If you're undecided about going to university, or you're a mature student considering a return to education, opting for a foundation year gives you the chance to gain experience of studying before fully committing
Going to university is a big step for anyone. If you've been out of education for a few years, it can be a very daunting prospect. For mature students in particular, there may be the added worry of whether university is really for you - will you have anything in common with your fellow students, who may be 18-year-olds straight out of college or sixth form?
The development of the foundation year has opened doors for those who may have previously thought university wasn't an option, whether for academic or personal reasons, from school leavers to busy working parents.
Foundation year or foundation degree?
Note that a foundation year is not the same as a foundation degree. A foundation year gives you access onto a degree course, whereas a foundation degree is a standalone qualification equivalent to two years of a three-year degree. Find out more about foundation degrees.
A foundation year offers a supportive environment if you've been out of education for a few years and are nervous about embarking on a university degree. It can ease you back into the education environment. For example, at the University of Bedfordshire, initial sessions focus on career aspirations and opportunities, including a review of your existing transferable skills.
You can end up being very surprised at just how much you have to offer when it comes to studying - something you might never have thought about before. Having a fresh start generally revives ambitions and aspirations and this is reflected in the results of the majority of our mature students who gain high grades and feel fully prepared for their degree-level study.
Who should take a foundation year?
A foundation year can be seen as a stepping stone into the world of higher education, particularly if you don't necessarily have the right qualifications to go straight onto a degree programme. There is a huge variety of subjects that can be studied on the foundation year, from social studies and business management to biological science and sports therapy, to name a few.
The courses are broad enough to offer a good introduction to a subject, but they also provide enough depth for you to gain credible vocational skills from expert tutors.
A foundation year is also ideal if you're unsure whether you even want to go to university. You can get an understanding of your field of interest before progressing to a full degree programme. As well as subject knowledge, you will get used to the higher education context and gain the skills needed for higher level study. If you successfully complete the foundation year, you can progress immediately into the first year of a degree.
If you've been out of education for a number of years, you may be worried that you'll be the only person over 25 in a room full of teenagers, but this is not the case. More mature students are going to university than ever before. In fact, at the University of Bedfordshire, over 50% of the student population is aged 21 or over. This presents you with a fantastic opportunity to mix with people you may not encounter in everyday life.
What are the entry requirements?
If you're considering doing a foundation year, you shouldn't be put off because of a lack of formal qualifications. If you have work experience and passion for your subject area, universities such as the University of Bedfordshire will look at your profile and advise whether they can accept you or what else you need to do prior to starting the course.
It's also worth remembering that students are currently eligible for student loans for the full four years of their degree with foundation year. At the University of Bedfordshire you can also be entitled to receive a £500 bursary, payable in two instalments, and dependant on attendance. Fees for a foundation year at Bedfordshire are also lower at £6,165 for 2018/19.
The foundation year is linked firmly to the degree you'll progress onto. It allows you to meet with your peers in the year above so you know what to expect when you move onto a degree, you're taught by tutors who will be with you throughout your degree, and you also complete the types of assessments you will be taking in subsequent years, preparing you what is to come.
You'll get plenty of support in understanding how the foundation course works and what is needed to reach the required standard. As a foundation year student, you're a university student from the day you register, and will benefit fully from the facilities and opportunities available to all students.