University Foundation Programme

University Foundation Programme

The University Foundation Programme is a one-year fast track course designed to help international students to successfully enter UK universities to study for their first degree. This course is normally taken up by students who have finished high school in their country of origin and would like to continue their education in the UK.


All students taking the University Foundation Programme must take exams in Core Maths and Communication Skills. Other subjects available include:




Business Maths

Business Studies




English Literature



Government and Politics





Physical Education



 Pure Maths

Science Maths





Other subjects may be available upon request.

The University Foundation Programme can be taken over 1 or 2 years. The two year programme offers greater flexibility for students wishing to combine the programme with intensive English.


Choosing the Right University Foundation Programme


The University Foundation Programme (UFP) is an intensive full-time course that offers international students (mostly) an alternative route to British University degree courses from the other more recognised routes of A Levels or International Baccalaureate (IB).

Students can join the UFP in September or January in most schools and choose from a variety of pathways allowing entry to almost all undergraduate degree courses.

There are broadly two types of UFP programmes to study:  



English Language Based Foundation Programme

This is a programme that is specially designed for international students whose first language is not English; a large proportion of the programme is to improve English language skills. Alongside this, subject specific units are taught which will aid the students preparing for their degree course.



Subject Based Foundation Programme

The programme is designed to specialise in subject areas which will provide the student with the knowledge and understanding to start a specific degree programme. Alongside this students study English Language to satisfy the IELTS requirements of the particular institution they wish to apply to. The subjects on offer are considerable; from accounting to zoology with plenty in between. There are even now good medicine UFP courses giving access to degree courses for those aspiring to be doctors.



Who applies for UFP courses?

UFP courses are aimed generally at more mature international students whose aim is to enter university after one year’s study. The majority of students on the UFP course come from an international background, giving a wonderfully diverse blend of cultures, which adds much to the course and friendships that can come from enrolment.  They may have a first class educational background in their own countries, but their qualifications do not meet UK university entrance requirements. As well as international students, British students with good GCSE grades who have attempted A or AS levels but did not achieve the grades required to enter the university course of their choice may also join the programme.



Key Facts for UFP


·         UFP traditionally has two start dates per year, September (to June), and January (to August). The January start allows students from overseas to join the programme if their country’s school year runs from January to December unlike the UK schools who have September to August.  The August completion date still allows students to enter their chosen university in September/October along with their peers who completed the UFP in June.


·         Students study several modules within a course structure with most, if not all, having a core element along with optional subjects chosen to complement the degree course being applied for. As such, the UFP is modular, with examinations taken at the end of each section of the course. Re-sits of papers are possible although some universities do not accept re-sits as part of their entry requirements, so students should consult their prospective university first to see if this might be an issue.


·         For those international students who require it, the UFP also includes English Language   tuition to prepare students for the IELTS examinations.  This ensures that all UFP students meet university English Language entry requirements. There are two variants of the IELTS. The IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. For the academic IELTS, the test is for people applying for higher education or professional registration in an English speaking environment. It reflects some of the features of academic language and assesses whether you are ready to begin studying or training at a high level. You will need this to gain entry to university. The general IELTS, this is for those who are going to English speaking countries for secondary education, work experience or training programmes. It is also a requirement for migration to Australia, Canada, New Zealand as well as the UK. The test focuses on basic survival skills in broad social and workplace contexts. You are therefore almost certain to have to sit this test prior to arrival on your UFP course. If not the general test, then some other English based assessment, which is likely to be linked to the CEFRL criteria, to determine the appropriate classes to place the UFP student into.


·         UFP courses are either accredited by a college or university or linked to universities through progression agreements established between the universities and the providers. They are taught to level 3, in other words to an A Level equivalent standard for purposes of uniformity and accountability of providers. Some schools operate specific agreements with universities. Students should be wary of these if they are not 100% sure that the university to which their school is linked is definitely the one they want to attend. The reason being that these courses are not transferable and will only get you into the one university or a small cohort of universities. This will limit your options severely when applying through UCAS.


