Carmen Neghina
9 years ago

1,000+ English-medium foundation programmes worldwide help international students access degrees


StudyPortals and Cambridge English present an overview of the growing foundation programme market, which is estimated to have grown to over US$825 million per year.

The UK is leading the way in English-medium foundation courses, accounting for almost two thirds of all programmes worldwide, according to New routes to higher education: The global rise of foundation programmes, a report published by StudyPortals and Cambridge English. Overall, the report finds that the foundation programme market has an estimated value of over US$825 million per year.

Edwin van Rest, CEO of StudyPortals, says: “Foundation programmes play an increasingly important role in preparing international students for university by helping them bridge gaps in their language proficiency, academic knowledge and study skills. These programmes support universities committed to widening participation, by enabling students from all backgrounds to access international higher education and perform well in the classroom.”

The report analysed data from StudyPortals’ Preparation Course database and found that while universities provide most foundation programmes, they are increasingly partnering with private providers. The five biggest providers are involved in delivering almost half of all foundation programmes worldwide. In most cases, universities are still involved in the teaching, with private providers focusing on student enrolments and marketing in local languages.

In English-speaking countries, the average foundation programme tuition fee is now approximately US$17,000–US$22,000 per year. Over half of all foundation students choose to study one of two academic fields: Business and Economics, and Engineering and Technology. This is unsurprising, as these are some of the favourite subjects for undergraduate programmes and foundation courses are increasingly seen as a pathway to higher education.

Foundation programmes also help students achieve a higher level of English language proficiency in order to cope with the demands of higher education study. Most foundation programmes accept applicants with a minimum IELTS score of 4.5–5.5, equivalent to levels B1-B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), whereas most undergraduate programmes require a higher minimum score of 6.0–7.0 (CEFR levels B2-C1).

Nicola Johnson, Global Recognition Manager at Cambridge English, states: “It’s encouraging to see foundation providers taking language proficiency seriously, setting standards for admission and helping students reach the level required for progression to undergraduate study. This is a huge benefit for universities who can be sure that students graduating from a foundation programme have the language skills to succeed in higher education.”

The report also looks at prospects for future market growth, which includes the increasing use of English-medium programmes in non-native English-speaking regions. In Continental Europe, English-medium undergraduate and Master’s degree programmes have more than tripled over the last seven years. Other regions, such as Asia and the Middle East, are also increasingly important study destinations and potential growth markets for English-medium programmes in the future.

About The global rise of foundation programmes report
The scope of this report was to present a global overview of the number and types of English-medium foundation programmes around the world, shedding light on an underreported segment of the international higher education market. The findings are based on data from StudyPortals’ Preparation Course database, which is estimated to account for 70% of all English-medium foundation programmes, complemented by desk research. The report also presents insights into the future of the market, based on interviews with industry experts. The full report is available on the StudyPortals and Cambridge English Language Assessment websites.

About Cambridge English
Cambridge English Language Assessment is part of the University of Cambridge. We develop and produce the most valuable range of qualifications for learners and teachers of English in the world. Over 5 million people in 130 countries take our exams every year. Around the world over 20,000 universities, employers, government ministries and other organisations rely on our exams and qualifications as proof of English language ability. Cambridge English exams are backed by the work of the largest dedicated research team of any English language test provider.

Cambridge English Language Assessment – a not-for-profit organisation.

About StudyPortals

StudyPortals is the international study choice platform, enabling students to find and compare their study options across borders. With over 65,000 published courses from over 2,100 participating universities and over 9 million annual unique users, StudyPortals is a leading information source for study seekers. Initially StudyPortals focused on the European education market, but has the ambition to make study choice transparent, globally. For universities, StudyPortals offers a low-effort, results-based channel for international recruitment.


StudyPortals: Carmen Neghina | | +31 (0)655 875 270

Cambridge English: Stuart Giblin | | +44 (0)1223 558 407

For more updates, follow us!


More Press Releases