Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Foundation Course

Foundation Course

Ask a question about 'Foundation Course'
Start a new discussion about 'Foundation Course'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
A foundation course is a preparatory course for university-level art and design education, used particularly in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...



The foundation course is a one or two year preparatory course for school-leavers who want to qualify for a place on a bachelors degree course in art, design or architecture. The course is almost entirely practical in nature, although increasingly elements of art and design history have been introduced, and it is considered sufficient to qualify those who pass it to move on to a degree course without further study. It is the dominant form of entry to university and art college degree courses in the United Kingdom, but versions of it exist in several other countries, particularly where British influence over art education has been historically strong. In Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 it is known at the Core Studies course, and versions of the foundation course also exist in Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

, Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

 and New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

. In recent years it has also started to appear in The Netherlands & India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

.In India,it has been applied to all three bachelor levels i.e. Science, Arts & Commerce.

Origin and methodology

The origin of the foundation course dates back to the 1950s in the north of England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, when William Coldstream
William Coldstream
Sir William Menzies Coldstream was a British realist painter and a long standing art teacher.-Biography:...

 began teaching at King's College, Newcastle, and Harry Thubron
Harry Thubron
Harry Thubron was an English artist and art teacher.During the 1950s and 60s Thubron was a familiar name in education for his pioneering experiments in post-school art education. He taught at Sunderland College of Art from 1950 to 1955, and then became Head of Fine Art at Leeds College of Art...

 at Leeds College of Art. Together they began to establish a team to deliver a new form of art preparation course they called the Basic Design Course. The aim of the course was to teach what were considered to be the basic skills that underpin all art and design activities, including architecture. This resulted in projects designed to develop skills in using colour, articulating two and three dimensional space, defining form and experimenting with diverse materials. Many of these theories were tested by Thubron at a series of art summer schools in the seaside town of Scarborough, North Yorkshire, which attracted art students, artists and art teachers from throughout Britain. The result of this was that the theories of the basic design course were very widely disseminated, which helped the programme to become so widespread.

This approach to preparing art and design students for degree level study had its origins in the writings of Herbert Read
Herbert Read
Sir Herbert Edward Read, DSO, MC was an English anarchist, poet, and critic of literature and art. He was one of the earliest English writers to take notice of existentialism, and was strongly influenced by proto-existentialist thinker Max Stirner....

, and Coldstream, Thubron and Read regularly met to discuss their ideas at Read's house in the village of Stonegrave
Stonegrave is a village and civil parish in the Ryedale district of North Yorkshire, England. It is situated in the Howardian Hills and 4 miles south east of Helmsley.-External links:...

, North Yorkshire. Read's ideas had their origin the German Bauhaus
', commonly known simply as Bauhaus, was a school in Germany that combined crafts and the fine arts, and was famous for the approach to design that it publicized and taught. It operated from 1919 to 1933. At that time the German term stood for "School of Building".The Bauhaus school was founded by...

 school of art, which had used a similar method prior to its closure by the Nazis in 1933.

A notable feature of this method of the foundation course method is that it does not teach basic versions of later art or design practices, so that someone wanting to be a painter would not be taught basic painting, or a student wanting to be a graphic designer would not be taught basic graphic design. Specific skills were left to be taught in the specific degree course itself, whereas the foundation course only focused on the core skills that are perceived to be common to all art and design practices.

Current status

Although the foundation course still exists in Britain and elsewhere, in recent years there has been a major erosion of the original aims of the course as universities have started demanding that applicants have an increasing amount of knowledge that is specific to the art and design practice they want to specialise in. This has meant that many further education
Further education
Further education is a term mainly used in connection with education in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It is post-compulsory education , that is distinct from the education offered in universities...

 colleges that once offered the Foundation Course have now switched to subject-specific preparation courses, abandoning the generalist Foundation Course model. Nonetheless, the foundation course survives, with the main British validating bodies being:
  • Edexcel
    Edexcel, a UK company, is one of England, Wales and Northern Ireland's five main examination boards, and is wholly owned by the private-sector Pearson PLC, a UK-based media and publishing conglomerate. Its name is a portmanteau word derived from the words "educational" and "excellence"...

  • Welsh Joint Education Committee
  • ABC Awards http://www.abcawards.co.uk/
  • Ascentis
    Ascentis is a national qualification-awarding body based in Lancaster in the North West of England. It was formerly called the Open College of the North West, or OCNW....

Outside of the UK most Foundation Course programmes are validated by universities or national education authorities, although the programmes in Malta and Cyprus are validated by UK examining boards.