You are viewing information for England.  Change country.
Chemical measuring tubes photo

Foundation Degree in Healthcare Practice

This qualification is designed to promote the development of healthcare career pathways, and to prepare healthcare assistants/healthcare support workers for the role of assistant/associate practitioner. It develops the knowledge and competences needed to deliver high quality, safe and compassionate care to service users from a diversity of backgrounds. You will explore the legal, ethical, political, policy and personal boundaries of your healthcare practice within multidisciplinary teams and develop competence to make appropriate referrals. You will also evaluate strategies for improving practice, contributing to the development of quality services and working with change.

This is also an appropriate qualification in England to be taken within a Higher Apprenticeship in Health for those aspiring to become an Assistant Practitioner (or equivalent role) and put you in a prime position to take advantage of new career opportunities as they arise. Employers who are interested in exploring the potential for delivery of this Higher Apprenticeship should contact us

For students living and working in Scotland, this programme of study is available as the Diploma of Higher Education in Healthcare Practice (W16).

Key features of the course

  • Strong work-based element, so you’ll need the support of your employer for the two work-based modules
  • Enhances your employability to progress from band 2/3 to band 4
  • Ideal preparation/underpinning knowledge and skills for the role of assistant/associate practitioner
  • Builds a solid foundation for entry into qualifications for professionally regulated roles
A nationally recognised qualification in its own right, this foundation degree is also equivalent to the first two thirds of an honours degree.

Course Summary

+Shortlist Course

Foundation Degree

Foundation Degree

  • Widely recognised qualification.
  • Enhance your professional and technical knowledge and skills.
  • Equivalent to the first two thirds of an honours degree.
  • Use it to support your current role or progress your career.
  • Combine work-based learning with academic study – you need to be employed or volunteering in a relevant work setting.
  • Top up to an honours degree in just two years.

We offer most of our foundation degrees as diplomas of higher education for students living or working in Scotland.

Course code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
How long it takes
Flexible practice-based 2–4 years
Time limit – usually 7 years
Study method
Distance learning

Course details

This qualification has two stages, each comprising 120 credits.

  • During Stage 1 you will study two 60 credit modules: an introduction to health and social care, and a work-based module to enhance your healthcare practice.
  • Next, in Stage 2, you’ll study another work-based module and complete your foundation degree with up to two modules selected from a list of options.

Optional Access module – visit Entry requirements to find out about starting this course with a preparatory Access module.

Stage 1 (120 credits)

You’ll be introduced to the study of health and social care, together with underpinning knowledge, understanding and skills. You’ll consider care in a variety of settings, alongside work-based study of the factors influencing health in different service user groups. There is a strong focus on person-centred, compassionate care and the development of practice-based skills to meet patient/client needs.

Stage 2 (120 credits)

At Stage 2, you’ll apply research, policy and practice to your own work context – exploring the diversity and complexity of people’s lives and their experience of healthcare with a work-based module. You’ll also choose optional module(s) from topics such as health and wellbeing, mental health, children and young people, end-of-life care, long-term conditions, human biology and sports science.
You'll start Stage 2 with:
Extending your contribution to healthcare practice (K236)60
You'll complete your foundation degree with 60 credits from:
Brain, mind and mental health (SK298) – planned for October 202030
Critical issues in health and wellbeing (K219)60
Death, dying and bereavement (K220)60
Human biology (SK299)30
Mental health and community (K240)60
Making a difference: working with children and young people (KE206)60

We regularly review our curriculum; therefore, the qualification described on this page – including its availability, its structure, and available modules – may change over time. If we make changes to this qualification, we’ll update this page as soon as possible. Once you’ve registered or are studying this qualification, where practicable, we’ll inform you in good time of any upcoming changes. If you’d like to know more about the circumstances in which the University might make changes to the curriculum, see our Academic Regulations or contact us. This description was last updated on 13 September 2019.


We make all our qualifications as accessible as possible and have a comprehensive range of services to support all our students. The Foundation Degree in Healthcare Practice uses a variety of study materials and has the following elements:

  • studying a mixture of printed and online material – online learning resources may include websites, audio/video media clips, and interactive activities such as online quizzes
  • using mathematical and biological expressions, notations and associated techniques
  • working in a group with other students
  • using and/or producing diagrams and/or screenshots
  • undertaking practical work (patient/client care)
  • finding external/third party material online
  • using specialist software (for example the Sibelius music writing package)
  • in addition to the above, the regulatory body for the nursing programme (the NMC) has guidance on health and disability relating to fitness for professional practice.

For more detailed information, see the Accessibility Statements on individual module descriptions. If you feel you may need additional support with any of the elements above, visit our Disability support website to find more about what we offer. Please contact us as soon as possible to discuss your individual requirements, so we can put arrangements in place before you start.

Learning outcomes, teaching and assessment

This qualification develops your learning in four main areas:

  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Cognitive skills
  • Practical and professional skills
  • Key skills

The level and depth of your learning gradually increases as you work through the qualification. You’ll be supported throughout by the OU’s unique style of teaching and assessment – which includes a personal tutor to guide and comment on your work; top quality course texts; elearning resources like podcasts, interactive media and online materials; tutorial groups and community forums.

Read the detailed learning outcomes here

Credit transfer

If you have already studied at university level, you may be able to count it towards your Open University qualification – which could save you time and money by reducing the number of modules you need to study. At the OU we call this credit transfer.

It’s not just university study that can be considered, you can also transfer study from a wide range of professional or vocational qualifications such as HNCs and HNDs.

You should apply for credit transfer before you register, at least 4 weeks before the registration closing date. We will need to know what you studied, where and when and you will need to provide evidence of your previous study.

For more details of when you will need to apply by and to download an application form, visit our Credit Transfer website.

