Campaigning to oppose the proposed cuts to foundation year funding.
By Isobel Hall
On the 30th May, the much-awaited report on the review of post-18 education and funding (commonly known as the Augar report) was published. This was a 216 page document and made a number of recommendations to what higher and further education could look like and how this was funded. Headlines were made on key topics such as reduced tuition fees and extended loan repayment periods (you can read my analysis on the Augar Report here), but less so on the recommendation to cut funding for foundation year students.
At the University of Hull, we have a sizable group of foundation students every year, so much so that Hull University Unions’ Education Zone has introduced a brand new part-time officer role to represent these students more effectively. Even nationally, the number of foundation year entrants has tripled from 10,430 to 30,030 (2012 – 2018) demonstrating the uptake and demand for foundation year courses. Having spoken to current and past foundation programme students at the University of Hull, it is clear to that their foundation year a transformative opportunity which without would have disadvantaged them.
‘For mature students, I think it is an excellent idea and way to get back into education. I very much doubt I would be doing as well without that first year, I would have dropped out without it’
‘With me having zero UCAS points but, some qualifications at Level 3 they informed I would be accepted for a Foundation Year depending on whether my Personal Statement on the UCAS Application would stand out and if I had proof of my Advanced Apprenticeship. If the foundation year is cut, it would completely jeopardise opportunities for people who have completed Apprenticeships from attending University, thus, abruptly stopping further academic progression for academically dedicated people.’
‘The reason I did it was because it was the only way for me to get in with the grades I got, it meant that I could still go to the uni I wanted to without having to re-sit a levels or go down other routes, it’s been an unbelievable experience at uni and wouldn’t have gotten in to uni without it, even went on to do a masters’
‘Foundation year meant I could catch up and do a course I genuinely loved instead of having to stick with one I didn't like. If I couldn't have done foundation year I'd have probably had to drop out since I wasn't enjoying my original course and couldn't do anything I liked with the a levels I had’
‘I was then struggling to find any work in my field without a degree and therefore took a foundation year. I think they are so incredibly important for those of us who took non-traditional routes into education, especially those who had been out of it for a while and helped massively in getting to grips with the university system, what lecturers expect of students and how to organise yourself to become a good student.’
By cutting funding for foundation programmes, this will set widening participation will be set back as fewer students will come to University who would have done so previously through a foundation course. Our own students have commented that
‘Cutting this [foundation year funding], will only make university even more difficult to access for individuals.’
Universities UK (a national organisation representing the interests of 132 Universities including the University of Hull) have stated that foundation years provide ‘an important route for capable students from challenging or deprived backgrounds to make the step into higher education’. Students will be discouraged from returning to study by removing this vital pathway to higher education study.
‘A great way to prepare you for your degree, even familiarising you with the campus took away what I would imagine as added worry and pressure without it. Some great tutors also, who truly believed in my success which built my confidence dramatically.’
‘Foundation year has prepped me for university, not just academically but it has allowed me to socially experience university in a calmer state. Now, more than ever, I feel prepared to focus on my studies and confident I’ll succeed.’
‘Foundation year has given me the opportunity to understand my course in a more experienced way but has shown me how beneficial that year has been to me, I have now given support to recent foundation year students in my first and second year by taking up a role in university as a foundation year peer mentor’
‘During my foundation year I developed many skills and got to know the university and lots of staff and lots of new people, and some of my very best friends, since completing my foundation year I have finished a BSc moved on to MChem and Come our with a 2:1 and I have now started a fantastic full time job at Reckitt Benckiser which I started less than 3 weeks after my last assignment hand in!’
A lot of students we have spoken to have commented on feeling more prepared and confident after studying on a foundation programme, which directly correlates with the Office for Students report which states that by studying a foundation course you are more likely to progress onto a degree programme (62% compared to 79%) and complete your degree as opposed to completing an access course (63% compared to 53%).
‘I did an access course the first time I went to university, I had to pay for the course upfront. Although the access course was good after doing a foundation year I would recommend the foundation year more than an access course. I believe students doing a foundation year are less daunted by the scale and the whole university life.’
Along with this, students are more likely to get a ‘better deal’ by studying a foundation programme (compared to an access course) as support is available for living costs as well as covering your tuition fees whereas not necessarily likely to get support for living costs if you do an Access course.
Overall, foundation programmes are a valuable platform and help widen participation into higher education. Foundation courses have ‘has helped thousands of people progress into higher education and study for a degree who might not otherwise have moved up and on’ (University World News).
As you can see, we have spoken to current and past foundation programme students at the University of Hull. Based on their input and the data below, we do not believe this recommendation is in the best interests of future students, and is in fact damaging.
You've had your say on the matter through a survey and we'll be presenting your feedback to the Vice-Chancellor in the coming months.
President of the Students’ Union to:
- collect survey responses
- present results to President Team and HUU through Union Executive Committee
- present results to Vice-Chancellor
- lobby government on this recommendation
- update students of process throughout