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Foundation Year


On the Foundation Year at Cambridge, you will study a specially designed multi-disciplinary course. This means that the course covers a variety of subject areas in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

What you will study

The course focuses on developing your deeper learning skills and preparing you for the academic demands of Higher Education.

You will be able to choose papers across ‘streams’ that allow you to gain the subject knowledge most relevant to your future degree subject interests. However, you should also expect to be introduced to new subjects and approaches.

The curriculum is offered across four streams and you will complete eight papers from the options available across these four streams. You will also complete an induction module which will introduce you to the ways of learning at Cambridge.

  • Working with textual sources

This essential stream aims to help students develop a critical approach to textual sources they might encounter in different disciplines. This is applicable for subjects which rely on the interpretation and use of textual sources. You will gain an increased understanding of the variety of textual sources used in different subjects, the appropriate approaches for different disciplines and the different purposes, origins and biases of textual sources.

  • Working with material sources

This optional stream aims to support students to develop a critical approach to the different types of material sources that they might encounter in further study. This will be applicable for subjects that involve sources such as art, material culture, sound, film, sculpture, sites and landscapes and more. You will develop an appreciation of the possibilities of approaches and interpretations of different kinds of material evidence and the relationships between different material sources.

  • Working with languages

This optional stream aims to develop competence and confidence when working within a language other than English and provide an introduction to a range of ancient and modern languages. It has two components. First, it will equip you with an improved understanding of how language works, the challenges of such activities as translation, and understanding of cultural contexts. Secondly, you will be encouraged to acquire proficiency in a language other than English which could support further study of languages. Experience of formal language-learning, available through this stream, is essential or desirable for some courses.

  • Working with data

This optional stream aims to help students develop a critical approach to the different types of data sources that they might encounter. Students will learn a wide range of data analysis skills, including qualitative research training which will have a broad focus on society and community. Students will also focus on the logical principles behind data to learn to apply these. Students will be able to evaluate and interpret a range of data types, their potential sources and limitations. This will include basic analytical and statistical techniques and experience of data handling. The stream will include IT-based sessions to support handling and analysis skills development.

Optional extra-curricular language learning

All Foundation Year students will benefit from optional extra-curricular language learning as knowledge of languages can enhance options in many courses you may wish to progress to.

How you will learn

You will be taught through lectures, seminars and supervisions, with typically 14-16 hours timetabled teaching hours each week. This, combined with your independent study, will help develop your ability to take philosophical, reflective and critical approaches using a range of methods of analysis.

  • Supervisions

Supervisions are small-group sessions where you will have the opportunity to explore subjects deeply, discussing your own work and ideas and receiving feedback. You will have to prepare for these sessions, usually by reading, completing worksheets or writing an essay.

  • Seminars

These are usually for medium-sized groups (15-30 students), last between one and two hours, and provide the opportunity to discuss particular topics in more detail. You’re expected to contribute actively.

  • Lectures

Lectures typically last around 50 minutes, are delivered to larger groups of students at once, and will help to introduce you to key concepts, history, or theories that will help you in your study and other teaching.

How you will be assessed

You will be assessed in a variety of different ways depending on your stream and paper choices but this will include written assignments and examinations. You will also complete one extended project on a topic that you choose within the subjects included in the course