Foundation vs Diploma

Graphics and Words by Caitlin Chuah

As someone who had to make this decision just 2 years ago, believe me when I say I KNOW how hard it can be to choose between the two. If you are feeling pressured to decide as soon as possible, let me relieve some of that stress with this article. Read on to learn the difference between a foundation and diploma, as well as which one would be more suitable for you. LET’S GO!

1. Different level of qualification

Did you know that diplomas are a higher qualification than foundations? In most cases, a diploma is equivalent to the first year of a degree at university. Additionally, a diploma will take between 2-3 years to complete whereas a foundation is only 10-12 months long.

A foundation allows you to transition to a degree once completed. Keep in mind that a degree is a higher qualification than a diploma. Although you can end your education and begin working after completing your diploma, with a degree, you open the path to better job opportunities and it will also enable you to continue your studies with a Masters and PhD. As Henry Ford said, “anyone who keeps learning stays young!” 😉

Furthermore, a foundation requires higher entry requirements compared to a diploma. Thus, many students who do not meet the entry requirements for a foundation can opt for a diploma.

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2) Area of study

A diploma focuses on teaching you industry-specific skills and knowledge. A foundation however is more general, equipping you with the fundamentals of your chosen field. Some students who have already decided on their career path prefer a diploma because it is hands-on and you jump right into learning the subjects you personally love. (Which is what I did hehe!) On the other hand, if you are still unsure about what you want to pursue, or if you want to keep your options open, then studying broader subjects in a foundation is the way to go.

(For those who aren’t aware, there are many other pre-u options aside from foundation and diploma, including STPM, SACE, IB, A-Levels etc. Be aware of the study pathways that are available before you decide.)

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3) Degree options

Because a diploma teaches specific subjects, your degree would have to be related to the diploma you have taken. Conversely, by opting for a foundation, your degree options would be more flexible, as long as they are within the broad field of study that you have chosen for your foundation. (e.g. Foundation in Arts or Foundation in Science)

Thus, to reinforce point number 2, if you have already decided on your career path, then a diploma would be ideal, as it allows you to directly learn the subjects and skills that you will use during your career. For example, a Diploma in Event Management will allow you to start work as an event manager, or you could continue into the second year of a Degree in Event Management (although it depends on the terms and conditions of the university). However, if you pursue a foundation, in let's say arts, then you will have entry access to a variety of degrees in the arts field, including Business, Communications, Accounting, Computer Science and many more.

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4) Study and career pathway

As mentioned earlier, you may begin working once you have completed your diploma. Most employers generally accept diplomas as the minimum job requirement. This is mainly for jobs in sales, administration and other non-professional jobs. Thus, diplomas give you a choice upon completion, to begin working or continue to a degree.

By doing a foundation however, your pathway is pretty much set. You would have to continue to a degree after your foundation. Hence, a foundation would be ideal if your chosen career requires you to be a degree holder (e.g. professional jobs such as Law, Engineering, Medicine etcetera). A foundation would provide a quicker and smoother transition to a degree.

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In conclusion…

10-12 months duration2-3 years duration
Higher entry requirementsLower entry requirements
Broader subjectsIndustry-specific skills and knowledge
Keeps your degree options openLimited degree options
Set pathway towards degreeOption to start work or continue to degree

Now that you know the difference between the two, you’re all set to make your decision! Remember, don’t complicate things, just clearly list out your goals and trust your gut…and if you still can’t decide, education counselling will help! Contact us if you have any questions regarding your higher education. Now, all that’s left for me to do is wish you: happy college hunting!

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