The Foundation Degree is a vocational qualification in higher education, introduced by the government of the United Kingdom in September 2001, which is available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Foundation degrees are intended to give a basic knowledge in a subject to enable the holder to go on to employment or further study in that field. They are normally offered by universities and further education colleges working in partnership.
It is at Level 5 in the qualifications framework. This makes it similar in level to the associate's degree awarded in the United States, and sometimes in the United Kingdom. It is below the level of an honours degree (Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Laws etc.) Courses are typically two years full-time study or 3 to 4 years part-time study and are offered both by universities and colleges of higher education.
It also sits on the same level as the pre-existing Higher National Diploma (HND) and Certificate However, unlike the HND, it stands as a degree, and has a defined value of 240 Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) points in the UK system, or 120 ECTS-credits in the European Credit Transfer System, whereas the credit points value of the HND depends on the receiving institution.
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..
It is common for Foundation degree holders to "top-up" to a full Honours Degree award, which typically involves one further year of full-time study (longer for part-time study).
See also 
- Foundation Degree Task Force Report to Ministers, p.5