Intersectionality Week: The Truth of Foundation years in relation to intersectionality

Posted 23 January 2021
Social Mobility and Class Rep, and previous Foundation Students' Rep, Cas, talks about foundation years and intersectionality week.
Social Mobility and Class Rep, and previous Foundation Students' Rep, Cas, talks about foundation years and intersectionality week.

While there are many barriers to social mobility, one of the key ways we can continue to offer a break through the glass ceiling remains through education. While those of poverty, working class backgrounds or even international students may seek degrees to climb social hierarchy, there are many gate-kept routes to prevent this social mobility.

Foundation years offer a fighting chance to those with below required grades and UCAS points to access the degrees they want at reduced entry requirements. They allow people an opportunity to pursue their goals. In recent years, the necessity of these foundation years has gone under criticism over whether they’re to remain government funded. This being met with solidarity between Student Unions and people across the country to fight for these years to remain. There has also been the rise in tuition for foundation years. While previously these cost between £2,000-£3,000 they now cost the same amount as every other year of a degree. This is a massive price increase in consideration of the scrutiny those who undertake the year face as well as the debates to abolish the year.

In consideration of this price raise there is also many universities which will not offer additional financial support such as, studentships or bursaries. Studentships being bursaries, which are given to students from households of below a certain money threshold who are considered of low income; requiring to wait a year to receive this financial support. While scholarship bursaries are being rewarding scholarships for achieving certain thresholds of UCAS points as a reward for attaining good grades. 

The act of universities withholding such financial support over those of difficult circumstances, mobility and accessibility to the education system is a failure of many institutions. It is the clear depiction of demonization of the working-class and those of poverty being seen as lesser than those more privileged, “professional" and put together. These funds which are intended to provide help to either those who are struggling or those who have achieved such reward to be delayed during foundation year till students have accessed their “real" degree is a key element to the stigmatisation and harassment those who undertake these courses face.

Not only are these years key for social mobility but as a bridge between a lot of intersectional issues within our overlapping communities. They allow international students the chance to become more familiar with the British education system and bridge the alternating schooling systems. They offer a depiction of higher-level teaching to those who may not have had the privilege to experience such even in a remotely similar way. This adoption of the environment can be disorientating for all students but especially those who have been exposed to discrimination during their lifetime. Then there is not only the anxiety of a new place but if people’s views will tolerate or how you will be reacted to. Such a year allows to build that confidence with a year group of people facing similar hardships and circumstances in a small community bubble away from the main body of the University yet not excluded from joining in any activities or communities.

Although foundation years provide a stepping stone to those less advantaged there still remains stigma. There is a majority who see those who take these years as having a “fake degree", “having it given to them easy” or being “too dumb for university” in comparison to their own entry grades. These views being completely bias and unjustifiable. Foundation years are completely valid degrees which to an extent offer those who take them a better knowledge and understanding of not only their course but their university better than their peers going straight into the course. As for being an easy route it is not as simple as many would suspect. During foundation year you cram your entire A-Level into one singular year- 2 years into ONE year. These are very intensive modules which are heavy in information and assessments to bring students up to equal level for year 1 of the course. In relation to being “too dumb" for university is another common phrase in relation to this year which is also a complete myth. There are many reasons one can take a foundation year: some may simply want the extra year to aid in their studies, some may struggle with mental health problems which means they didn’t do well on exams but still know the content. As a student who had to undergo a foundation year last academic year I personally had to go through this as I came from an underfunded school which struggled a lot of cuts and lack of teachers due to being in a poverty area. To gain access to my marine biology course I had to have achieved grades in science courses, however due to my school's funding all our A level science courses had to be cut. 

The circumstances of one's need for a foundation year can be of such a broad variety and we need to discriminate less against people who are simply trying to achieve a better educate and raise their social mobility.

As a union and a community, we should continue to fight for these years to exist and be recognised. With the addition of not tolerating discrimination against those who have not been as privileged to have received the necessary support to achieve their potential. As individuals, we cannot know each other’s lived experiences and circumstances. We need to strive more to be less judgemental and more supportive of our fellow students.


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