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【The Standard】An introduction to foundation programs

UK University


Recently, at Britannia StudyLink, we have received a number of cases in which a student is finishing Form 5 in Hong Kong with grades that aren’t promising.

Parents and students come to us concerned about the future, wondering whether it’s still possible to achieve the goal of attending a UK university.

Well, we’re always pleased to reassure them that there are ways to get there, even if your grades aren’t perfect. The best option is to get on a foundation course. There are many courses offered in the UK but to simplify matters, we can divide them into two types.

One-to-one foundation

This is a foundation course that you take at a university.

It’s usually for a whole academic year and once you complete it, you move on to study a degree at that same university. The nice thing about this type of course is that it comes with a “guaranteed Year 1 entry.” In other words, as long as you pass it you’re automatically accepted to start your degree.

It’s ideal if you have a clear idea of which subject you’d ultimately like to go on to study. It’s also great if you feel that you’d be happy to spend another three years at that same university.

There is a good selection of universities to choose from, including Newcastle University, the University of Sheffield, the University of Sussex, the University of Exeter, the University of York, Durham University, the University of Nottingham, the University of Liverpool, the University of Manchester, Lancaster University and the University of Warwick.

These are strong choices and are all lovely places at which to spend four years of your life. The advantages of taking this sort of course are that being in the campus environment, you get to use the campus facilities and meet lots of friends and future peers.

In fact, in that list there happen to be two universities that I studied at – the University of Nottingham and the University of Warwick.

The disadvantage with this option is that if you wish to progress back to universities in Hong Kong, it’s not an ideal path because your foundation certificate is only recognized in the UK.

One-to-many foundation program

This is a course that you take at an international college rather than a university. These institutions are to be found all over the UK, in big cities such as London, Cambridge, Brighton and Birmingham.

Once you’ve passed your course, you will be guided by your tutor in applying for universities.

This could be done through UCAS or an arrangement with partner universities.

This is a suitable option for students still unsure of what they want to go on to study and where they would like to ultimately go. It gives you flexibility and keeps your options open.

Advantages of these courses are that they are generally taught in small classes (which allow for more extensive personal support and academic guidance) and that they are a good preparation year for improving your English and learning good discipline.

The disadvantages are that some universities might not recognise your certificate if it has a lower degree of accreditation than is required. You can avoid this, however, if you choose your course wisely.

The University of London International Foundation Programme is widely accepted by leading universities, as is the NCUK International Foundation Year. (NCUK is a consortium of leading UK universities committed to helping international students.)

Another disadvantage is that international colleges can have limited space and facilities.

They are not to be confused with traditional British boarding schools and their huge playing fields and grand buildings.