A good foundation or pre-masters diploma needs to contain some serious specialisation. Firstly, it is essential for students to become accustomed to studying a subject in a foreign language, so that in their first week at university they do not feel overwhelmed by the difficulty of having to follow a course at native speaker level. Secondly, there needs to be a strong element of study skills, appropriate to either undergraduate or postgraduate level. Thirdly (for English-based study) there needs to be IELTS preparation throughout the course.
So often I hear of students who have been sent off to a pathway programme, at the end of which they will have little or no choice of where they will go to university. I would not want that for my children. Students should have the freedom to demonstrate their ability during their pathway programme, which in turn will enable them to access a better university than they initially thought they could go to. It’s common sense, but this principle is rarely followed, because of commercial interests.
In my experience, it is important to establish a dialogue with the students to find out what they (not their parents) really want, which subjects are their strongest, what type of career they see for themselves in the future after graduation, and what their dreams are. Give them lots of time to think about it, and to research their answers. Let them understand that they can change their mind later.
In the UK, everybody talks about league tables of universities. But there are so many tables, it becomes meaningless. What is important is how well a university teaches a particular course. X University may be number 60 in the general league tables, but might be in the top 10 for the subject in question. So the message is, don’t pay too much attention to league table. Also, do your research about student populations. Some universities run courses where up to 90% of the students are a single nationality! That would not be a quality learning experience.