The University Science Area
The University Science Area

Foundation Year in Chemistry, Engineering and Materials Science

UCAS codeSee course optionsDuration5 years (MChem or MEng)
Entrance requirements


Subject requirements  As in your most relevant science subject/s
Application deadline31 January 2024InterviewsMarch 2024
Admissions statistics

Places for Astrophoria Foundation Year:
Up to 50

Places for Science Foundation:
Up to 12


Subject requirements:       Essential       Recommended       Helpful – may be useful on course

About the course

Are you a student from the UK interested in studying Chemistry, Engineering Science or Materials Science? Have your personal or educational circumstances meant you are unlikely to achieve the grades typically required for Oxford courses? If so, then choosing to apply for your course with a Foundation Year might be the right option for you. 

The Astrophoria Foundation Year is free for students and is designed to be a one-year intensive academic course which will bridge any gaps between school and our academically challenging undergraduate courses. 

The programme is carefully designed to build and develop your study skills, subject knowledge and academic confidence. Students that pass the course will be awarded a nationally recognised Certificate in Higher Education (CertHE) qualification.

If you pass the course at the required level, you will be automatically admitted into Oxford as an undergraduate student if you wish to be, without the need to re-apply.

The Foundation Year Chemistry, Engineering and Materials Science (CEMS) course is designed to give you a solid grounding in key areas, with particular focus on the assimilation of the underlying concepts in these topics so that they can be effectively applied to solve real-world problems.

You will follow a subject specific pathway taking modules relevant to the subject you aim to study at undergraduate level, alongside essential maths modules. You will develop subject specific problem-solving skills and undertake an independent mini project.

Alongside your academic subject programme, you will take the Preparation for Undergraduate Studies course. This will help you develop the core skills that will enable you to thrive on a course at undergraduate level, whether at Oxford or another university.

These modules will provide support in building general academic skills including:

  • academic writing
  • communication skills to support verbal discussion
  • broader personal development through a society and culture course and academic mentoring.

Visit the Astrophoria Foundation Year website for further insights into this course and the programme.

Visit the undergraduate course pages for Chemistry, Engineering or Materials Science to find out more about the undergraduate course you'll study after your foundation year.

A typical week

During your foundation year you will be expected to attend around five hours of classes per week, participate in regular meetings with tutors to discuss work, carry out independent research and participate in laboratory work.

Your time will be spent both on academic work for your CEMS programme and work related to the Preparation for Undergraduate Studies course.

In each term you will select modules which will lead to your degree pathway. In your final term you will complete a mini project on a subject related topic of your choice, deepening your subject interest and building your skills in independent study.

Tutorials are usually for around two students and a tutor. Classes and laboratory sessions are slightly bigger, they may vary depending on the modules that you choose. There are likely to be around four students in a class or laboratory session, however when the whole CEMS cohort is together, this may include up to 12 students. 

Lectures are a larger format again, and are likely to be delivered to the foundation year cohort (up to 50 students) as a whole.

Most tutorials, classes, and lectures are delivered by staff who are tutors in their subject. Some teaching may also be delivered by postgraduate students.

To find out more about how Oxford's teaching year is structured, visit our Academic Year page.

Course structure

Term 1



Courses depend on your chosen degree:


  • Introduction for practical based science: measurement and error analysis
  • Maths for physical sciences 1
  • Inorganic chemistry
  • Physical chemistry 1

Engineering Science

  • Introduction for practical based science: measurement and error analysis
  • Maths for physical sciences 1
  • Physics, mechanics and optics
  • Physics, mechanics in rotation

Materials Science

  • Introduction for practical based science: measurement and error analysis
  • Maths for physical sciences 1
  • Physics, mechanics and optics
  • Physical Chemistry 1
All students have the option to learn a language if they wish to.

Examinations: Written papers

Term 2



Courses depend on your chosen degree:


  • Maths for physical sciences 2
  • Organic chemistry
  • Physical chemistry 2

Engineering Science

  • Maths for physical sciences 2
  • Physics, magnetism, electricity with DC circuits and waves
  • Physics, electricity with AC circuits and thermodynamics

Materials Science

  • Maths for physical sciences 2
  • Physics, magnetism, electricity with DC circuits and waves
  • Physical Chemistry 2
All students have the option to learn a language if they wish to.

