Building the foundations for a UK university degree

The number of international students enrolled in UK undergraduate programmes rose by 3% last year, demonstrating British universities are still highly popular around the world and their reputation for excellence is still highly regarded.

And as the numbers of students grow, courses in a wide range of subjects are offered catering specifically for international careers. Students wishing to work in the engineering, business, or hospitality sectors for example relish the opportunity to learn in Europe with the best academics and professionals. Some programmes include internships and work experience as part of their requirements, enabling students to gain valuable real-world experience, start making contacts in the industry, and put their knowledge into practice even before they graduate.


Students at the Dublin Institute of Technology (pic: Jason Clarke)

Helpful services, career advice and personal tutors may not suffice to ensure academic success of all students, and as this Guardian article points out, many Chinese students actually fail to get as high results as their peers. While going to university may be an obvious choice for many students in the UK, going abroad to study is a challenge that international students shouldn’t take lightly.

Studying at university is about more than specialising in an area: it’s also about group work, academic writing, work experience, and networking – which can be very daunting for young students freshly arrived in the UK. Taking notice of these emerging challenges, many institutions are now offering preparatory foundation courses to international students who want to pursue a degree in the UK.

Foundation programmes are typically run over one year and are the equivalent of A-Levels. Students get to choose the area they want to focus on and gain extra knowledge to enhance their knowledge before going to university, often in subjects like business, finance, accounting, media and communications.

Unlike A-Levels, foundation programmes are designed with international students in mind, and offer a range of core modules that students take regardless of their specialty to ensure they have the right skills to go to university.


Pic: Graduation at York College

By learning about academic writing, study skills, and how to take notes in lectures, international students prepare themselves for the reality of higher education in the UK. English language modules help improve their level of communication, both written and oral. This is crucial to success in UK universities. Furthermore, cultural and societal classes introduce students from around the world to the British lifestyle.

Universities and colleges that offer foundation programmes also have partnerships with UK universities which enable students to plan a study pathway in advance; although they are also free to apply in the institution of their choice. Extracurricular activities and living in homestays with British families also contribute to a successful preparation to studies in the UK at university level.

Here are just a few foundation programmes that can help introduce international students to a UK university education:

Dublin Institute of Technology

Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) has been pioneering technological education for the past 125 years and was the first technical education institution in Ireland. The Institute prepares students for further education in technical and scientific subjects and for successful careers.  The International Foundation Programmes at DIT are one-year courses that prepare international students for further education in a variety of subjects including physics, biology, business, and accounting. The Institute has many international partnerships and student exchanges, fostering a diverse and welcoming student community. Read the full profile here…

York College

York College is a leader in the field of further education and offers highly competitive foundation programmes for students wishing to step into a UK University. It recently achieved outstanding status from the UK Government and produces quality students ready to pursue their education at the higher level. The International Foundation Programme offered in partnership with the University of York is run over one year as an intensive course for students from all over the world. Read the full profile here…


Pic: Arts students at Falmouth University

Falmouth University

Falmouth University is a renowned arts institution in Cornwall, England, that offers an International Foundation Diploma in Art & Design to prepare international students for further education and careers in the Arts. The Diploma is taught through a variety of lectures, seminars and studio time; visiting lectures; field trips; and one-to-one tuition. On top of the core skills in Art and Design practices, histories, and theories, students take a 23-week academic communication unit to build the language skills required to present their work and express their thoughts and opinions in English. When they graduate, students are guaranteed a place on the Falmouth University degree of their choice. Read the full profile here…

Henley College

Henley College is a vibrant and friendly college in Coventry in the West Midlands that welcomes approximately 5,000 part-time and 1,600 full-time students. Many international students attend the college to prepare for further education at a UK university in the subject area of their choice. The International Foundation Programme at Henley College includes core modules in English, Study Skills and IT to learn about research techniques, presentation skills,  and academic writing. Students can specialise in one of five pathways: business administration, business information systems, law, media, and engineering. Past students have progressed to undergraduate studies at the universities of Aston, Nottingham, Durham, Portsmouth, Leicester, Reading and many others.

Bath Academy

The Bath Academy’s reputation for academic excellence attracts international students from all around the world each year, and with a University Foundation Programme that specifically prepares students for higher education at a top UK university, the Academy is a popular choice. Over one year, it provides students with the necessary English skills and academic knowledge to succeed at university and is recognised as one of the leading courses in the UK. Students benefit from small class sizes and private tutors and can decide to specialise in the area of their choice: business/economics/finance; science; law/social sciences; engineering/technology/architecture; or art.