Guide to UK Foundation Year

Are you interested in foundation programmes in a UK university? Our guide will explain all you need to know about the foundation year, including popular foundation year courses, UK universities offering foundation years, and more.

Table of Contents

What is a Foundation Year?

The foundation year is a one-year university preparatory course designed for O-level and equivalent graduates. These programmes are known in the UK as year 0 and gateway programmes. In general, the foundation programme is meant to be a pre-university course that bridges the gap between secondary education (O-levels and equivalent) and the stringent academic requirements of an undergraduate programme. 

These programmes often have basic preparatory modules that prepare students for academic writing, presentation skills, and introductory classes relevant to the discipline. Programmes built for international students may also include a module focused on improving their English language skills. At the same time, foundation programmes also immerse students in university life such as participation in student societies and more.

Upon completion of the foundation year, students may move on to the first year of their undergraduate studies if they have adequate grades. There may be the option to undertake their undergraduate studies in another university, however, the foundation programme may not be as widely accepted as an A-Level qualification.

In the UK, the foundation programme may also refer to a two-year training programme for medical students. Upon the completion of their medical degree, students have to undergo a two-year training period where they would be junior doctors in hospitals. Pre-university foundation programmes also exist for medicine – as the names are similar, be sure to double-check the purpose of the programme before you enrol. Foundation in Medicine programmes are more commonly referred to as a gateway year.

guide to uk foundation programmes

UK Universities with Foundation Programmes

Here’s a list of popular UK universities that offer foundation programmes.

UniversityUK Ranking
Durham University8
University of Warwick11
University of Exeter15
University of Manchester19
University of Southampton17
University of Bristol16
University of Birmingham14
University of Leeds22
King's College London24
University of Nottingham28
Cardiff University21
University of Sheffield20
Queen Mary University of London53

Foundation Programmes

Here are some popular foundation programmes along with a list of top-ranked UK universities that offer these courses.

Foundation Programmes for International Students

Foundation in Law

Foundation in Arts and Humanities

Foundation in Psychology

Foundation in Business

Foundation in Pharmacy

Foundation in Physiotherapy

Foundation in Architecture

Foundation in Mathematics

Foundation in Engineering

Foundation in Science

Foundation in Medicine, Health Sciences, Biomedical Studies

Foundation in Dentistry

Foundation in Optometry

Foundation Programmes in London

Foundation Year Entry Requirements

Gateway programmes generally have lower requirements compared to undergraduate entry. However, this may still vary depending on the subject that you’re applying for. Requirements for medical programmes will generally demand higher grades than other subjects – for example, the entry requirements for Nottingham’s Medicine with Foundation Year programme is a minimum of 5Bs at GCSEs or BBC at A-Levels. Some other foundation programmes may only require a minimum of 72 UCAS points for entry, which is the equivalent of BC at A-Levels. Check out our article here which explains how UCAS tariff points work.

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