Examination: Written papers

Term 3



Two courses are taken:

  • Subject specific problem solving
  • Mini project

Examination: Written papers

Coursework: Mini project

 - Written project of 15-20 pages

- Presentation on the project

Academic requirements



Advanced Highers:


International Baccalaureate (IB):

37 (including core points) with 665 at Higher Level, with at least a 6 at Higher Level in the most relevant subject(s) to chosen course.


BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma: DDM

BTEC Level 3 National Diploma: DD plus A at A level.

BTEC Level 3 National Subsidiary Diploma: D plus AB at A level.

Access to HE Diploma:

Completion of Access to HE Diploma with all the level 3 credits taken at Merit, and A grades in any A levels taken.

Any other equivalent qualification:

 View information on other UK qualifications, and international qualifications.

Wherever possible, your grades are considered in the context in which they have been achieved.

Read further information on how we use contextual data.

Please note that if you meet the academic entry requirements for the undergraduate course at Oxford in your chosen subject, then we strongly recommend that you apply for the undergraduate course instead of the foundation year.

Subject requirements

Subject requirements depend on the undergraduate degree course you wish to study.


Candidates are expected to have Chemistry and Mathematics to A-level, Advanced Higher, Higher level in the IB or any other equivalent. An additional science or further mathematics are also recommended.


Candidates are expected to have Physics and Mathematics to A-level, Advanced Higher, Higher level in the IB or any other equivalent.


Candidates are expected to have Physics and Mathematics to A-level, Advanced Higher, Higher level in the IB or any other equivalent. GCSE-level Chemistry is also required. Chemistry at A level is also highly recommended.


All candidates for the foundation year must apply via UCAS. The deadline for applications for the foundation year is in January 2024.

Please note this is different from the undergraduate course deadline of 16 October. The information below gives specific details for students applying for this course.

Admissions steps




Check you are on track to meet the academic entry requirements above

September 2023

Check you are eligible to apply

Jan 2024

Submit your UCAS application - apply for your chosen degree course with a foundation year (e.g. Materials Science with Foundation Year)

February 2024

Submit the Foundation Year Additional Application Questionnaire (FYAAQ)

March 2024

Shortlisted applicants will be invited for interview

April 2024

Offers sent to candidates

May 2024

Respond to offers

Eligibility criteria

Offers for Oxford's Astrophoria Foundation Year courses are awarded on academic suitability, and applicants must also meet the eligibility criteria relating to socio-economic and educational disadvantage.

The foundation year is designed to address the education attainment gap associated with factors relating to socio-economic and educational disadvantage experienced by eligible applicants.

The Astrophoria Foundation Year will make academic offers specific to this one year of intensive study, and the offers will take into account the educational disruption experienced by these students. The courses aim to provide a year of academic study that will help support successful students transition to their chosen undergraduate course.

Currently the programme is open to UK state school students who are ordinarily resident in the UK (home fees status) and meet the academic and eligibility criteria.

Evidence of meeting the eligibility criteria is required during the application process and can be supplied by applicants via the Foundation Year Additional Application Questionnaire. This will be accessible through the foundation year webpages in due course. There will also be a full guide to assist in the completion of the questionnaire.

Checking your eligibility

Applicants should be a state school educated student who is ordinarily resident in the UK (with home fees status) and would usually:

  • meet either the criteria outlined in categories 1,2 and 3
  • or meet the criterion of category 4

Category 1: Socio-Economic indicators

You must meet at least one of the criteria in Category 1.

  • Your home postcode (where you live the majority of the time) should fall into POLAR4 Quintile 1
  • Your home postcode (where you live the majority of the time) should fall into ACORN category 4 or 5
  • Being eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) at any point in the last six years (also known as Ever 6 FSM)

Category 2: School/College Characteristics

You must meet the criterion in Category 2.

  • You will have attended, normally for all compulsory education (usually between the ages of 11-18), non-selective state-funded UK secondary schools/colleges.

Category 3: Individual experience

You must meet at least one of the criteria in Category 3.

