5 things every international student should know about UK Foundation Programmes
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5 things every international student should know about UK Foundation Programmes

There’s little doubt about it: the spectrum of possible pathways through higher education available to today’s international students is broad. Keen learners all over the world are constantly told that they can ‘kick-start their futures with an IELTS’ qualification, ‘improve their prospects with a BTEC’ or ‘jump-start their university careers with a Foundation programme’- but are these options universally understood?

The UK Foundation programme is a prime example of an educational pathway that is hugely valuable for international students yet is, largely, misinterpreted. Often sidelined as an ‘easy option’ for students who lack academic ability (or, perhaps, simply motivation), a UK Foundation course enables students to bridge the gap between school and university by filling any holes in their knowledge or experience before they apply for an undergraduate degree in the UK.


Pic: Shutterstock.

Given the popularity of UK qualifications among numerous global employers, Foundation programmes can act as golden tickets to education for countless international students- and the benefits don’t stop at graduate employability. The humble Foundation programme allows students to…

1. Get the most out of the UK higher education system

Most likely, the idea of tutorials, seminars, academic skills and essay writing are almost completely alien to many overseas students- and a surprising number of UK students. Not to worry: meet the Foundation programme. These handy, accessible courses have been designed specifically to ease international students into their chosen discipline within the UK higher education system, providing not only subject-specific expertise in disciplines as diverse as Finance, History and Art, but also English language support and numerous opportunities for the development of academic writing, reading and even effective note-taking skills. Plus, as confident communication is an important part of successful study, those enrolled are able to find their feet and build confidence in giving presentations and engaging in academic discussion. Knowledge and experience are power.

2. Increase their chances of admission to UK universities

All together now: Foundation programmes increase international students’ chances of admission to UK universities. And again: Foundation programmes increase international stude- okay, point made. Universities across the UK recognise overseas students’ completion of Foundation courses as a sign that they are fully equipped with the academic and social skills necessary to begin undergraduate study. Better still; some institutions offer those enrolled on their Foundation programmes a conditional place on their undergraduate course in the same subject area.


Pic: Havering College.

3. Tackle the culture shock early

Academic development aside, studying in the UK is an experience that is both incredibly rewarding and incredibly different, with more than its fair share of quirks and surprises. Once again, we welcome the Foundation programme. Instead of leaving the inevitable culture shock of living and learning in a new country to be dealt with at the beginning of a three or four-year undergraduate course, Foundation programme students have the opportunity to acclimatise to life in the UK before getting stuck in for the long haul. Lo and behold: in the first week of their BA course, Foundation graduates will amaze their peers by queuing politely, dunking Hobnobs in their builders’ tea and apologising for nothing at all with the best of the Brits!

4. Visit universities and decide for themselves

The road to choosing the ‘right’ university is littered with flashy websites, video tours and more prospectuses than most sane individuals can assimilate effectively. What’s better than reading reams of promotional material on a university? Going there in person, meeting the staff and getting that much sought-after ‘gut feeling’. Enrolling on a Foundation programme provides an excellent opportunity to come to the UK and live a mere train or bus ride away from hundreds of higher education institutions, all of which hold Open Days and events for prospective students. So, bin the billions of brochures, each of which promises the best educational opportunities for you, and see for yourself.

5. Make the jump at high speed!

Think moving from one academic system to another will take forever? Think again. Another of the many beauties of the Foundation programme is that it is, relatively, extremely short- and the results are incredibly sweet. Programmes tend to range between 6 and 12 months in length, with the 6-month option being, predictably, a more intensive fast-track form of training. Picture this: skills, culture acclimatisation and language training gained in a year or less. Almost- but thankfully not quite- too good to be true.

Read on to discover institutions which offer world-class UK Foundation programmes.


Situated in the heart of Wales, Coleg Cambria is one of the largest colleges in the UK, with a thriving student body of approximately 27,000. The College comprises six campuses, which include a 1,000-acre farm, two restaurants, a public art gallery, a state-of-the-art animal care centre and a centre for excellence in Engineering. Full-time students, apprentices and professional learners from all over the globe are all welcome at Coleg Cambria, which offers a diverse, stimulating range of courses suitable for international students from practically any background. Read the full profile.


Situated in the heart of the vibrant and diverse cultural UK capital, Havering College of Further and Higher Education has grown to become one of the region’s largest providers of training and flexible pathways through education. International students choose Havering College to hone their professional skills, develop their English proficiency and secure a route into UK higher education. Each year, the college welcomes more than 9,000 students with a diverse range of degree and diploma courses and training programmes. Havering places principle focus on its students’ development of creative, innovative and, all-importantly, transferrable skills. Read the full profile.


Distinguished by its commitment to student success, Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) combines the academic excellence of a traditional university with career-focussed learning to ensure that their students excel in their chosen discipline. Studying at DIT enables each individual to develop the skills and knowledge they require to contribute to a complex, ever-changing society. The Institute’s International Office offers a comprehensive, high-quality International Foundation programme which has been designed specifically to prepare international students for academic study on a broad spectrum of DIT Undergraduate programmes. Read the full profile.


Recognised as one of the leading higher education institutions in the UK, York College has achieved an ‘Outstanding’ rating by the national inspection body Ofsted. Having spent £60 million on developing world-class resources designed with over-16 students in mind, York provides a welcoming, high quality environment in which its students can progress and excel academically. In addition to a broad spectrum traditional courses, the College offers not only an International Foundation Programme but also an International Foundation Programme with extra English, both of which have been developed in partnership with the University of York. Read the full profile.


Committed to enabling each and every student enrolled to succeed, Highbury College consistently achieves student success rates that place them within the top 1% of colleges in England. Highbury provides a huge number of vocational and academic programmes in and around Portsmouth which range from entry level training courses to entry level qualifications, specialised services for business and learning in the community. All those enrolled at Highbury College benefit from the world-class facilities and friendly, comprehensive support they require to succeed not only within the competitive employment market but also within today’s increasingly global society. Read the full profile.