On completion

On completion of this undergraduate course, we'll award you the Foundation Degree in Healthcare Practice.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the qualification-specific regulations below and the academic regulations that are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website. 

Entry requirements

There are no academic entry requirements for this course. However, you must have the support of your employer for the two work-based modules Enhancing your healthcare practice (K117) and Extending your contribution to healthcare practice (K236) and be employed as healthcare support worker/healthcare assistant in a healthcare setting.

It is also a requirement that you:

  • remain in employment while studying towards this qualification
  • work in a healthcare setting for a minimum of two days per week
  • are involved in the direct delivery of care or providing interventions for patients/service users
  • provide confirmation of your employer’s support for your studies
  • have a workplace supervisor qualified in the same area of practice to support and assess your work-based learning
  • have access to a computer and the internet.

Please note that you cannot apply online for this qualification – for more information about how to register, employers and individuals should contact us.

The Foundation Degree meets the Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (SASE) as determined by the Sector Skills Council (Skills for Health). It is eligible as a combined pathway within the Apprenticeship Framework for the Higher Apprenticeship in Healthcare Assistant Practitioner and is also eligible within the new Apprenticeship Standards for Assistant Practitioners when the new Standard has been approved (in England only). Employers who would be interested in exploring the potential for delivery of this Higher Apprenticeship should contact us

How much time do I need?

  • Most of our students study flexibly, completing 60-120 credits a year
  • Depending on the agreement with your employer you can complete this qualification in 2-4 years.

Preparing for study with an Access module

If your study skills are a bit rusty or you want to try out Open University study before committing yourself, don’t worry! The OU offers Access modules designed to introduce the subject area, build your confidence and prepare you for further study, and you may be eligible to study an Access module for free! You'll get:

  • a personal tutor providing regular feedback with one to one telephone tutorials
  • support from a dedicated team throughout your study
  • detailed written feedback.
For this qualification we recommend:

People, work and society Access module

What you will study

This multidisciplinary module provides an excellent introduction to a wide range of subject areas, including childhood and youth studies, social science, psychology, health, business and law.

View full details of People, work and society Access module

Your next step

Call us on +44 (0)1908 659253 or book a call back. Our friendly team of advisers will discuss your study options with you, and help you decide on the best starting point for you. 

In this section:
How much will it cost?
Ways to pay for your qualification and other support

How much will it cost in England?

We believe cost shouldn’t be a barrier to achieving your potential. That’s why we work hard to keep the cost of study as low as possible and have a wide range of flexible ways to pay to help spread, or even reduce, the cost.

  • Fees are paid on a module-by-module basis – you won't have to pay for the whole of your qualification up front.
  • A qualification comprises a series of modules, each with an individual fee. Added together, they give you the total cost.
  • If, like most OU students, you study part time at a rate of 60 credits a year, you'll take six years to complete an honours degree.
  • Our current fee for 60 credits is £3,012*.
  • Our current fee for 120 credits – which is equivalent to a year's full-time study – is £6,024*.
  • At current prices, the total cost of your qualification would be £12,048*.

*The fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2020. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a computer, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you start studying.

Residential schools

This qualification includes science modules that include or are associated with an optional residential/laboratory school. For each school you choose to attend, you must pay an additional charge to cover costs such as tuition, accommodation and meals (see individual module descriptions for more information). You must also pay for your travel to and from the venue.

Skills for career development

Delivering quality care requires teamwork and people management skills. Studying this qualification will encourage you to work in your multi-professional team to improve the patient/service user experience. You will also develop valuable transferable skills in communication literacy, IT skills, information retrieval, numeracy, time management, organisational skills, analysing information and problem solving – and you’ll be well prepared for further study (such as an honours degree course, or a professional qualification in your particular field of practice).

Career relevance

This foundation degree is designed to promote the development of healthcare career pathways and to prepare healthcare support workers/healthcare assistants for the role of assistant/associate practitioner. Although it provides no guarantee of promotion, it is particularly relevant for staff working in healthcare support roles who wish to gain a qualification that helps them to deliver high quality, safe and compassionate care. It is also valuable for those already working in the role of assistant/associate practitioner who wish to gain a qualification to underpin their practice. 

On completion of this qualification, you may wish to pursue further study opportunities leading to, for example, an honours degree in health and social care or, possibly, as a registered practitioner in your respective field of practice.

Successful completion of the Foundation degree in Healthcare Practice allows access to Stage 2 of the pre-registration nursing programme, subject to successful selection and meeting the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) minimum entry requirements.

Other careers

The wide range of transferable skills you’ll develop during your studies will be applicable to many roles outside health and social care.

In addition to improving your career prospects, studying with the OU is an enriching experience that broadens your horizons, develops your knowledge, builds your confidence and enhances your life skills. 

Exploring your options

Once you register with us (and for up to three years after you finish your studies), you’ll have full access to our careers service for a wide range of information and advice. This includes online forums, website, interview simulation, vacancy service as well as the option to email or speak to a careers adviser. Some areas of the website are available to see at any time, including help with looking for and applying for jobs. You can also read more general information about how OU study enhances your career.

In the meantime if you want to do some research around this qualification and where it might take you, we’ve put together a list of relevant job titles as a starting point. Some careers may require further study, training and/or work experience):

  • Adult nurse
  • Mental health nurse
  • Social worker
  • Health promotion specialist
  • Counsellor
  • Child protection officer
  • Youth worker
  • Community development worker
  • Care home manager
  • Health services manager


To register for this qualification, please refer to the Entry requirements and contact us (online registration is not available).

Next start date Feb 2020 - Registration closes 09/01/2020
Credit transfer: apply by 05/12/2019

Request your Health and Social Care prospectus

Our prospectuses help you choose your course, understand what it's like to be an OU student and register for study.

Request prospectus