HND Vs Foundation Degree

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The main difference between an HND (Higher National Diploma) and a Foundation degree is that a Foundation degree has a mixture of work-related projects and academic assignments. In contrast, an HND focuses on producing a portfolio of work-related assignments with no essay writing involved.

These two qualifications are the main alternatives to a bachelors degree for continuing study in the UK. Recent data has shown that the 2006 cohort of students who took these qualifications in subjects such as nursing and engineering are earning more at the age of thirty than their counterparts who studied a degree*. 

The chart below shows where these qualifications sit within the UK qualifications framework.

HND and Foundation degree in the UK qualification framework

If you are thinking of taking one of these courses but are still unsure which would be most suitable for you, then read on.

*IFS.ORG.UK What is a degree worth report

What’s the Difference Between an HND and a Foundation Degree?

An undergraduate qualification is considered the next stage in academia after A levels or similar. Two possible qualifications instead of an undergraduate degree are HNDs or foundation degrees. Both of these qualifications typically take two years of full-time study to complete.

These two qualifications have many similarities and making a choice can be difficult. This article will highlight the similarities and where these courses differ to help you make the right choice.

HND Vs Foundation Degree Table

What is a Foundation Degree?

A foundation degree is a standalone qualification awarded by universities and equivalent to two-thirds of an undergraduate bachelor’s degree. They are work-related courses that focus on skills required by industry and often include a work placement. However, they also involve academic study that complements the career focus of the syllabus.

HND (Higher National Diploma)

A Higher National Diploma is a qualification designed to give workplace skills. The work produced and learning that takes place is focused on developing the skills required by industry. These vocationally focused qualifications often involve building a portfolio of work instead of traditional exams to award the final grade. We have a  guide about HNDs that covers them in more detail. 

Similarities Between  Foundation Degrees and an HND Qualifications

  • Both these undergraduate qualifications take the same amount of time and consist of an equivalent amount of work as well as being at the same academic level. This means that the entry requirements are similar. However, these certificates have a work focus and incorporate more practical learning than a traditional undergraduate degree.
  • As these courses are at the same level and intensity, they generally open up the same doorway to further study.
  • Unlike a traditional bachelor’s degree, you do not need A-levels to join an HND or foundation degree.
  • These qualifications are recognised and eligible for student finance in the UK with comparable costs.

Differences Between a Foundation Degree and HND

  • A foundation degree is a standalone qualification. This means that you must complete the entire two years worth of study to be awarded the certificate. In contrast, an HND can be split into two parts. The first year of study can be used as a complete qualification and awarded an HNC (Higher National Certificate).
  • An HND is designed to provide workplace skills. As students progress on the course, they develop a portfolio of work that is directly related to workplace learning. In contracts, there is a mix of workplace learning and academic study on foundation degrees. This means there are some academic writing assignments that contribute to the final grade of a foundation degree.

Which is Better for Job Opportunities- HND or Foundation Degree?

Both of these formal qualifications give students workplace knowledge and employability skills. However, graduates from HNDs and Foundation degrees are impacted more by the subject area than the qualification.

For example, Engineering or Nursing graduates of HNDs and foundation degrees go on to earn more than other subject areas. This means your chosen career and specific skills in demand have a far more significant impact on earnings than the difference between taking an HND or Foundation degree.

Academic Progression to a Bachelor’s Degree.

HND & Foundation degree academic progression table

As both these qualifications are at the same level and intensity, they offer very similar progression routes. It is very common and popular for graduates of both these vocational qualifications to study an extra year on a top-up degree course and earn a full undergraduate honours degree.

Typically, students complete a Top-up degree before moving on to study for a Master’s. We have more information about top-up degrees and post-graduate options on our resources pages.

Which is Cheaper, an HND or Foundation Degree?

Again these courses are very similar in costs and funding options. The cost of study will vary between the subject area and the education provider. Fees can range from £4,000 to £8,000 a year.

It is always best to check with the education provider to get an accurate cost for your study.

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