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Didn't perform well in the HKDSE exam? Introduction to the requirements, difficulty, and application deadlines for UK university Foundation programs.

Many students hope to enter their desired university through the HKDSE exam but may unexpectedly fall short of their ideal grades. However, apart from the HKDSE, students can also consider the UK Foundation programs, which provide a pathway to university admission upon meeting the required grades during the program. Graduation can be achieved in as little as four years. So, how challenging are UK Foundation programs? And when is the application deadline? To find out more about the requirements for UK Foundation programs, read on.

five happy students walking on the street

Source: Unsplash 

What is the UK Foundation?  

UK Foundation programs are organised by universities or independent educational institutions, either solely by universities or in collaboration with third-party educational institutions. Students studying Foundation programs can reside in university dormitories and enjoy access to campus facilities, immersing themselves in campus life early on. Foundation programs offer diverse and rich curriculum choices, gradually progressing in difficulty to facilitate students' grasp and comprehension of the subjects, enhancing their academic abilities. Foundation programs are generally less challenging than A-Levels.  


Foundation programs can be categorised as One-to-One and One-to-Many. Here is a brief description of the difference between the two: 


One-to-One Foundation programs are more suitable for students with specific goals. Most One-to-One programs are offered by universities, and as long as students meet the university's requirements, they can directly advance to the first year of university (subject to the specific requirements of the UK university Foundation programs).  




For students who wish to apply to multiple universities simultaneously and don't want to be restricted to a specific university, One-to-Many Foundation programs are an option. There are several educational institutions in the UK that specialise in offering both A-Level and Foundation programs. After completing the Foundation program, students can use their Foundation grades to apply through UCAS, with the opportunity to choose up to five preferred universities, including the top 30-ranked institutions in the UK.  


The grades achieved in the One-to-Many Foundation program are applicable for admission to various UK universities (excluding Cambridge University, Oxford University, London School of Economics, and Imperial College London). As long as the chosen Foundation program is relevant to the university course, students have the chance to be admitted.  


Mander Portman Woodward (MPW) is one of the pre-college schools in the UK offering One-to-Many Foundation programs. After completing the program, students can apply to universities based on their grades. However, it should be noted that students who pursue One-to-Many Foundation programs need to retake the IELTS exam when applying through UCAS, while it is not required for One-to-One programs.

students standing outside Mander Portman Woodward School

Source: MPW 

How much easier is the UK Foundation compared to A-Levels? Graduation in as little as four years

Generally, for Hong Kong students aspiring to enter UK universities, Form 5 students can choose to directly apply for A-Levels, which is a two-year program. Alternatively, they can opt for the one-year Fast Track A-Level program, which compresses the two-year curriculum and is more challenging, making it potentially difficult for students with weaker English language skills. However, for students who do not meet the requirements for A-Level programs, they can pursue Foundation programs. The requirements for UK Foundation programs only require satisfactory Form 5 results. If the grades meet the Foundation program requirements, students can enrol in a UK university Foundation program.  


In comparison to A-Levels, UK Foundation programs are generally considered less challenging, and students can graduate from university one year earlier. A-Level programs span two years and cover more in-depth content, closely resembling university-level courses. Foundation programs, on the other hand, typically last around 9 to 11 months. Along with the subsequent three years of university study, students can graduate in as little as four years. The Foundation program curriculum starts with foundational knowledge and gradually progresses, including IELTS courses to enhance students' English language skills. Additionally, Foundation programs incorporate subjects such as critical thinking and quantitative and qualitative research methods to cultivate students' learning abilities, familiarise them with the teaching methods used in UK universities, and prepare them for their future academic journey.

UK Foundation Program Application Deadlines

The application deadlines for UK Foundation programs vary for each university. Taking the International Foundation Programme at the University of London as an example, the application deadline is October 14, 2023. For the University of Leeds, the application deadline is July 31, 2023. Therefore, it is essential for students to understand the application deadlines and admission requirements for UK university Foundation programs before planning to enrol. Missing the deadline means having to wait until the next year to apply. 

two students sitting outside

Source: freepik 

Regardless of the admission requirements and difficulty levels, UK Foundation programs are generally considered easier than A-Levels. Whether you choose A-Levels or Foundation programs to pursue your studies in a UK university, we sincerely hope that you have a smooth academic journey. If you would like to learn more about studying at UK universities, please feel free to inquire further.





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