What is Foundation year and who is it for?
Sometimes things don’t go according to plan in life. College applications, papers, studying – months of anticipation and preparation. But what do you do if you find out that your school-leaving exams didn’t go as you expected?
The preparatory programme – the foundation year – is an additional year of study at the beginning of your studies, designed for applicants who, for various reasons, do not qualify for direct entry into a bachelor’s degree programme. It enables you to acquire the specialised knowledge and skills required for higher education. From day one, the student is recognised as a full member of the community and has access to the university’s library and facilities. During this alternative route to university, foreign students also have the opportunity to improve their language skills. After completing such a year, it is possible to proceed to university as normal, without having to revise the baccalaureate.
Foundation year is designed for students who:
Have matric passes in subjects other than those required for the course;
Have not achieved the grades and results required for entry to university – e.g. too low an average matric or too low an IELTS score;
Do not speak English well enough;
Do not have an accepted qualification for the course (exams from some countries may not be accepted);
Are not fully decided on a particular course of study;
Have had an extended break in their education and are considering going to university.
What are the entry requirements?
The entry requirements at most universities are usually not difficult to meet. Usually, the required results are a few percent (5-10%) lower than those required for admission to a standard course. Very often, however, it is sufficient simply to have passed the baccalaureate or to have good grades on the school-leaving certificate.
A basic knowledge of the language is also required to start Foundation year – depending on the university’s requirements, this may be backed up by an IELTS or other certificate, or an English baccalaureate.
Where does the foundation year take place?
During a foundation year you usually study at the university where you later gain your degree. You then apply for a course of study that includes this year, e.g. “Engineering with Foundation Year”. You then study for four years at the same university.
In some cases – e.g. arts-related courses – you often study at a separate school and then have to apply to university.
What courses are taken in foundation year?
During Foundation year, you study subjects directly related to your chosen course, introductory university courses and English language. Most universities also provide subjects related to the development of critical thinking, reflective learning and effective study skills. Examples of classes in the preparatory year for business-related subjects are: Introduction to Studying, Introduction to Accounting and Business Mathematics.
Those who are unsure whether they want to go to university can use the zero year to gain an understanding of their area of interest and get used to the higher education mode.
Academic year and credit
The zero academic year differs from the standard academic year in terms of the number of classes, as more hours are needed to fill the gaps in knowledge. During standard studies, about 15 hours per week are spent at university, while during the zero year about 15-20 hours are spent.
The assessment system during the zero year is similar to that during the standard course of study and includes examinations, presentations, projects, essays and other written work. In order to successfully complete the Foundation year and transfer to a Bachelor’s degree programme, you will normally need to pass all modules and achieve the minimum required grade point average (this varies from university to university).
Foundation year – costs
If the Foundation year is part of a degree programme (4-year course), a tuition fee is payable. A student loan covers this year on the same basis as the other years of study. Some universities charge less for the zero year or offer additional scholarships. As a rule, a foundation year costs between £4,000 and £9,000.
Remember that a Foundation year is not the same as a Foundation Degree. A zero year allows you to start a standard undergraduate degree, whereas a Foundation Degree is a stand-alone qualification equivalent to a two-year degree.
Advantages of a foundation degree
Increased chances of admission
Completing your zero year will give you a full qualification for entry to the university of your choice. The programme will provide you with a specific set of skills and the necessary knowledge, which will also make studying much easier.
Knowledge of the language
The foundation degree for foreigners always includes language courses to help you communicate during your studies and in everyday life. This allows you to develop your skills enough to meet the requirements for admission to university.
Direct access to the university
The zero year allows you to get to know your chosen university directly and see if it is the right place for you. Unlike your gap year, which you’ll use to study at home and improve your matric, during Foundation you can get to know the lecturers and students, which will help you decide on your next steps.
Reduced (not just culture) shock
Many international students, despite meeting the requirements for university admission, opt for a zero year to better prepare themselves for the start of their studies. This is a preparatory period in which you get to know the campus, the university, the lecturers and other students. It also helps to reduce the culture shock of starting your studies proper and allows you to then focus solely on your studies.