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Foundation Programme: Student Eligibility for study

The Foundation Programme is designed to support UK students (including those with Settled Status in the UK) from some under-represented groups in Higher Education to access and succeed in studying an undergraduate degree at Durham University. Only applicants, who have not been able to achieve their academic potential and therefore unable to meet direct entry requirements, are eligible to study with the Foundation Programme. Evidence of eligibility and academic potential must be provided. Additional academic criteria may apply, depending on the subject to be studied.

To help us identify eligible applicants we use the Office for Students (OfS) definition of under-represented groups: Groups of students who share… particular characteristics where data shows gaps in equality of opportunity in relation to access, success or progression”.


To be considered for our Foundation Programme you must meet:

  • one of the General eligibility criteria,
  • general academic criteria,
  • course specific criteria.


General eligibility criteria in order priority:

1. Applicants from areas of low participation in higher education (LPN based on Polar 4 data)

We will consider applicants from Polar 4 quintiles 1 or 2 postcodes as a priority. This classification is based on the home postcode provided in your application.

2. Applicants with low household income or low socioeconomic status (based on Acorn and FSM data) 

To meet this criteria applicants will need to be in receipt of, or entitled to, Free School Meals, which are directly linked to financial hardship, and/or from an ACORN category 4 or 5.

The ACORN classification is based on the home postcode provided in your application and is a measure of the socio-economic status of the area you live in. 

3. Applicants from mature students 

To meet this criteria you will need to be 21 years of age or over at the start of your Foundation course.

4. Applications from some other under-represented groups within higher education.

These include:

If you come from one or more of these groups, you must tell us in your UCAS personal statement. Please note: You may submit a substitute Personal Statement for your application to study.


General academic criteria

If you have completed Level 3 qualifications within three years or are currently taking them, you need to achieve for each A-level at least grade C, and/or each BTEC at least grade Merit; or pass Access Course (note that grade for Access Course will change for the 2025 entry). 

If you are taking Level 3 qualifications that are equivalent to the above qualifications, please contact Foundation Admissions for advice. 

It is not necessary to have Level 3 qualification to apply to the Foundation Programme but you must be able to demonstrate the potential to have achieved the qualification above.

If you achieved or have predicted grades that meet the standard offer for your Durham University degree course without Foundation, then you should apply for direct entry, as you will not be considered for the Foundation Programme. 


Course specific criteria

You must meet the course specific criteria which you can check using course database.


Should you have any questions at any stage, please contact The Foundation Programme for advice before taking the next step.