Foundation courses: a pathway into degrees


Foundation courses help international students who may not initially meet entry requirements to gain entry to undergraduate study at Australian universities and colleges. They also help students adapt to the Australian academic environment and life in Australia. Some foundation courses promise a place at university after successful completion of the course.

Who offers foundation courses?

Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutes, universities and specialist foundation colleges all offer foundation courses to international students. Some foundation courses are taught at university (or other institution) campuses, which gives students the advantage of having access to institution facilities such as libraries and computer laboratories, as well as health and housing services, sports centres and student clubs.

Courses and qualifications

There are two major advantages of studying a foundation course in Australia:

  • Successful completion of a foundation course may guarantee entry into specific degree courses at some Australian universities.
  • Foundation courses allow students to ‘settle in’ to the Australian education system and life in Australia before they start university or college.

Foundation courses are typically intensive one-year preparatory courses, but this timeframe can sometimes be altered according to the student’s needs. Students capable of accelerated learning may be able to complete programs in nine months. Other courses are longer to allow students more time to prepare for their degree studies. Some foundation courses have a flexible structure that allows students to enter at different times during the year and at different standards of English language or academic proficiency.

Foundation courses usually offer university-style teaching through lectures and tutorials. This ensures that students become familiar with this way of learning. Foundation courses are generally divided into subject streams, such as business, humanities or science studies, according to the student’s choice of undergraduate course. Most foundation courses offer a range of compulsory and elective subjects, and English language support is often a major focus.

Many institutions also offer ‘bridging’ courses, which are shorter, more intensive courses designed for students who are about to enter a degree course but do not meet the assumed knowledge requirements or who wish to be better prepared for university study.

Average tuition costs

Foundation courses generally cost between AUD$15,000 and $37,000 in total. These figures were sourced from institution websites in 2015.

Please note that fees vary widely and may differ depending on the duration of your program. Information about fees should always be sourced from the relevant institution.

Entry requirements

To gain entry to a foundation course, students will need to have completed or nearly completed their home country’s end-of-school certificate. They will also need to meet standards for written and spoken English. The exact requirements vary between courses, so it’s important to contact the course provider for details. Successful completion of a foundation course may guarantee entry into specific degree courses and may even grant entry into the second year of a related degree.

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