University Foundation Year

For students who have completed their own country’s formal secondary school leaving certificate or qualification(s), we can offer a University Foundation Year (UFY) to prepare them fully for UK undergraduate life at some of the UK’s best universities.

The Earlscliffe University Foundation Year (UFY) is officially accredited by NCFE.

Students must be at least 17 years old by 1st September immediately preceding the course start date. Students must officially attain a minimum English Language level of IELTS 5.0 prior to starting the course. Our pathway-specific entry tests must be taken by applicants.

The University Foundation Year at Earlscliffe gives students a choice of pathways: STEM, BEM, Humanities, or Creative Arts. Each pathway is underpinned with serious academic content and assessment, thereby giving leading universities confidence in its integrity and in their decisions to make conditional offers to our UFY students. Teaching is rigorous and intensive: we allocate nine lessons (6hrs 45 minutes) to each main subject per week. Most students will also study IELTS and undertake the highly-regarded EPQ (Extended Project Qualification), which will help their university application considerably.

University Foundation Year Pathways:

  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)
  • BEM (Business, Economics and Management)
  • Humanities
  • Creative Arts


The NCFE University Foundation Year is internally verified and then externally assessed.

A student’s portfolio of work consists of internal tests, assignments, essays, projects, end of term examinations and science practical work. Students will also complete a programme of work experience related to their university and career ambitions,.

To achieve a pass grade the student must score an overall mark of 45%.
A merit is an average of 65%.
A distinction is an average of 85+%.

The IELTS and the EPQ are externally graded. The EPQ is worth valuable UCAS points.

Students who complete our UFY course usually go on to university, either in the UK or abroad. UK universities may make conditional offers to students via UCAS. Some universities will include the EPQ in their conditional offer and others will not.

Here is an example offer*:

  • Candidate must attain an overall score of at least 65% on the UFY course


  • A minimum overall score of 6.5 in their IELTS exam


  • At least a C grade in the EPQ

*Please note that this is purely an example.

UFY Subject Options

Students choose one subject from each of our option blocks A, B and C. In addition, they can do an A-level in their native language if they wish, as an additional qualification.

  • Block A: Geography or History or Mathematics or Art
  • Block B: Photography or Business or Chemistry or Economics or Statistics or English Literature
  • Block C: Biology or Computer Science or Politics or Physics or Psychology
  • Block D: Level 3 Maths or Further Mathematics

In addition to these main three or four subjects, students will also study IELTS and complete an EPQ (Extended Project Qualification).

In constructing the block options above, we took into consideration many of the more popular academic pathways for university and beyond.

Small class sizes and intensive teaching

Even in the most popular subjects we insist on small classes. The reason for having small classes is very simple. The greater the amount of individual attention that the student receives, the greater the chances are that the student will achieve better grades. In a small class, teachers are able to get to know the students. Everybody has to contribute. In addition, small classes create safe environments in which students are more willing to participate.

We allocate intensive, lesson-based teaching to each chosen subject, and this is complemented by a student’s own dedication outside the classroom. With six hours and 45 minutes of teaching time per subject each week, meaningful and positive relationships are built, a determined work ethic is created and each student achieves their full potential.

English language support

EAL (English as an Additional Language) is a fundamental part of every lesson. The individual English language needs of each student are taken into account by their teacher and lessons are planned accordingly.

Our teachers are very experienced with EAL and they employ a wide range of methods to help support the development of the students’ English language skills. The specifics of the support will depend very much on each students’ needs and the course they are doing. For example, ITY students may have to read works of fiction and produce book reports, whereas A-level students will have to learn subject-specific terminology, in context, and take part in frequent vocabulary tests.

We also empower the students to be self-directing in improving their English language skills. Students are trained to use dictionaries and resources effectively and efficiently in order to support their own learning.

TRaC™ Testing System

Our TRaC™ (‘Test, Rank and Coach’) system of weekly, competitive testing is a key factor of Earlscliffe’s assessment and target-setting strategy.

