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Durham University Foundation Programme

I recently successfully completed the Foundation Programme at Durham University and will be progressing into the first year of my Physics degree in October 2020. It has been a crazy year, but I am proud for all I have achieved in such a short space of time. During my time at Durham however, I have had to explain to lots of fellow students, as well as my friends and family back home exactly what the Foundation Programme is.

What is a Foundation Year?

A Foundation Year, sometimes called Year 0, is a non-traditional entry into university, often for mature students, those who did not obtain the required A-Level results or studied different subjects not relevant for their chosen degree, or even individuals who have had a break from studying. Those who enroll on the programme at Durham University are full members of the University just like any other student and are affiliated to a college, as well as enjoying full access to the extensive extra-curricular opportunities Durham has to offer.

I found out about this non-traditional entry to university from a friend. Originally, I had the ambition to return to university to become a Naval Architect and was looking to apply for a Foundation Year at Southampton University. In summer 2018 I took a leap of faith when I decided to retake my GCSE Maths, teaching myself via YouTube. I sat for the exams in November 2018. However, whilst learning Maths I realised how closely linked it was to Physics and began to question if I should investigate the possibility of studying physics instead. After all, I have always enjoyed watching physics documentaries on TV and the internet. Plus, what could be more challenging, right!? I began to familiarise myself with the basics of Physics, having not studied the subject since my GCSEs a decade ago!

Studying at Durham

Having stumbled across the Foundation Programme at Durham University I did some research and applied, having never studied A Level Maths or Physics, but I did have lots of ambition and dedication. In January 2019 I was invited for an interview and immediately fell in love with Durham. It is such a beautiful city. A few weeks later I was offered a place, which I was thrilled to accept, if a little nervous too. Before moving to Durham from my home in Colchester, Essex, I continued to teach myself more Maths and Physics. As a small business owner, it was difficult to let go of my business and focus on my studies more, but I knew in the long run it would be for the better.

Matriculation ceremony in 2019

I moved to Durham in September 2019 and spent my first year living at Josephine Butler College. It was a scary time, but I should not have been worried. I could not have asked for better flatmates and I made some good friends on the Foundation Year too, who had a range of different educational backgrounds. Before long Durham felt like home and I settled right in.

Be prepared to work hard

The Foundation Programme was not easy. At first, we covered the main parts of GCSE Maths and Physics before moving onto A Level Maths and Physics, along with plenty of content from the Further Maths A Level too. All this in around 8 months! It was intense to say the least!! I may not have passed every exam first time but with lots of hard work I got there in the end.

I am very thankful to the staff who taught and supported me during the Foundation Year, particularly those who kept in regular contact when classes moved online due to Covid-19. Things will certainly be a little different still during my first year of the Physics degree but I am still excited to learn lots more and continue my adventure!

Find out more about the Foundation Programme and the courses on offer here.

Download our prospectus here.

Harry Cotterill

Hi, I’m Harry. I completed a Foundation Year at Durham University and I’m now studying Physics, living at Josephine Butler College. Prior to returning to education I set-up a popular cruise blog and sold my detailed drawings of cruise ships all over the world. Check it out at www.cruisecotterill.com
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