What is a foundation degree?

Want to learn practically? A foundation degree could be for you…

Whether you’re looking to start studying but you don’t want to commit to a full degree, you want to train in a particular profession, or further study is needed to help secure a promotion at your current company, a foundation degree could be exactly what you need to achieve your career goals.

Here’s everything you need to know about foundation degrees:  


What is a foundation degree? 

A foundation degree is a higher education qualification that combines academic learning with work-based skills. 

Designed in conjunction with universities, colleges, and employers, these qualifications focus on helping students gain in-demand, job-specific skills that they can practically apply in the workplace.  

As a result, it opens the doors for employment opportunities as well as the option to continue onto a full undergraduate qualification. 

View all foundation degree courses


Types of foundation degree

There are two main types of foundation degree: 

  • Courses for people who are already in work. These foundation degrees allow you to gain a qualification in an area you’re currently working in, and ultimately progress in your career. They’re perfect for people who want to study alongside their current role.  
  • Courses for people who are looking to enter a specific area of work. Ideal for people who want to break into an industry, but don’t meet the formal entry requirements for a full degree. Includes practical, hands-on learning that boosts your employability in a particular field. 

The structure of your course will depend on the type you take, and whether you study full-time or part-time, or if you choose an online foundation degree – but it will always involve a combination of academic learning and practical work experience. 


How long is a foundation degree? 

Whilst sometimes referred to as a ‘foundation year’, a foundation degree will typically last two years. 

If you choose to study part-time, the length of study will increase to four years. 


What subjects can I study? 

Foundation degrees are generally based around a job or profession, making them available in a wide range of subjects. 

Popular areas of study include: 

  • Social work
  • Nursing
  • Business
  • Drama
  • Animal studies 
  • Leisure and tourism
  • Sports
  • Agriculture
  • Design


What level is a foundation degree? 

A foundation degree is a Level 5 qualification, according to the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF)

It’s the equivalent of two thirds of an honours bachelor’s degree, a Higher National Diploma (HND), and a Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE). 

What are the different degree levels? 

Levels of education: What do they mean?


Foundation degree entry requirements 

Unlike a bachelor’s degree, there are no specific entry requirements to start studying – so what you’ll need will usually vary from course to course.  

Formal qualifications aren’t always required, and you might find that relevant work experience is more valuable when applying for a foundation degree.

To find out more, check the entry requirements on your chosen course.  


How much does a foundation degree cost? 

The cost of a foundation degree may vary depending on your course and where you study.

Generally, you can expect to pay around £2,600 per year in tuition fees.  

However, there is a range of financial support available – especially if you’re studying alongside a job. You’ll also be entitled to a student loan if this is your first undergraduate degree. 

Five ways to make studying affordable

Student loan repayments: What you need to know

View all university courses with payment options 


How to find a foundation degree 

Foundation degree courses are advertised in a number of places. 

Here’s where you can find them: 

  • On a university’s website or prospectus
  • On a college’s website 
  • On a course provider’s website
  • On UCAS’ website
  • On a courses marketplace 
  • On social media


How to apply for a foundation degree

There are a few ways to apply for foundation degree courses. 

If you’re looking to study part-time, you’ll need to enquire and apply directly via the university or college’s website. 

For full-time foundation degrees which are offered by a UCAS provider, you’ll be required to complete a UCAS undergraduate application


What can I do with a foundation degree? 

A foundation degree provides a pathway to a number of opportunities. 

Since it’s made up of work-based learnings, you may be able to go straight into your chosen career after completing a foundation degree. Or progress within your current role. 

You could also decide to ‘top up’ your degree with further study, allowing you to achieve a full undergraduate degree. You can choose to do this at any time, whether it’s directly after graduating or a few years down the line. 

Or, if you’re keen on continuing to study short-term qualifications alongside a job, there are a range of professional and regulated certifications available to help you boost your skills. 

Should I go to university? 

Going back to university: Is it right for me?



Still searching for your perfect learning opportunity? View all foundation degrees now



To find out more about undergraduate degrees, visit your preferred university’s website, or check UCAS.