Foundation Programme: What is it, and why should you do one?

Dec 10 20

When choosing a university and course, students often come across the term ‘Foundation Programme’. But many neither know what is it, nor what enormous advantages this programme can bring. If you’re one of these students, or perhaps you doubt whether you need a Foundation Programme, then we’re here to help.

What is a Foundation Programme?

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Achieve your dreams of a university education abroad by applying for a Foundation Programme!

In short, a Foundation Programme is an undergraduate preparation programme which is organised by universities, colleges, or private course providers.

When applying to study at undergraduate level, you need a certain level of secondary school qualification and a certain quality of curriculum. School education in most European countries, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Japan lasts from 12 to 14 years, including two years of preparation for higher or further education. If you attended school in a country where school education is shorter, then your school leaver qualification is not considered equivalent and you cannot directly progress to undergraduate courses at the countries mentioned above.

So, a Foundation Programme is necessary. It helps you: 

  1. Adapt to your new country, culture, and university.
  2. Improve your foreign language skills with preparatory classes.
  3. Attain the academic qualifications needed to study at undergraduate level.

How is the programme structured?

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What are the different types of Foundation Programme?

  • A general programme, for example, in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences or in Life Sciences.
  • A subject oriented programme, for example, a Business Programme or a Law Programme.
  • An Integrated Foundation Programme, which is part of a degree course and allows automatic progression to undergraduate level.

Programmes differ in composition, price, and duration. Although they are commonly called a Foundation “Year”, sometimes they only last six months! Usually, Foundation Programmes start in September to allow students to graduate and begin their bachelor’s the following academic year. Intensive 6-month programmes often start in January.

The Foundation Programme comprises compulsory and optional modules. Compulsory modules include English for academic purposes, study skills, and research skills. Optional modules help you prepare for your course of study.

English language modules are usually part of the programme. Classes can last anywhere from a few weeks to half a year, depending on your IELTS or TOEFL level when you apply. Modules can be as simple as reading, writing, speaking and listening classes, all the way to advanced practice in critical reasoning and collaborative study. In these classes, at least 20 hours a week is devoted to learning English. You’ll be fluent in no time!

Foundation Programmes around the world

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We’ll tell you a little bit about the features of Foundation Programmes in English-speaking countries.

In Australia there are three types of Foundation Programme: Standard (40 weeks); Intensive (30 weeks); and Extended (60 weeks). To enrol on an Extended Programme you should have an IELTS score of 5.0; the shorter-duration programmes require a higher score. These programmes are very popular in Australia and are organised by most universities. They generally cost between USD$10,000-$17,000. 

In the UK, Foundation Programmes at universities generally last between 2 and 4 terms (24 and 48 weeks of classes). Applicants with excellent knowledge of English study for 2 terms, and students who need extra language teaching study for longer – between 0.5 and 2 extra terms. Popular providers include Kaplan International Pathways and University Foundation Programme. Costs range between USD$7,500-$25,000.

Foundation Programmes in Canada usually last for 8 months, though students with a higher level of English can take an intensive course. You should have an IELTS score of at least 5.0, but entry requirements depend on the university. Expect to pay between USD$8,500-$26,200.

In the US, Foundation Programmes last 1 academic year. They are primarily focussed on improving your language in intensive English courses lasting 1-2 semesters, and also include a basic curriculum of study skills and some subject-relevant material. One compulsory part of the programme is acquaintance with the academic traditions of your chosen university! Programmes cost between USD$8,000-$25,000.

What do you need to apply?

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  • Secondary school leaver certificate. It doesn’t matter if you have only completed 11 years of school – that’s what the Foundation Programme is for!
  • Intermediate proficiency in English. Learning academic English requires a strong base of knowledge! You need a minimum IELTS level of 4.0-5.0.
  • Subject-relevant qualifications at secondary school.
  • You should be at least 17 years old – the vast majority of undergraduate students are 18 or older.

What benefits will I receive during the Foundation Programme?

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If you graduate with good academic performance, then in some universities this means automatic admission to an undergraduate programme. If you’re studying at a university where this isn’t the case, don’t worry – a Foundation Programme certificate significantly increases your chances of admission to other universities.

And another bonus? After completing your programme, many universities exempt foreign applicants from sitting a IELTS or TOEFL exam. 

Even better? Foundation students are full members of the university. You can use all the amenities and facilities – gyms, libraries, campus grounds, sports clubs and student societies – the university is at your disposal!


If a Foundation Programme seems right for you, then we’re ready to help you apply. Look no further than, where you can browse foundation programmes, universities, and scholarships in all of these countries and more! 

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