A Foundation Degree (available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) is a qualification that is designed in partnership with employers, and combines academic and workplace learning. It equips students with knowledge, understanding and skills relevant to their employment.

Two graduates in green gowns and mortarboards taking a selfie

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Foundation Degrees are offered by colleges (with degrees validated by a local university) and universities. Most degrees offer flexible teaching arrangements such as studying in the evening, part-time or through distance learning. They generally take between two and four years to complete. Following a foundation degree, students have the option to ‘top up’ to a full honours degree with one or two years of extra study.

Foundation degrees are generally undertaken by those already in employment looking to further their career or those who want a university experience as well as the ability to earn money. Foundation Degrees are also ideal for those who are looking to return to work after an absence or pursue a new career.

The most popular foundation degrees are often vocational. They include:

  • Education - teaching assistants, primary and nursery educators
  • Social Work - youth and community workers
  • Subjects Allied to Medicine - nurses, paramedics
  • Design Studies
  • Sport and Exercise science

Entry requirements differ from course to course and may include level 3 qualifications, such as A Levels and Advanced Apprenticeships. However, formal entry qualifications are not always necessary, as existing experience, achievements and desire to learn are also taken into account.

A Foundation Degree will cost anything between £5,000-£9,000, dependent on the institution and the course. Tuition fee and maintenance loans are available much like Bachelor's degrees (see Fees & Finance for more information). Furthermore, many companies chose to sponsor their employees’ foundation degrees, if they will gain skills beneficial to their organisation. They may cover all or some of the tuition fees.

As Foundation Degrees are often studied alongside work most students attend a local university or college. However they can choose to study away from home. Students apply for Foundation Degrees in the same way as Bachelor's degrees,  through UCAS.

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