Foundation degrees explained
A Foundation degree will give you the technical skills and academic knowledge needed to progress in the workplace whilst gaining a higher education qualification such as a Foundation degree in Art (FdA), a Foundation degree in Engineering (FdEng), or a Foundation degree in Science (FdSc).
Employers, universities and FE colleges work together to develop Foundation degrees so that you gain the specific skills that employers need, making you more employable.
Benefits of doing a Foundation degree
Foundation degrees can help you improve your skills and better your career prospects. They have many benefits whether you’re already working or looking for a job. A Foundation degree may suit you if you:
- are working and want to improve your skills and prospects in your current job, through part-time higher level study
- have left school and want a higher education qualification that's relevant to your job aspirations
- want to reskill in a new occupation or profession, or wish to return to work after a break
Flexible study closer to home
Foundation degrees are taught in local FE colleges and can be studied full-time over two years or on a part-time basis, offering students with work or family commitments more flexibility. Studying closer to home also means reduced travel time and costs.
Foundation degree courses often have smaller class sizes and more one-to-one contact with tutors than bachelor's degrees.
Wide range of subjects
Foundation degrees are available in a wide range of subjects. Check the Foundation degree courses that are currently available.
All Foundation degrees have a work-based learning element, allowing you to put your learning into practice. Learning in the workplace is an important part of a Foundation degree course. You will gain technical skills, academic knowledge and other important, transferable skills that employers are increasingly looking for, such as communication and team working skills.
Once you're enrolled on a Foundation degree, you can speak to your course tutors about the work-based learning element you will do.
Better job prospects
Foundation degrees can help you to improve your skills which could help to better your career prospects. Foundation degrees are intermediate higher education qualifications, the level at which the Northern Ireland skills gap is greatest. Studying a Foundation degree is therefore likely to improve your employment prospects.
Where you can study a Foundation degree
Foundation degrees are offered in all six FE colleges and the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE). Foundation degrees can also be studied through the Open University.
Contact the relevant college for more information about the application process for your chosen Foundation degree course.
- Further Education colleges
- Foundation degree courses
- Find out more about universities, colleges and courses
Cost of studying a Foundation degree
Foundation degrees are a very cost effective way of gaining a higher education qualification. Tuition fees for Foundation degrees are lower than fees for bachelor’s degrees. Studying higher education in your local college closer to home can also save accommodation and travel costs.
Tuition fees for full-time Foundation degrees are about £2,600 per academic year, much less than bachelor’s degrees. Tuition fees for part-time Foundation degrees are lower than full-time courses and vary in cost. Your local FE college can tell you more about fees for part-time courses and other financial support that might be available to you.
As a Foundation degree student, you can get the same financial student support as other higher education students, such as:
For more information on the financial support available, see Student Finance.
If you're already employed
If you’ve got a job and are looking to upskill through a Foundation degree, ask your employer if they can support you, by giving you time off work to study or financial support.
The skills and knowledge you’ll gain by completing a Foundation degree will not only help your career prospects, they could also help build your employer’s business.
Information on how employers can get involved with Foundation degrees and the potential benefits to their business can be found at Foundation degrees – employers.
If you don’t have qualifications but can show you have relevant experience, skills and aptitudes, you may be able to study a Foundation degree through a process known as Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL). Contact your local FE college to find out more about Foundation degree entry through APEL.
Some Foundation degree students talk about their experiences of studying for the qualification and how it has helped their careers:
- Tori McConnell - Applied and Medical Sciences
- Emma Green - Applied and Medical Sciences
- Thomas Rollins - Mechatronics Engineering
- Shannon Black - Software Engineering
- Jordan Smith - Science and Computing
Find out more
For further information about Foundation degrees, contact your local FE college.