Foundation Degrees FAQ

In our FAQs, we have sought to answer most commonly asked questions on Foundation degrees and work-based higher education.

Mature students and entry requirements

Recently I got an enquiry from a lady who had left school at 16 some years ago with a number of good GCSEs. She has been in full-time work since then. Would she be eligible to apply for a Foundation degree or are further qualifications required?

As the universities and colleges set their own entry requirements, it is only possible to provide general guidance here. More specific information will be available from the course providers. The entry requirements for Foundation degrees tend to be more flexible than for honours degrees. The age of the applicant, their experience within the workplace and the type of course they intend to study all have an impact.

People under 21 who wish to enter any university level course will generally need Level 3 qualifications (for example, A-Levels, BTEC National Diploma, NVQ 3 or equivalent). Universities and colleges may stipulate particular subject areas or grades, depending on the course. University websites, prospectuses, admissions staff and open days are all good sources of information of this.

Entry requirements are usually different for mature students (those over age 21). For honours degree courses, mature students are likely to need Level 3 qualifications or to have completed an Access to Higher Education course.

For Foundation degrees, academic qualifications can be less important than having a substantial amount of relevant experience in the workplace. Indeed, extensive experience within a particular employment sector is a condition of entry for all students on some Foundation degree courses. Again, entry requirements can be found in prospectuses and on university or college websites.

Already have an honours degree?

I am advising someone who already has an honours degree. Would they be able to apply for a Foundation degree in a different subject?

It is not unusual for individuals with undergraduate or postgraduate qualifications to undertake a Foundation degree. Indeed, around 20% of Foundation degree students already have higher education qualifications. Some of these individuals may be seeking to change careers or perhaps to gain very specific technical skills and knowledge in their existing field.

Regulations concerning the funding of Equivalent or Lower Qualifications (ELQs) have caused some confusion about the funding available to students. The government has been reviewing these regulations, particularly in relation to STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Foundation degrees are exempt from the ELQ regulations, but not necessarily the "top-up courses" that convert these to honours degrees. This means that Foundation degree students will still have to pay tuition fees, but may be eligible for loans to cover these, and for student support. Students who fall within the ELQ regulations are not eligible for any support and have to pay fees and maintenance costs upfront. It is essential that anyone who thinks they may be affected by this seeks up-to-date advice before applying for courses.

Previous experience

I am interested in finding out how much previous experience is usually needed for Foundation degrees. Are they all based on the premise that no previous experience of the subject is needed?

The entry requirements for Foundation degrees vary between courses. Some Foundation degree courses have been specifically designed for individuals who have considerable experience within a particular sector and require students to be in relevant employment while they study. These courses will have entry requirements based on workplace experience rather than academic qualifications.

Other Foundation degree courses are designed to benefit individuals who wish to enter a sector or change careers. These courses are likely to be full-time and require younger students to hold relevant Level 3 qualifications (for example, A-Levels, NVQ, BTEC National Diploma etc.) and may ask mature students to have equivalent qualifications or experience.

Tuition fees

As a Careers Adviser, I understood that Foundation degree tuition fees would be considerably cheaper than those for a full honours degree. However, I am advising a learner who has recently been accepted onto a Foundation degree course and told that the fees are the same for both sorts of degree at this particular institution. Is there a general ruling on Foundation degree fees or can universities charge what they like?

See our page on funding learning at work.

Student loans

There seems to be some confusion about whether Foundation degree students are eligible for student loans – can you clarify?

Foundation degree students can apply for the financial support that is available to all undergraduate students (for example, student loans, bursaries etc). See our page on funding learning at work.

Time commitment

I have been asked about part-time Foundation degrees and am not clear on the time commitment involved in these courses. Can you give me an idea of how many hours per week students are expected to spend both in the classroom and on independent study?

The time commitment will vary by course, so it is best to talk to the staff delivering a particular course to get an accurate idea of what is expected. They may also be able to put potential learners in touch with current students (perhaps with similar personal circumstances, if relevant) to help give a practical idea of the hours required each week.

Course information

I am looking for a convenient list of all the available Foundation degrees, so I don't always have to trawl through the university and college websites. Can you point me in the right direction?

You can search for Foundation degrees on the UCAS website If you would like further information about a particular course, this can be found in the prospectus or on the website of the university/college offering the course.

Payment for work placements

I notice that many Foundation degree courses include work placements, are these placements usually paid?

Foundation degrees are employment-focused qualifications. Many Foundation degree students have already been in employment for a substantial period of time before they start their course and undertake study to improve their skills/knowledge and progress their career. For many students, this involves remaining in their full or part-time employment whilst they study. Employers will commonly support their employees undertaking Foundation degrees, either financially or otherwise.

Some students choose to take a Foundation degree after leaving school/college as a way of entering a particular career. These students will typically study full-time and will not be in paid employment relevant to their Foundation degree. These students will often undertake work placements. These may be paid placements, but you should check with the institution offering the course.

Proceeding to honours degree study

I understand that it is possible for Foundation degree students to 'top up' their Foundation degree to an honours degree, but realise I am not clear on the process for this.

