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The Foundation Degree is a vocational qualification introduced by the government of the United Kingdom in September 2001, which is available in Englandmarker, Walesmarker and Northern Irelandmarker. It is similar in level to the associate's degree awarded in the United States, and in the United Kingdommarker sits on the same level as the Higher National Diploma and Certificate but below the Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Arts level of education. Courses are typically two years long and are offered both by universities and colleges of higher education.

Foundation degrees are intended to give a foundation in a subject, thus the name, that enables the holder to go on to employment in that field. They have been designed in partnership with employers and Further education colleges (FECs). The latter were seen to be more 'in touch' with vocationally orientated students, and the needs of industry, while Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) offered the rigour of quality control to the partnership.

One of a number of important differences between the Foundation Degree and the Higher National Diploma (HND) is that it stands as a degree, and as such has a common value of 240 Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) points in the UK Higher Education System. By contrast, the HND could be recognised for entry to a degree course at as little as no credits, and as much as 240 credits, depending on the receiving institution and relevance to the subject.

A further important difference is that Foundation Degrees, as originally conceived, were to give students with substantial industry experience the opportunity to frame what they knew against appropriate academic perspectives, and were to be accessible by students 'in work'. This reflects a strategic shift towards lifelong learning, in support of the Blair Government's commitment to expand the number of Degree award holders in the UK. It has been suggested that the Foundation degree serves other agendas, including bringing HEIs and particularly Universities into contact with the communities and industries which they serve, and redressing the so called 'academic drift' of the former polytechnics .

Foundation Degrees have been 'locally grown' by HEI/FEC/industry partnerships following guidelines laid down by Foundation Degree Forward. The partnerships have been able to offer a range of formats, including full-time, part-time, distance learning etc. One of the conditions attached to the recognition/validation of a Foundation Degree is that it must lead, in turn to a full Degree Award, sometimes called a 'Top Up degree'.

Degree titles

Title Discipline
FdA. Arts
FdEd. Education
FdEng. Engineering
FdMus. Music
FdBus. Business
FdSc. Science
FdSc Landscape Heritage and Conservation

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