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Is a foundation degree right for you?

Foundation degrees are a flexible qualification that combines academic study with work-based learning.

What is a foundation degree?

A foundation degree is equivalent to two-thirds of a bachelor’s degree and is worth 240 credits. It’s great if you like learning on-the-job, but also want to gain a recognised qualification for your CV.

It gives you an opportunity to develop knowledge and skills that relate to the workplace, and you can top it up to gain a bachelor’s degree at the end.

Studying can range from two to four years, depending on which type of course you do:
  • Part-time courses: Designed for people already in work who want to gain a qualification that builds on the experience and skills they already have, and helps them progress in their career.
  • Full-time courses: Aimed at those looking to enter a specific area of work.

What subjects can you study?

There are loads of different subject areas covered. Here are some examples:
  • Animal management
  • Art and design
  • Business management
  • Computing
  • Construction management
  • Counselling
  • Countryside management
  • Early years
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Health and social care
  • Hospitality management
  • Horticulture
  • Logistics
  • Multimedia
  • Public services
  • Retail management
  • Science
  • Sport
  • Veterinary nursing

Who is suited to foundation degrees?

People who enjoy the industry they’re working in can really benefit from a foundation degree. If you're already in work, a foundation degree could:
  • Offer a flexible qualification to fit around existing work commitments or other personal circumstances
  • Help you develop your skills, gain promotion, take on new responsibilities or boost your confidence in your abilities
  • Give you the opportunity to change career direction within the company you work for
Hannah Makinson decided to study a leadership and management foundation degree at Leeds City College University to progress further in her industry. "It does involve a lot of self-studying outside of lectures, as each module requires a minimum of 200 hours’ study," she says.

"It requires a lot of dedication, but it is achievable. With any academic study you have to dedicate yourself 100% so that you can achieve the qualification to the highest of your ability."

You don’t have to be in work, though. Foundation degrees can also be great if you’re considering entering a specific area of work, for example:
  • You don’t have the formal entry requirements for a full degree
  • You’re not sure about studying for three years
  • You’d like a course that includes practical hands-on learning through work placements or work modules including real-world projects.
Entry requirements

There are no standard entry requirements and you’ll find that they differ depending on the course and institution, so it’s best to check university websites carefully for what they expect.

If you’re under 21 without substantial work experience, courses might ask for one or two A-levels or equivalent vocational qualifications. For those who are older and have work experience relevant to the course, formal qualifications at this level may not be needed.

How to apply: 
  • For full-time foundation degrees, apply through Ucas.
  • For part-time courses, apply directly to the university, college or training provider offering the course.
If your employer offers funding for courses, it’s worth approaching your manager with a reason why a part-time foundation degree would be good for your career development. Make sure you outline the benefits it could provide for the company as well as yourself.

What next after a foundation degree?

Completing a foundation degree could open you up a range of different pathways.

"Having gained real world skills, they can be applied directly in a work environment or alternatively they can lead onto further study to achieve a degree level qualification," says Katie Jenkins, director of future students at the University of the West of England.
  • You may choose to continue to a full degree by taking a one-year top-up course or entering the second or third year of a relevant degree course.
  • As part of your foundation degree you may have gained some entry level professional qualifications and you could build on these.
  • Many people find jobs with the company they have been on work placement with, or those who were already in work often use the qualification to progress in their current workplace.
Hannah Makinson believes her course will offer her a range of employability opportunities. "I chose it for this reason as I wanted a degree that is flexible across career paths. Doing the foundation degree also gives me the opportunity to choose which top-up degree I want to progress onto. The opportunities are vast and varied."

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