What is a Foundation Degree worth?

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Written By Dr Shane McKeown

Foundation degrees are a fairly recent addition to the roster of higher education in the UK. They were introduced by the government in 2001 as a way to combine both a vocational and academic qualification. Considering the majority of university students complete a bachelor’s degree, applicants often wonder what a foundation degree is worth in comparison.


Please note: Foundation degrees and foundation years are completely different. Check out this article if you want to read about foundation years. These are typically for international students or those without standard qualifications.


Foundation degrees are regarded as being 2/3rds of a standard 3 year degree. That being said what it is ‘worth’ is better understood in terms of what opportunities becomes available when you finish the course. While some students opt to carry on and complete their full undergraduate qualification, many choose to enter the workplace.


Study or Work?

This really is where the strength of this type of qualification lies – foundation degrees provide a strong base to start from when applying to companies in the world of work. The syllabus has been designed in conjunction with universities and employers to give you the best head start possible. So while most students do go on to complete further learning and earn their bachelor degree, applying for the job you want does not have to be delayed. In fact in recent years over 50% of foundation students found work within 6 months. Only 1.8% listed themselves as unemployed.


Which careers accept foundation degrees?

Health and education seem to be the primary employers of foundation degrees. Nurses and paramedics are able to come through this route, as are welfare and housing associates. Teachers and other educators such as sports coaches and instructors may also find a foundation degree useful.

Foundation degrees should not be seen as lesser than a normal degree. Although they represent two thirds of the usual content and time commitment they are designed with employment in mind. Completing the course shows future employers that you can work consistently and to a high level. Of course, if you ever feel the need to complete your studies there is always the option of alternative graduate schemes or a top up degree.


Alternative Graduate Schemes

Foundation degrees are really aimed at the careers above, tailored so that you meet their requirements. But what options are out there if you have a different path in mind? The big 3 – PwC, KPMG and Deloitte frequently list entry requirements to their graduate programmes that are unrelated to your degree qualifications. This can mean appropriate work experience and evidence of self motivation but it could also mean further, separate testing to see if you can make the mark.

While some graduate entry programs do stipulate a bachelor’s degree as a minimum don’t discount future jobs just because you hold a foundation degree. Speak to the course coordinator who will be able to advise if you have enough qualifications to compete with the competition.


Potential Further Study

If you wish to complete a full bachelor’s degree to open up even more career options then a top-up degree is the course for you. Assuming it is related to your foundation studies you will be able to use the credits gained from modules already studied and finish in one year. For those of you who have had a change of heart and want to study a different subject a switch is possible. Depending on course differences however you may have to redo the second or even first year of the bachelor’s.

Remember: to be accepted onto the majority of top-up degrees you must meet the entry requirement of 240 academic credits. You should have received 120 per year of your foundation course – just check prior to sending off your application.

Don’t feel rushed to complete any further education, especially if money is tight. Your foundation degree is valid forever and there is no cut off point by which you need to complete your top-up degree.


University Funding

Don’t get caught out and left without enough finances whilst you are trying to focus on your studies. All students of recognised UK institutions are eligible to receive funding for foundation degrees. The issue is that tuition fee loans provided by the government are only given to those studying for their first qualification. Make sure to double check with the finance department if you are able to get a further loan in the future. As always, if you have any extra requirements or have dependants you may qualify for extra funding. Check out the official guidance here.

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