowledge to succeed in university.
Foundation programs are common in the UK, the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand, among other countries. Since high school is a year longer in the UK than in many places and university is a year shorter (3 years), foundation programs are intended to bridge that gap. They are also meant to provide an alternative for students who only complete high school up until grade 11. This gives students the opportunity to do their International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) at their school and, in place of completing A-levels, they can save a year and go onto a foundation program, which are generally not as rigorous as the IB/A-Levels.
Who needs to complete one?
There are three main reasons you need to complete an international foundation programme:
You don’t yet have the level of English proficiency necessary
Your high school program is not accepted by the university
You don’t have the academic qualifications necessary to enroll in a given university
For example, many universities in the UK require international curricula like A-Levels or IB. If these programs weren’t offered at your high school or you chose not to complete them, you may not meet the requirements for enrollment.
Home-schooled students may run into a similar issue. While your home country may accredit your high school education, universities abroad may not recognize it. Check each universities’ requirements to be sure if you meet them or not! And, if they’re available, be sure to look at the requirements specific to your home country. When in doubt, you can always reach out to the admissions office or international admissions office to discuss the particulars of your situation.
What are the advantages of completing a foundation program?
Foundation programs can open the door to phenomenal universities. In most cases, once you complete a foundation program, you’re admitted directly to that university or can apply to other universities in the country.
Nervous that you don’t have the skills necessary to succeed in university? A foundation program gives you the opportunity to improve your study and language skills before starting an undergraduate program. They also give you time to acclimatize to a new culture and academic environment and are a great way to meet other international students.
They can also give you an additional year to narrow in your interests. Maybe you know you’re interested in the Social Sciences but aren’t sure which course to take. Studying a foundation year in the Social Sciences may illuminate whether Political Science, Anthropology, Sociology, or another discipline is the best option for you.
Additionally, students in foundation programs are usually fully registered students who have access to the university’s facilities. As a foundation program student, you can join student clubs and attend campus events.
What are foundation program curriculums like?
The actual classes vary from program to program, but usually they’ll fall into your general area of studies, with an extra emphasis on language and study skills. For example, the University of Greenwich offers five different foundation year options: Business and Management, Engineering, Science, Computing, and Social Sciences and Law. In addition to modules specific to your area of study, all foundation year students at the University of Greenwich take courses like English for Academic Purposes, Digital Literacy, and Project Study.
What are the costs of foundation programs?
It’s important to remember that attending a foundation program means you’re essentially paying for another year of university.
Tuition and living costs vary from program to program. Some have the same cost as first-year tuition; others are more or less expensive. At the University of St. Andrews, for example, the tuition cost is around $30,000, with roughly an additional $10,000 for housing. At the Maastricht University, the international foundation programme costs € 14,000 (around $16,500) or € 12,000 (around $14,200), depending on your English level.
Some foundation years do offer scholarships so, if cost is a determining factor for you, be sure to look into this.
How do I apply for a foundation year?
In certain countries, for example Australia and New Zealand, students who apply to a Bachelor’s program and do not meet the requirements will be placed into a foundation year.
In other countries, you’ll want to apply directly to the foundation programs. You can apply to some foundation years in the UK through UCAS. Others have their own application portals. Generally, they’ll ask for basic personal and educational information, your transcripts, and, sometimes, a personal statement. Check the individual websites to make sure you know everything you need to apply!
What alternatives are there to foundation years?
Let’s say you’re looking at a university website and realize you don’t meet the enrollment requirements. But maybe the cost for a foundation year is too high or the idea of a foundation year doesn’t appeal to you.
Another common alternative is to complete a year of university study in your home country. Many universities worldwide, but not all, accept a year of university study in your home country in place of completing a foundation year. Before pursuing this option, make sure that the university of interest to you would accept it.
Further admission requirements can also include specific subjects that are required, minimum test scores, English language requirements, and more in lieu of a foundation year program. If the program is selective (such as engineering), requirements can also vary. Universities in the Netherlands, for example, differ per university and per program in their requirements and alternatives for a foundation program.
Another great option is a year at a local branch of the university. Many universities in the UK and Australia have branch campuses in other regions of the world, particularly in Southeast Asia, which can be a much more cost-effective option. For example, Monash University, a top Australian university located in the city of Melbourne, has branches in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. At Monash University Malaysia, students can complete a foundation year for 31,000 – 33,100 RM (roughly 7,500 – 8,000 USD), less than a third of the cost of a foundation year at their campus in Melbourne, which has a cost of 29,000 AUD (roughly 22,000 USD). Additionally, living costs will be significantly lower in Malaysia than in Australia.
Foundation programs can be a great option, particularly if you don’t meet enrollment requirements for the universities you’re interested in. But they’re not the only option! Research your options, keep an open mind, think about which path is the best for you!