Teachers set tests for each of the main subjects during the week. Papers are based on the week’s work and they are returned graded according to A-level or GCSE criteria, ranked according to the student’s relative performance in class, and followed up with coaching sessions to assist with continuous improvement as needed.

TRaC™ testing keeps students working at a consistent, measurable level and pace.
These weekly results are monitored by the student’s teachers as well as the Head of Department and the student’s Head of Year. Students soon get used to the system and regard it as a valuable tool. As a team, we are able to consistently assess our students’ knowledge and skills, and feel in control of learning.

TRaC™ scores are made available to parents and guardians through the Parent Portal (password protected). Please note that it is unusual for a student on any course to achieve all high grades in TRaC™ tests in the first few weeks of the course, as they need a little time to settle down and get used to the academic requirements, the language and the marking schemes.

Parents are encouraged to monitor TRaC™ performance and pass their comments and praise to their children accordingly. TRaC™ results can also be sent to guardians if wished. For a fuller discussion or explanation of your son or daughter’s TRaC™ test records please contact the Deputy Head:

Please note that success in TRaC™ tests should not be taken as a guarantee of success in synoptic final exams – in the external exams, one or two years’ worth of knowledge may be tested and have to be applied in a high-pressure environment while working against the clock. TRaC™ tests examine a student’s knowledge and understanding of one week’s work or, at most, one topic area.


Homework is completed in the evenings and at weekends. Students are allocated at least two hours each evening as quiet study time in their rooms, which is supervised by their House Managers. While many students do less homework on Saturdays, almost all students use Sundays to do some serious, extended study in their own time.

Each UFY subject has an extended reading section, with books, articles and texts recommended as additional reference material. This information will be given to the students by the subject teachers and is also available on the school’s Independent Study website. Students have access to daily newspapers and weekly journals like ‘The Economist’, ‘The New Scientist’ and ‘The Spectator’ – titles they should be reading in their free time to improve their understanding of the wider issues relating to their academic subjects.


The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) examination is a globally-recognised English language test, required for university entry and many other purposes. This must be taken by all students who do not hold a GCSE English Language qualification from a UK school.

All students, unless they are native English speakers, will attend IELTS lessons regularly to improve their English, even if they do not intend to go to a UK university. IELTS is taught by qualified teachers for between two and six lessons per week.

The IELTS exam can be taken at various points in the academic year. The examination has writing, reading, listening and speaking components. Most top UK universities will require an overall score of at least 6.5 or 7.0, with good scores in the writing and reading sections.

There is no limit on the number of times you can re-take the IELTS examination. It can be taken and then improved upon at the next exam sitting, and so on throughout the year if necessary. We expect the majority of UFY students to attain a 6.5 or 7.0 within a year of starting their studies with us.

Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)

All UFY students at Earlscliffe will do an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) in addition to their other studies. This qualification is excellent and is highly regarded as an ideal opportunity for the students to prepare for university. An EPQ is equivalent to an AS Level and adds weight to a student’s UCAS application.

The EPQ allows learners to study a topic area which extends their learning in their chosen area of study and enhances their independent research skills. Each student selects a project topic which will expand their learning in their field of study, in a related area, or a topic that is relevant to their own personal interests.

Each of the four units offers a different type of project: a dissertation, an investigation/field study, a performance, or an artefact. Learners will be assessed on their ability to plan, manage, complete and review their project. It can be completed over one or two years, and is assessed by the student’s supervisor from within the centre and externally moderated by the exam board.

Such is the importance we place upon this qualification that the students have timetabled EPQ lessons. They work in small groups and individually with a supervisor, who guides and facilitates them on their journey through the EPQ.

University and Careers

Each student at Earlscliffe will be given a considerable amount of support and guidance related to selecting the right courses and universities to apply to, completing and submitting their university applications, and working towards their chosen career.

For more information, including a complete list of university destinations which Earlscliffe students have gone on to, please click here: