The UK is home to some of the world’s most prestigious universities and is a popular academic destination among students from Asia seeking their first undergraduate degree. However, entrance requirements are strict and competitive in the UK, and most international students have to complete additional coursework before embarking on their first academic year at a UK university.

According to the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), more than 428,000 international students pursued higher education in the UK last year. This number (which encompasses undergraduate and postgraduate students) has been steadily rising – practically doubling over the past decade. Students from Asia are a growing contingent in this statistic. China and India respectively supplied the highest and second-highest number of students from any single country last year. Malaysia, Hong Kong and Thailand were also major contributors, listed among the top-ten non-EU sending nations.

International students on campus at the University of Leeds

Pic: International students on campus at the University of Leeds.

However, international students have to clear a few hurdles before seeking higher education in the UK. This is why many educational institutes in the UK offer foundation courses to help international students get up to speed in English-language proficiency, UK academic requirements and study habits.

Preparing to earn a degree in the UK
Foundation programs are necessary for international students because of the way that the education system is structured in the UK. While students in many parts of the world complete 12 years of education before entering university, their counterparts in the UK complete an extra 13th year (called sixth form) of study and then take their A levels university entrance exam.

York College

Pic: York College.

This extra year of study prepares and qualifies students in the UK for university entrance. At the same time, it under-qualifies many international students who have not completed sixth form. This is why educational institutes in the UK have introduced foundation courses, crafted to bridge that gap between many international university entrance qualifications and those of the UK.

Foundation courses are not a one-size-fits-all fix. Specific courses are tailored to a particular field of study. With that in mind, international students need to enroll in a course that pertains to their intended area of study once they enter university. A wide range of subjects are available, including engineering, social science, communications, law, computer science and business.

Choosing the right foundation program
Given the number of international students interested in earning an undergraduate degree in the UK, there are many foundation programs to choose from. Some are hosted through specific universities, while others are operated by independent agencies with strong ties to multiple universities.

Loughborough College's Carillion Tower

Pic: Loughborough College's Carillion Tower.

There are advantages to both types of the program. Independent organizations are highly flexible, and they may be better suited for students who are still undecided on which university they plan on applying to. Meanwhile, many programs hosted by universities offer guaranteed enrollment at that university so long as certain performance benchmarks are met during the foundation year. With that in mind, ambitious students with their sights set on a specific university do well to apply to that particular school’s foundation program.

The following are among the leading foundation programs for Asian students:

DURHAM UNIVERSITY, FOUNDATION CENTRE
Durham University is an elite UK university that operates a strong foundation program for international students. This is the third-oldest university in England, with an excellent reputation in international research. Students work under the tutelage of some of the most-respected researchers and academics in their respective fields. Read the full profile here…

Durham Cathedral near Durham University

Pic: Durham Cathedral near Durham University.

LOUGHBOROUGH COLLEGE
A modern, high-tech learning environment, high quality teaching and state-of-the-art facilities are just some of the factors that have contributed to Loughborough College’s reputation as a leading provider of education in the UK. Established in 1909, the college is situated on one of the largest educational campuses in Europe and has about 2,000 full time students and 7,000 part time students. Read the full profile here…

UNIVERSITY OF LEEDS, INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION YEAR PROGRAMMES
The University of Leeds was founded more than a century ago in the UK and has gone on to become one of the World’s Top 100 Universities according to THE-QS World University Rankings. This high international standing attracts students from around the world and fosters a competitive academic environment. Read the full profile here…

CARDIFF UNIVERSITY, INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION PROGRAMME
Cardiff University’s one-year International Foundation Programme gives students from Asia and abroad the support, skills and qualifications they need to enrol in a variety of undergraduate degree programmes at the university or across the UK at large. Students receive specialised support across one of three targeted areas of study: Business, Engineering or Health and Life Sciences. Read the full profile here…

Students on Cardiff University campus

Pic: Students on Cardiff University campus.

YORK COLLEGE
Founded in 1827, York College is a UK leader in the provision of further education. The college offers a wide-ranging vocational programme, over 40 A-Level subjects and a highly regarded International Foundation Programme. Every year, York College welcomes a mix of local, regional and international students. Read the full profile here…

OXFORD BROOKES UNIVERSITY, FOUNDATION
Oxford Brookes University is one of the leading modern universities in the UK, with a strong reputation for excellence in teaching. It offers a wide variety of foundation courses across disciplines including Engineering, the Build Environment, Art and Design and Computing. Extended programs are available to students who need extra assistance with English language proficiency.