A verified individual level measure of socio-economic disadvantaged background and/or experienced a disrupted education which may include:

  • being eligible for FSM any point in the last six years (also known as Ever 6 FSM)
  • having refugee status or humanitarian protection
  • being a child in need
  • having care responsibilities for a sustained period of time
  • being pregnant or having parental responsibilities whilst in education
  • having a medical or health issue that has resulted in long absences from school or college (more than six months)
  • being from a Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Showman or Boater background
  • being a child of a military family
  • being a service leaver or veteran
  • being from a household with an income of less than £25,000
  • experiencing bereavement of a close family member during secondary education
  • being an estranged student
  • becoming homeless whilst in education
  • having experienced time out of secondary school or college education (over one year)
  • having a late diagnosis of Special Educational Needs (within the past two years).

Category 4: Care experience

If you meet this criterion in category 4 you are automatically eligible.

  • You have spent any length of time in local authority care and have been at UK state schools

State educated applicants with experience of being in care are automatically eligible. You do not need to meet the criteria in categories 1, 2 or 3, but you may wish to provide us with information in those other categories so that we have a comprehensive understanding of your educational experiences.

Further details

View the 2024 Eligibility Guide for Applicants for further details about the eligibility criteria for 2024 entry and how it is verified.

Fees and Funding for the Foundation Year

Our Foundation Year courses are free of charge and there are no course fees. All tuition and accommodation are provided free of charge. Students admitted to the Foundation Year courses will also receive a bursary for other living costs.

Fees and Funding for the undergraduate course

If you continue to study at Oxford by progressing to a degree course you will need to pay the course fees and cover your living costs. Visit your course pages or the fees and funding webpages for more information about undergraduate fees and funding.

The bursary will mean that you do not need to take out student finance for the Foundation Year, but if you do continue to an undergraduate degree course you may need to apply for student finance. 

Contextual information

Course data from Discover Uni provides applicants with statistics about undergraduate life at Oxford. But there is so much more to an Oxford degree that the numbers can’t convey.

The Oxford tutorial

College tutorials are central to teaching at Oxford. Typically, they take place in your college and are led by your academic tutor(s) who teach as well as do their own research. Students will also receive teaching in a variety of other ways, depending on the course. This will include lectures and classes, and may include laboratory work and fieldwork. However, tutorials offer a level of personalised attention from academic experts unavailable at most universities.

During tutorials (normally lasting an hour), college subject tutors will give you and one or two tutorial partners feedback on prepared work and cover a topic in depth. The other student(s) in your college tutorials will be from your year group, doing the same course as you and will normally be at your college. Such regular and rigorous academic discussion develops and facilitates learning in a way that isn’t possible through lectures alone.

Tutorials also allow for close progress monitoring so tutors can quickly provide additional support if necessary.

Read more about tutorials and an Oxford education

College life

Our colleges are at the heart of Oxford’s reputation as one of the best universities in the world.

  • At Oxford, everyone is a member of a college as well as their subject department(s) and the University. Students therefore have both the benefits of belonging to a large, renowned institution and to a small and friendly academic community. Each college or hall is made up of academic and support staff, and students. Colleges provide a safe, supportive environment leaving you free to focus on your studies, enjoy time with friends and make the most of the huge variety of opportunities.
  • Each college has a unique character, but generally their facilities are similar. Each one, large or small, will have the following essential facilities:
    • Porters’ lodge (a staffed entrance and reception)
    • Dining hall
    • Lending library (often open 24/7 in term time)
    • Student accommodation
    • Tutors’ teaching rooms
    • Chapel and/or music rooms
    • Laundry
    • Green spaces
    • Common room (known as the JCR).
  • All foundation year and first year students are offered college accommodation either on the main site of their college or in a nearby college annexe. This means that your neighbours will also be ‘freshers’ and new to life at Oxford. This accommodation is guaranteed, so you don’t need to worry about finding somewhere to live after accepting a place here, all of this is organised for you before you arrive.
  • All colleges offer at least one further year of accommodation and some offer it for the entire duration of your degree. You may choose to take up the option to live in your college for the whole of your time at Oxford, or you might decide to arrange your own accommodation after your first year – perhaps because you want to live with friends from other colleges.
  • While college academic tutors primarily support your academic development, you can also ask their advice on other things. Lots of other college staff including welfare officers help students settle in and are available to offer guidance on practical or health matters. Current students also actively support students in earlier years, sometimes as part of a college ‘family’ or as peer supporters trained by the University’s Counselling Service.
  • Astrophoria Foundation Year students are currently allocated to a college. They do not apply for a specific one.