·         The many UFP courses on offer are fully accepted by over 75 British Universities and Colleges and are now increasingly being accepted by universities overseas including in the USA, Canada and Australia in terms of English speaking countries. It is also accepted in some European countries, but not too many at the moment. Its continued acceptance in Europe could become less certain after the UK eventually leaves the EU and would be a factor to consider when deciding to embark upon any UFP programme. Some schools run partnerships with overseas schools, so that you might be able to undertake your chosen UFP course in your own country before coming the UK to study the degree course you have selected at university. This option might be worth considering if finances are an issue and funding for your UFP course on top of the degree course might be a problem. Check with the school/college offering the UFP programme to see if this is an option available to you.  Some Foundation Programmes offer automatic progression onto a university they are linked to, as long as the entry requirements are met. If the entry requirements are below the required standard students will need to apply through UCAS, so long as the units they have studied are transferable.



Other advice


  • The best way to identify the difference between English language based UFP and subject based UFP is by looking at the course content, the units are explained clearly and are easy to understand which type is right for the individual. Many institutions will have admissions tutors, registrars or student support staff to help you navigate through the process if you are uncertain.


  • Research into the various programmes at as many schools/colleges as possible. This will ensure the student has a complete understanding of the course and the institution, after which the student is then able to make an informed choice.


  • Most schools/colleges  assess their programmes by percentage, for example:

Pass 40% +

Merit 60%+

Distinction 70%+

It is wise when doing your research to establish which pass level is going to be required by your university. Accepatance onto the wrong UFP course could seriously impact upon your chances of being accepted onto your degree course of choice. In addition, try to ascertain the recent success rates of the school to judge for yourself if the institution has a strong track record of placings its students into university through the Foundation Programme.


·         As a part of the process of choosing a school, check carefully what student support is available. Good support will make the move from overseas much smoother. Aspects to consider should be, help with accommodation, help with visa application and possible help with funding/finance.


Typical English Language entry requirements for university

The entry requirements vary from as low as 4.5 IELTS overall to 7.0 on some programmes. All students need to have completed at least Year 11, NQF UK.


In addition to the actual UFP  pass aspect of the entry requirements for university, the students are required to pass an English exam, normally IELTS, although some universities do now accept some other English tests. Password for instance is one such organisation running similar tests to IELTS. Depending on the type of degree course and institute the required scores may vary.


Again, it is important to do your research first. Check with the university what the entry requirement will be for IELTS and ensure that the school where you wish to study the UFP programme can deliver an IELTS teaching programme that will guarantee that you will reach the university’s requirements. Whilst not a hard-and-fast rule, it takes roughly 300 hours of tuition to move up half an IELTS point; round about 1 term. You can use this as a benchmark, knowing your starting IELTS score and the IELTS entry requirement of your chosen university.

Other points to consider:

·         The higher ranked the university the higher the IELTS results.

·         The more challenging the degree the higher the IELTS results.

·         Essay based degrees require higher IELTS results.

·         Numerical and practical degrees require lower IELTS results.


As with so many choices that need to be made when selecting the right course for you, research is key. Contact the school/college offering the UFP programme, check their website to glean as much information as you can. Speak to their admissions staff and try to visit the place. Is the course right for you? Is the school/college right for you? Will you enjoy the location of the school/college? These are also important questions to ask as well as more subject and course specific questions regarding the UFP programme.



Tuition fees only, depends on the programme £11,000 - £19,000. Business – Medicine.

Accommodation, can vary depending location (London more expensive) £4,000 - £12,600 (London) approx.



City schools tend to be more expensive than suburban or country schools meaning that accommodation and food costs could be a factor that needs to be taken into account when planning the budget for your study. Some schools have students fully integrated within their community, whilst others have the UFP students as a separate entity. This allows some students to get a taste of university life, but can be seen as throwing quite young students (16 or 17) in at the deep end when possibly leaving home for the first time. If you tackle a UFP course at an actual university rather than a school, beware that in many cases you are not going to be located at the university campus and that this may affect where you will be taught and where you live. This might not be where you were anticipating residing.