Foundation year programme paves the way to KTH

A motion has finally been presented regarding higher education access programmes  (http://www.regeringen.se/remisser/2018/05/remiss-av-promemorian_behorighetsgivande-hogskoleintroducerande-utbildningar/ in Swedish. Where KTH Royal Institute of Technology is concerned, it is primarily courses known as foundation year programmes that are of interest and that we are working hard to retain.

For many years we have offered such preparatory programmes aimed at students lacking special admission requirements or who wish to repeat chemistry, physics and mathematics prior to embarking on an engineering programme. I have already previously discussed this form of education  that we deem important. The memorandum now being circulated also presents the opportunity of combining courses that offer access to higher education with courses that meet general and special admission requirements.

The fact that the opportunity to offer foundation year programmes is here to stay is excellent news. It gives individuals the chance to choose – not only young people coming straight from upper-secondary education, but also those wishing to change their specialisation later in life.

According to the motion being circulated, students will not apply for and commit themselves to a subsequent programme, but will have a place that is guaranteed for two years. This gives universities greater flexibility in terms of planning. There is an associated risk that KTH will lose foundation year students who were previously bound more closely to KTH. But the situation is similar to that at other universities, where they have seen that foundation year (foundation semester) students apply elsewhere instead.

In KTH’s earlier motion responses in which the issue has been addressed, we referred to the fact that this may mean that students make more discerning choices when they have completed their year and know more about what they are getting into and wish to apply for. During their foundation year programme, students have the chance to see that there are many different engineering programmes at KTH, which is perhaps less obvious before spending some time here.

The question KTH needs to consider is whether we should also arrange courses that enable students to meet general admission requirements. This may apply, for example, to courses in Swedish and English that train students in academic literacy skills. For some students, it is a lack of linguistic knowledge in particular that causes difficulties at the start of a programme. So being able to focus on Swedish and English prior to demanding engineering and architectural studies is not a bad idea. The same may apply to students on Master’s programmes, with them needing to become more proficient in English.

Those on the new programme are afforded student status, which is good. At the same time, this may entail greater costs for certain universities. As far as I can see, no new funding will be provided in support of the now expanded possibility of providing preparatory programmes and foundation year programmes. This means that KTH needs to carefully analyse the proportion of such programmes in relation to our regular programmes.

It is initially difficult to see that the motion is in line with lifelong learning. I think mainly younger people who have been away for a few years after completing upper-secondary education will take advantage of the opportunity to refresh their knowledge. But this is lifelong learning too!

A clear benefit is KTH’s ability to work to an even greater extent on widening recruitment and participation by now being able to provide a foundation year programme (or foundation semester) along with courses that enable students to meet general admission requirements, even for groups that are perhaps afraid to choose a prestigious education at KTH. When approached wisely, a course, semester or foundation year can give a student a taste for studying and the courage to submit an application, even if neither of their parents is an engineer, architect or graduate.

KTH gains broader opportunities to show how exciting and rewarding an education in engineering or architecture can be. Also, in KTH’s experience, students who have completed a foundation year programme are more motivated and have better study habits, which leads to greater success in terms of finishing their studies within the time limit. And this is essentially good for everyone!