Once a student completes their Foundation degree, they have the option to progress to honours degree (or other higher level) study. Foundation degree graduates who choose to continue to study typically enter the final year of an honours degree programme. All Foundation degree courses must provide a progression route to a specific honours degree course (usually awarded by the university that awards the Foundation degree). Details of this linked honours degree course will be available from the relevant university website or course handbook. However, students are free to enter other honours degree courses if they wish. The UCAS database can be used to identify courses. The student would then need to contact the relevant admissions tutor to discuss their suitability for the course and the application procedure.

Foundation courses and Foundation degrees

There seems to be a lot of confusion about the difference between foundation courses and Foundation degrees – can you clarify the difference?

Foundation degrees are university level courses leading to a Level 5 qualification. Foundation or access courses are usually one-year, pre-university courses at Level 3/4 that aid entry into degree level study. The two are quite distinct. There are also Foundation programmes for overseas students to help them to access other UK provision. Admissions tutors will be able to provide advice to individual students on which will be the best option in each case.

Teacher training

I've had an enquiry from a classroom assistant who'd like to progress to teacher training. Will a Foundation degree be a good route for him?

A Foundation degree can be part of an acceptable work-based route to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). Work-based options after completing the Foundation degree include the Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) or the Registered Teacher Programme (RTP). Information about teacher training and the various routes to becoming a teacher can be found on the Department of Education: Get into Training website. It would also be advisable for an individual to call the specialist Teaching Line on freephone 0800 389 2500.

Nursing qualification

I work with nurses and health care assistants in the NHS and wondered if there were any plans to enable Foundation degree holders in healthcare to transfer their learning over to a nursing qualification?

Some Foundation degree graduates have progressed to nursing or other honours degree courses within the health professions (for example, radiography and physiotherapy). Generally these students enter the second year of the honours programme, but the programme provider will be able to give more information on the arrangements for their particular course.

Transferring module credits

A colleague started a part-time Foundation degree earlier this year and has successfully completed two modules. However, due to a change in circumstances, she would now like to transfer to a full-time course at a different institution. Is it usually possible to transfer Foundation degree module credits or will she need to start again?

It is usually possible for students to transfer to a different institution during their studies. However, the final decision rests with the provider the student wishes to transfer to, so do contact them for further details of eligibility. They will also be able to advise on whether credits can be transferred and what the starting point will be on the new course.

Qualification after the first year

I know that students on other degree programmes are often able to get some sort of qualification if they leave the course after successfully completing the first year – does any similar arrangement exist on Foundation degree courses?

If a student successfully completes the first year of a Foundation degree and then decides to terminate their studies, they may be eligible for a higher education award. It is fairly common for universities to award a Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE) to students who have successfully completed Level 1 modules that total at least 120 credits. However, it is important to check with individual institutions as policies may vary.

Information for potential students

I am a college Careers Adviser and would like to talk to my students about Foundation degrees. Do you have any pre-prepared information I could give them?

Please refer to Foundation Degrees where you'll find literature for students explaining the nature of Foundation degrees and the options available to potential students.

Can a Foundation degree graduate put letters after their name?

Occasionally I get asked what letters different qualifications give after a name. I realise that with Foundation degrees I'm not quite sure.

When a Foundation degree has been successfully completed, the holder will be entitled to use the letters after their name. However, the exact style will be determined by the type of course studied – for example, a Science course might give FdSc or an Engineering one FdEng.

Changing direction after a Foundation degree

Having read a lot about Foundation degrees recently, I am keen to know whether such a focused degree would prevent students from altering their career path later on?

This is a very important question for potential learners to consider. Careers advisers at the university/college providing the Foundation degree would be able to advise about progression opportunities. Young people can get careers advice from careers advisers at their school or college. Adults can use the National Careers Service for advice. Careers information is also provided by organisations such as Prospects and you may find relevant sectoral information through the relevant Sector Skills Council.

MA after a Foundation degree

I've been told that it is possible for Foundation degree students to 'top up' to an honours degree – does the same thing apply to an MA or would the student need to do the BA 'top up' first?

Once a student has completed a Foundation degree they will have the option to progress to an honours degree, or other higher level study. There have been cases where Foundation degree graduates have progressed directly to masters level courses, although this is unusual. As with honours degrees, entry requirements vary between institutions and courses.

Who decides where Foundation degrees are offered?

I am advising a colleague about local part-time opportunities for studying at work. A Foundation degree sounds ideal, but having looked at the lists of available courses, I have noticed that a lot of subjects aren't really offered outside London.

Universities and colleges will offer courses if they have the resources (for example, staff expertise, funding and capacity) and there is a perceived market for the course. If you think there is a particular course that is needed in your local area, you could approach nearby universities or colleges. They may have plans to offer the course in the future, or would certainly be able to give you information about what other support they can provide.

UCAS points

Do Foundation degrees carry any UCAS points or are they not part of that system?

The UCAS tariff is designed for use in connection with undergraduate admissions. UCAS points are therefore only allocated for qualifications that lead to entry to undergraduate courses (for example, A-Levels, BTEC National Diploma etc.). University level qualifications (for example, an honours degree or Foundation degree) will not carry UCAS tariff points.