Foundation vs diploma: Which suits you better?

FOUNDATION or diploma? This is a question asked by school leavers before embarking on tertiary education.

UOW Malaysia KDU’s foundation programmes offer the flexibility of choosing from an extremely wide range of subjects.

It is an important question at that stage because a change of mind later down the road can cause loss of time and money.

As with many things in life, there is no definitive right or wrong for an answer.

A good approach to answering that question may be to ask: Where are you going? What is your end-goal?

“Some things cannot be rushed, especially when learning something strongly skills-based. You have to give yourself time for insights and the internalisation of skills within in you,” said UOW Malaysia KDU College principal Assoc Prof Dr Tan Chin Ike.

Fields in which frequent practice is the name of the game are better learned through a diploma programme and these include culinary arts, graphics design and nursing. Other similar skills include electrical and automotive skills.

According to Assoc Prof Tan, modern-day diploma programmes last two years, comprising six semesters.

“Usually, your lecturers will only have one semester (three months) to teach you the fundamentals including 21st-century soft skills, which are attributes and personality traits required for students to master in preparation for success in a rapidly changing, technology-centric world, as well as essential skills such as computational thinking, creativity, problem solving and collaborative skills.

After that, you start the ‘work’,” he said.

“Work”, for diploma students, involves practising the needed skills constantly.

Assoc Prof Tan said a person who has earned a diploma has enough proficiency to start work in their field of studies immediately.

Other upsides of embarking on a diploma after secondary school is the lower entry requirements of only three SPM credits, plus the opportunity to get study loans from the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN).

Another advantage for diploma students embarking on degree programmes is that they usually forego the need to take Year One of the degree programme and therefore, only need to study for two years before earning their bachelor’s degree.

There are some fields of work that require a different kind of proficiency, and in which someone can do better after earning a bachelor’s degree.

That is when starting off on a foundation programme after secondary school will make more sense.

Assoc Prof Tan admits to seeing a difference between students who embark on a degree programme after diploma level and those who start their degree programmes after completing foundation.

“I observed that those who take the foundation programmes, followed by their first year in the bachelor’s degree programmes, have better aptitudes for problem-solving, critical thinking plus an exploratory mind,” he said.

This is because lecturers have a whole year at the start of most bachelor’s degree programmes to drum the necessary fundamental and soft skills knowledge into students.

In stark contrast, diploma students usually receive three months of fundamental and theoretical exposure before focusing almost entirely on skills proficiency for the remainder of their course.

“If your end-goal is to get a bachelor’s degree, choose the foundation programme,” Assoc Prof Tan recommended.

While the subjects in the one-year programme usually provide a broad scope that is not quite academically in-depth, it is a critical time for school-leavers to fully adjust to university-style learning, he added.

This allows them to be mentally prepared when they progress to the first year of their bachelor programme.

Assoc Prof Tan said UOW Malaysia KDU’s foundation programmes offer the flexibility of choosing from an extremely wide range of subjects.

“It is based on holistic learning, whereby we place students of many disciplines to learn from each other,” he said.

UOW in New South Wales is an hour’s drive from Sydney and offers an exemplary overseas study experience for many international students.

Another edge that UOW Malaysia KDU foundation students possess is that they are conditionally guaranteed a place in University of Wollongong (UOW), Australia.

Ranked in the top 1% of universities worldwide under the QS World University Rankings, UOW in New South Wales is located in a city that is an hour’s drive from Sydney and offers an exemplary overseas study experience for many students from around the world.

Assoc Prof Tan encourages school leavers to make appointments with UOW Malaysia KDU counsellors for a thorough discussion on options available to them.

To contact UOW Malaysia KDU counsellors, go to

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