5 Advantages of Doing Foundation vs A Levels

Wondering if a foundation programme is better than A-Level? Here’s why a foundation course trumps A-Level!

Updated 13 Nov 2019

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You probably landed on this page after searching for the differences between studying a foundation and an A Levels programme. Just as everyone is a wildly different snowflake, these pre-university courses are different too, which makes decision time a difficult one.

So, we’re making things easier by showing you how a foundation programme trumps an A Levels course. Read on to discover all the reasons why a foundation is better!

#1. Foundation is a shorter programme

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While you can choose to study either a foundation or A Levels after SPM, one of these courses has the upper hand when it comes to duration.

A foundation course is much shorter, taking only 12 months to complete. Its short and snappy schedule packs in a variety of assignments, projects and tests, further preparing you for the dynamic world of your undergraduate degree.

Meanwhile, studying A Levels will block your calendar for 15 to 24 months. Not to mention, your time will be filled with intense studying for the whopper of an exam at the end of the syllabus.

So, if you're keen on leaping to a degree as soon as you can, signing up for a foundation course is a no-brainer and a time-saver. Plus, the quicker you complete your degree, the sooner you’ll land a job so that you can gain more experience than other graduates in your age group.


For a competitive advantage over your peers, choose universities that offer career-oriented education. Heriot-Watt University Malaysia, for example, is known for its globally employable graduates who have been employed by respectable companies such as BAE Systems, YTL, CIMB and many more.

#2. Foundation is often cheaper than A Levels

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Investing in your education is a must if you want a top-notch future. However, it sometimes requires an eyebrow-raising amount of money. That doesn't have to be the case with a foundation course.

An A Levels programme with a focus on the sciences can reach a ballpark of RM35,000, sometimes going up to RM65,000 depending on the college. This is a lot of money for a pre-university course.

Meanwhile, a Foundation in Science is priced from an affordable RM9,000 to RM28,000, making it a money-saving course.


Need a little help with funding? Heriot-Watt University offers a generous range of scholarships, catering to students from various education backgrounds (SPM, IGCSE, IB MYP, O Levels, etc.). On top of that, there are progression scholarships for those who do well in their Foundation course. All students achieving 70% and above for their Foundation will automatically receive a 35% waiver off their first-year undergraduate fees.

#3. Foundation is not just about exams

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Every individual is different with their own likes and dislikes. Something that makes a person tick could repel another, so it makes sense that your study style could differ from your friends. This lends weight to your pre-university decision as it will affect your grades in college.

How so? Well, if you enjoy assignments, group projects and class tests throughout the course, then A Levels would be a poor choice for you as it is 100% exam-based. Not only that, with A Levels, you’ll have a lot of pressure to do well in your final exams or risk failing the programme.

If this sounds stressful for you, choosing a foundation over A Levels will be one of the best choices you can make. With a good balance of coursework and exams, a foundation is perfect for an all-rounded education that helps you grow as a person.


Heriot-Watt University doesn’t just focus on academic excellence but also concentrates on holistic development through a unique Positive Education approach. You’ll be taught how to cultivate a positive mindset and learn how to develop self-confidence, interpersonal and communication skills and a sense of purpose.

#4. Foundation is more specialised

HWUM- Foundation Vs A-level-Foundation Is More Specialised

Do you already have your sights set on a specific career? Perhaps you’ve announced to your family and friends that you want to be an engineer. Since you have a clear idea of what you want to study, it makes sense to study a foundation programme that will launch you directly to an Engineering Degree.

With a foundation, you’ll learn the basics of your chosen field, focusing on specific subjects and modules needed to excel in your future degree. This will greatly help you gain a deeper understanding of your desired field of study. In comparison, an A Levels programme forces you to deep dive into 3-4 subjects that may not be relevant to your dream career.


Want to have your cake and eat it too? Heriot-Watt’s Foundation programmes are tailored and benchmarked with the Scottish A Levels, featuring a good breadth and depth in the curriculum. This means that you're getting the best of both worlds — the specialised nature of a foundation course plus the versatile range of A Levels.

#5. Foundation has a lower failure rate

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Set and marked by the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), A Levels has an infamous reputation of being tough as nails. While it can be handled by the more exam-inclined who prefer to conquer 2 big tests instead of completing assignments and projects, those who can’t handle the pressure contribute to the programme’s high failure rate.

Foundation courses, on the other hand, are usually set and managed by the provider university. Students who might fail A Levels can sometimes perform exceedingly well in foundation courses as they are focusing on the subjects they are interested in, minus the stress of intimidating final exams.

So, why not reduce the pressure and expectations of the rigid A Levels programme and thrive in the more dynamic structure of a foundation?


Heriot-Watt University Malaysia’s Foundation programmes offer a dynamic curriculum featuring university-style teaching with engaging lectures, tutorials and laboratory sessions. On top of that, you'll also benefit from strong academic and personalised support from experienced lecturers who want to ensure your success.

Now that you’ve discovered the many advantages a foundation programme has over A Levels, it makes perfect sense to sign up for the awesome course! But, remember to think about your needs thoroughly and go for the programme that ultimately suits you the most.

All set to become a foundation student? Heriot-Watt University Malaysia offers exciting Foundation in Science and Foundation in Business programmes for students who want rewarding careers in these fields!

Why Should You Pick Heriot-Watt’s Foundation Courses?

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    Melissa Mazlan

    Melissa Mazlan

    Your friendly Klang representative who enjoys romantic walks to the fridge.