Every year, thousands of young people take the decision not to continue their education post-18 because of one thought – they are not cut out for academia.
For many of these people, it isn’t that they don’t want to educate themselves further. They may have a dream job or career in mind that they know requires a certain level of qualification. They may enjoy learning.
But because of the narrow focus of how attainment is judged through our school system – exams, grades, heavy slanting towards written work – by the time they leave the school system at 18, tens of thousands of young people have been conditioned to believe they are just not very good at learning.
When they think of higher education, they think of universities and degrees. They are for the academic high flyers. Not for them.
In reality, higher education is much more varied and flexible than the traditional university degree route. There are options to focus on vocational qualifications that link specifically to a particular career path. There are ways to ‘catch up’ with academic skills to prepare you for taking a full degree. You can choose routes to develop your skills and gain qualifications in your own time and at your own pace.
One of the options available is to take a Foundation Degree. A Foundation Degree is a formal qualification at Level 5 on the UK’s qualification ranking system. So that’s two steps higher than an A-Level, or one step lower than a bachelor’s degree. Foundation degrees are sometimes described as ‘two-thirds’ of a bachelor’s degree.
So what would be the benefits of choosing a Foundation Degree? What makes them different from a conventional bachelor’s degree, and who are they for?
Here are five reasons why a bachelor’s degree might be right for you.
Choose a vocational route through higher education
Foundation degrees are ideal if your reasons for wanting to continue your education are closely linked to work and career ambitions. Whereas bachelor’s degrees are available in a wide range of subjects, both academic and vocational, foundation degrees are heavily weighted toward vocational topics. This makes it easier to find a course of study that you can be sure links to your business ambitions.
In addition, foundation degrees balance theoretical and practical aspects of learning. They are very ‘hands-on’, which makes them ideal for anyone looking to develop skills they can apply directly in a chosen line of work.
Study as you work
Because of their practical and vocational nature, foundation degrees are a great choice if you are already in work (or plan to start a job) but want to continue studying to aid your career progression. Full-time, a foundation degree takes two years to complete but can be done in three years by studying part-time as you work.
Gain a full qualification
Foundation degrees are sometimes confused with foundation years or foundation routes to a full degree. The key difference is that a foundation degree is a complete, recognized qualification in its own right, whereas a foundation year is a preparatory course leading to taking a bachelor’s degree.
A foundation year is intended to provide a stepping stone to a degree for anyone who does not already have the qualifications to be accepted onto a course. This might be anyone who wants to return to higher education having left school without A-Levels or equivalents, or who did not get the grades they hoped for at A-Level.
Foundation degrees also have lower entry requirements than bachelor’s degrees. But their main purpose is not to provide an alternative route to a degree. They are respected and valuable qualifications in their own right.
Get flexibility for your future plans
One thing that puts many people off signing up for a bachelor’s degree is committing to a three-year course – longer, if you choose to study part-time. If you are not completely convinced that higher education is for you, three years can seem daunting.
A foundation degree offers a useful compromise. Yes, a two-year full-time course, and three years part-time, is still a commitment. But it’s not quite as long. If you get through those two years and decide that’s enough for you, greet – you still have an excellent qualification and one that will stand you in good stead for realizing your career goals.
But if after you complete your foundation degree you decide that you have a taste for higher education and would like to go further, that’s an option too. You can take what is known as a top-up course to turn your foundation degree into a bachelor’s degree – basically, you just tag the final year on the end. And from there, the options of post-graduate study and pursuing academic socialism open up to you.