Foundation Programs

Student with an ApplyBoard backpack standing outside of a campus building

Students who wish to study in the United Kingdom may first take a preparatory course, also known as a foundation course or pathway program, to gain the academic or English language skills they need for admission to higher education courses. A pathway program is an introductory course that is completed before enrollment at a university in the UK. They are offered by British universities and colleges, as well as private study centres with university partnerships. Pathway programs are designed to help international students prepare for and gain access to UK university courses if they are not able to enter the university directly.

Below are the different kinds of pathway programs available in the UK for international students.

Pre-Sessional English

Pre-sessional English courses help international students prepare for the demands of learning courses taught in English at a university level. International students who complete pre-sessional English courses are more likely to meet the language proficiency requirements for course entry. Courses range from a few weeks to a term or a year in length depending on the student’s level of English proficiency. These courses also help students gain exposure to British culture, helping them overcome culture shock and settle into life in the UK.

Bachelor’s Preparation 

In many parts of the world, students finish their secondary education after Grade 12 or Year 12. British students, on the other hand, do not begin undergraduate studies until after Year 13. As a result, many international students begin their British education with a one-year pre-university program known as International Foundation Year. International Foundation Year is equivalent in standard to qualifications studied in British schools' Year 13 (i.e. A-levels) and includes academic subjects, study skills, and English language training. Over the year, students build the skills and knowledge needed to transition into the first year of their chosen undergraduate degree.

Note: In Scotland, undergraduate degrees are four years in duration and can accept students at a slightly younger age. Like the rest of the UK, Scottish universities also offer pathway programs.

Accelerated Bachelor’s Preparation

International Year One is an intensive 2-3 term program which is equivalent to the first year of an undergraduate degree. It is intended for international students who show academic potential but do not meet the requirements for direct entry into a degree program. Students enrolled in this program typically already have their A-levels (or equivalent). Participants study undergraduate first-year level subjects while receiving a higher level of academic and English language support. After completing this program, students may advance into the second year of their chosen undergraduate degree course and earn their degree at the same time as their local peers.

Pre-Master’s Program

Pre-Master's programs provide international students with a direct path to postgraduate study at a university. These programs improve the academic skills needed for a full degree, such as academic writing and basic knowledge of academic terminologies. They also include study skills development and English language training.

To learn more about pathway programs, download these info sheets:

  • Pathway Programs in the UK: Get more information about admission requirements, pathway providers, and employment options while taking the pathway courses.
  • Types of Pathway Programs: Explore the different pathway programs available for international students and identify the one that best suits your needs.