Foundation vs A Level: Which is right for you?

Making the right decisions to kick start your tertiary education is a pivotal factor that could make or break your university life.

This is why school leavers must make informed decisions when mapping out their education pathway.

Luckily for young students these days, there is a wide variety of choices when it comes to taking that first step. Among the many popular pre-university programmes available in Malaysia for SPM leavers are the Cambridge GCE A Level and Foundation programmes.

But what are the differences between these two programmes?

Foundation studies are intensive programmes which aim to provide students with a solid grounding as they advance their studies in the same university.

Each university’s Foundation programme structure is tailor-made to ensure students are able to assimilate and gain a deeper understanding of the requisite knowledge they need to be well-prepared to continue in-depth studies at undergraduate level within the institution.

Foundation programmes are also without a doubt the quicker route for those who wish to complete their studies sooner as it typically takes a year to complete.

On the other hand, the Cambridge GCE A Level is a globally recognised four-semester programme meant as a preparatory step for students before they continue their studies at university level.

The Cambridge GCE A Level programme in Science and Arts streams are designed to develop in-depth understanding of the subject matter, encourage independent learning, and foster critical thinking, all of which are prerequisites for success at undergraduate and even postgraduate studies.

The Cambridge GCE A Level would take a longer duration of 1.5 years to complete as compared to Foundation studies.

Foundation programme

  • More intensive and a shorter period of time to complete.
  • Tailor-made to complement the university’s undergraduate programmes.
  • Highly specialised to help students transition into the corresponding discipline of studies of their choice.

Cambridge GCE A Level

  • A gateway to many universities worldwide due to its global recognition as an entry requirement into undergraduate programmes.
  • A broader curriculum in comparison with Foundation programmes.
  • Students have more flexibility when choosing their field of studies.

For those who are certain of their education pathway, they can choose to undertake specialised Foundation in Accounting, Business or Engineering – all of which are bespoke programmes to prepare students to pursue their Bachelor Degrees in the corresponding disciplines.

For students who prefer some flexibility in choosing their discipline of studies for their undergraduate programme, Foundation in Arts or Foundation in Science will be ideal as it prepares students for a wider range of undergraduate programmes.

Each of these streams is further divided into two separate tracks with each track being comprehensively structured to provide and develop appreciation of requisite knowledge that will help students transition into their discipline of choice.

Article contributed by TAR University College, Tel: 03-41450123 (Kuala Lumpur Main Campus), Website: