How to get into a world top 20 university: The value of the International Foundation Programme

How to get into a world top 20 university: The value of the International Foundation Programme

With so many esteemed universities around the world, the task of choosing the right one can seem more than a little daunting. One of the most respected ways to decide on the best institution for you is to refer to league tables published by university ranking bodies – the most prestigious being those from QS and Times Higher Education (THE).

The global universities featured on these tables are ranked in terms of things like staff-to-student ratio, international outlook, graduate employability and research quality, among other relevant criteria. Scores for each category are then added together, with the highest achieving universities representing not only the best in their region, but also the best in the world.

King’s College London (King’s), for example, represents one of the world’s leading research and teaching universities, ranked 19th in the world by QS with an overall score of 91.0, and 27th in the world by THE with an overall score of 78.2. King’s describes itself as a “global-thinking” university, located in the heart of Europe’s largest and most cosmopolitan city.

At King’s, like any other university, students must meet a number of set entry requirements before they gain admission. All prospective students should bear in mind that requirements may vary depending on the institution, the course and the level of study, but generally, a UK based university will require international applicants to submit: previous academic records, including evidence of previous qualifications, plus UCAS tariff points, as well as evidence of English language proficiency via a respected test such as the IELTS (International English Language Testing System).



Entering a new academic environment can be intimidating, not only in terms of language, but also in terms of adjusting to a new academic culture in an entirely different country. In order to address these issues and minimise unnecessary stress, top 20 institutions such as King’s have facilities in place to make the transition as easy as possible.

King’s’ English Language Centre (ELC) prepares and supports students in both areas through programmes ranging from full-time, pre-masters and foundation courses, to five, 10, 15 and 20-week pre-sessional programmes. Two of the most popular routes of study among King’s’ global student body are the International Foundation Programmes (IFP) provided by King’s.

There are currently two programmes to choose from:

  • International Foundation Programme in Humanities and Social Sciences (IFP)
  • International Science Foundation Programme (ISFP)

Both programmes are one-year preparatory courses for overseas students looking to study an undergraduate course at King’s, or any other top UK university. The IFP provides invaluable pathways into Arts & Humanities and Social Science subjects, including Business Management, International Relations, Politics, History, Liberal Arts, Film Studies, Music, Modern Languages, Philosophy, Law and many more.

The ISFP also provides invaluable pathways into science-based subjects including Engineering, Computer Science, Mathematics, Physics, Economics, Finance, Biomedical Science, Nursing, Medicine, Biology and Pharmacy amongst many more.

With such a diverse range of pathways, how should an overseas student decide on the right course for them?

“Before arriving in the UK, students should read as much as possible about the course(s) they are interested in via websites like UCAS, the League Tables, The Student Room, Unistats and the university websites themselves,” says Daniel Pearce, Assistant Coordinator of King’s Foundation Programmes.

Once students have familiarised themselves with suitable courses and what these courses require, Daniel says that any top 20 institution will have extensive resources to support international students through the decision-making process.

“All students receive extensive support with their UCAS applications in Term 1. The ELC tutors help them choose their preferred course at King’s using the King’s Progression Routes document. The tutors also refer the students to the ‘offers’ previous foundation students have received, allowing them to make sensible choices about the other four UK universities they can apply to via UCAS,” he says.

“As long as the student gets on the correct pathway as soon as possible, they will have a range of highly-ranked universities and courses to choose from, as both International Foundation Programmes are very well-respected across the country.”



Both foundation programmes are aimed at school-leavers who have previously undertaken a non-British curriculum, but wish to pursue a degree at a UK university. They act as a bridge between students’ current qualifications and UK university entry requirements, and are specifically designed to seal academic gaps, improve English skills and ease international students into life in the UK.

“Above all, it’s a very useful and directly relevant experience,” Daniel says. “The students who have graduated from our foundation programmes always come back to visit and say how they could not have imagined doing their undergraduate degree without doing our foundation first.

“They often say that there are more advantages in terms of academic skills than the British students on their courses. It’s a very supportive environment here – the experienced team we have genuinely cares about the students’ well-being and progress – and that’s why I believe students recommend the foundation programmes to their friends and the programmes continue to expand.”

Not only do students who undertake the foundation programmes at King’s prepare for their undergraduate studies in one of the world’s most-loved cities, they also develop essential specialist knowledge within their chosen field and receive a guaranteed offer to progress their education at one of the world’s most respected top 20 universities.

“The emphasis is very much on critical thinking and getting the students to reach their full potential by seeing historical and current debates from a variety of perspectives,” Daniel notes. “The ELC teachers are not only interested in English, but also the debates that we read about every day in the media.

“For that reason, I’d strongly recommend that all prospective students download the Guardian or TED apps. In this way, you start exposing yourselves to the topics that may come up in any of our language assessments. There are other inspirational resources like the Reith lectures and RSA Animates which can give you a head start in thinking critically and creatively.”



All skills instilled through the esteemed IFP are highly-valued by employers on a global scale. This means that students graduate fully-equipped with the knowledge and mentality that allows them to thrive not only throughout their undergraduate studies, but into a long and successful career.

Both the King’s International Foundation Programmes are qualifications that have earned themselves a reputation that certainly precedes them, opening windows of opportunity for all who undertake them, anywhere in the world.

“The best success story I have heard involves a Chinese foundation tutee of mine,” Daniel says. “She arrived on the foundation with a relatively low level of English, but she was a hard-working student who got on well with all the other students. She eventually made the conditions of her guaranteed offer to King’s Business Management, completed the three-year programme, and has since gone on to get a job at Heathrow while undertaking a Masters at Imperial College London.

“It was fantastic to see her go the full distance and it goes to show that anything is possible.”


This article was sponsored by King’s College London, one of the world’s leading universities for both education and research. Looking ahead at a world that depends on being better connected, King’s has the advantage of having disciplines that connect across different cultures, subjects, institutions and geographies. Not least of its advantages is its position in Central London, a truly international city with close connections to knowledge and influence that enrich university life in practical and inspiring ways.

You can connect with King’s College London on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Images courtesy of King’s College London.

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