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About this pathway

The International Foundation Year in Humanities, Law and Social Science prepares you for an undergraduate degree at Durham City. This programme lasts for three terms.

Upon successful completion of the programme you can choose from a range of related degrees at Durham University.

Who is this programme for?

This humanities, law and social science foundation year is for international students looking to study a related degree at Durham University but need additional time to prepare.   

  • Improve your academic and English language skills needed for your chosen degree. 
  • Explore concepts, terminology and practical skills needed to succeed at a world-class university. 
  • Study core modules for humanities, social science and law with this foundation year, developing your critical skills and understanding of key themes and models. 
  • Take the time to adjust to the UK education system so you can be ready to start your degree with confidence. 

Key facts


  • Three terms

Entry Points:

Academic: Good high school graduation grades or equivalent, with relevant subjects

English language: Academic IELTS for UKVI 5.5 (5.5 in reading and writing, minimum of 5.0 in all other skills)*

Age: 17+

*We accept equivalent proof of English if you do not need a Student visa, or are exempt in another way.

Visit our entry requirements page for further details.


You can check the associated fees with your chosen programme by visiting our dedicated fees page.

What will you study?

Academic English Skills aims to provide thorough training in the language and related academic skills which will enable international students to best achieve their academic potential at university. Our Academic English programme is validated by UK ENIC, the UK government agency responsible for providing information and expert opinion on qualifications and skills worldwide.

You will develop awareness and competency in a range of language-related academic skills, including the processes of academic writing, effective and extensive reading strategies, effective participation in seminars and delivery of presentations, and listening to and recording information effectively from lectures. You will also develop the accuracy and range of written and spoken language required to use language effectively and appropriately, with clarity and confidence in an academic context.

Alongside your classes, your studies will be supported by an online learning platform, providing you with a range of tasks and activities specifically designed to develop and extend your language and academic skills outside the classroom and to give you more control over your own learning.

Students will be assessed in all four skills areas: listening, reading, speaking and writing, this is assessed through examinations, coursework, seminars and presentations.

The recommended text for this module is Academic Writing Skills for International Students by Read and English for Academic Study: Reading Course Book by Slaght.

This module aims to introduce and develop key academic skills such as writing, referencing, research skills and critical analysis. Students will undertake a research project selecting a topic of their own interest related to business. Students will work with tutors on a 1-2-1 basis in order to conduct research and complete the project.

This module is assessed by an artefact which can be in the form of a written report or poster presentation.

Recommended texts for this module include Pearson’s Research Methods for Business Students (by Saunders et al.).

Designated modules

Alongside core modules you will study designated modules that relate to your progression degree route. When you successfully complete this pathway and achieve the required grades, you can begin your undergraduate degree at Durham University.


  • Geography
  • Introduction to Ancient History
  • Introduction to Liberal Arts
  • Introduction to Modern History

Classics / Chinese Studies / English Literature / History / Japanese Studies / Liberal Arts / Philosophy / Religion / Society and Culture / Theology and Religion / Visual Arts and Film

  • English Literature
  • Introduction to Ancient History
  • Introduction to Liberal Arts
  • Introduction to Modern History

Combined Social Sciences

  • Introduction to Liberal Arts
  • Introduction to Modern History
  • Politics
  • Sociology

International Relations/Politics

  • Law 1
  • Introduction to Modern History
  • Politics
  • Sociology


  • English Literature
  • Law 1
  • Politics
  • Sociology


  • Foundations of Statistics
  • Liberal Arts
  • Foundations of Psychology
  • Sociology


  • Geography
  • Foundation Biology
  • Foundations of Statistics
  • Sociology

Health and Human Sciences/Anthropology

  • Foundation of Statistics
  • Geography
  • Foundation Biology
  • Sociology


  • English Literature
  • Law 1
  • Law 2
  • LNAT
  • Sociology


  • English Literature
  • Foundations of Music
  • Introduction to Ancient History
  • Introduction to Liberal Arts

Philosophy, Politics and Economics

  • Core Foundation Mathematics
  • Politics
  • Pure Mathematics and Strategic
  • Economics

Sport and Exercise Sciences/Sport, Exercise and Physical Activity

  • Foundations of Psychology
  • Foundations of Statistics
  • Foundation Biology
  • Sociology

Pure Maths and Strategic

This module seeks to introduce students to both pure and strategic maths. Pure mathematics explores the boundary of mathematics and pure reason. It has been described as "that part of mathematical activity that is done without explicit or immediate consideration of direct application," although what is "pure" in one era often becomes applied later. Strategic mathematics involves applying analytical methods to help make better decisions. The approach often involves constructing and using mathematical models and problem structuring methods to represent the wide range of problems encountered in the real world. The results of these models allow decisions that are more informed. The module content includes calculus, trigonometry, complex numbers, linear programming, game theory, and critical path analysis.

This module is assessed by two invigilated examinations.

Recommended texts for this module are Edexcel AS and A Level Mathematics, Pure Mathematics Year 2 and Edexcel AS and A Level Further Mathematics – Decision Mathematics 1.

English Literature

This module will introduce students to a wide variety of literary texts from various periods and cultures, exploring the main literary genres – poetry, prose and drama. It will introduce ways of reading texts which include an analysis of form, narrative perspective, intertextuality, literary theory, and knowledge of the context in which the text was produced. The work they undertake will develop students’ analytical and evaluative skills and increase their confidence in their personal response to literature. It will also develop their ability to write an effective, coherent and convincing argument, as well as increasing accuracy in essay writing.

This module is assessed by a group presentation and essay.

Recommended reading tests for this module are Wild Sargasso Sea and Romeo and Juliet

Foundations of Music

This module will enable students to extend the skills, knowledge and understanding needed to communicate through music. It will help students to understand the history of music and to recognise the interdependence of musical skills, knowledge and understanding, and the links between performing, composing and appraising. The module will provide a framework within which analytical skills and essay writing techniques may be developed.

This module is assessed by a performance, composition and an essay.

Recommended reading texts for this module are A History of Western Music, Tenth International Student Edition and Harmonic Practice in Tonal Music, 2nd Ed

Foundations of Statistics

This two-term module covers some fundamental techniques in statistics. Students will be given an opportunity to apply the skills studied to create a report by analysing a large data set. The module content includes sampling techniques, data exploration, correlation and regression, probability distributions and hypothesis testing.

This module is assessed by an invigilated examination and a statistical report.

Recommended texts for this module are Edexcel AS and A Level Mathematics – Statistics & Mechanics Year 1 and Edexcel AS and A Level Mathematics – Statistics & Mechanics Year 2. 


This module seeks to develop knowledge and understanding of selected human and physical geographical processes. Students will be encouraged to develop observational, interpretative, and independent study skills. They will also use a range of skills and techniques, including the use of maps and images at different scales necessary for geographical study. It will also be possible for students to carry out research and fieldwork as appropriate to the topics selected.

This module is assessed by an exam and essay.

Recommended reading texts for this module are The Geography of Tourism and Recreation; Environment Place and Space 4th Edition and Fundamentals of the Physical Environment 4th Edition.

Foundation Biology

Please can this be changed to This module focuses on human biology and human health. Key processes in the human body are explained, common diseases that affect those systems identified and then ways to overcome these issues are identified. This focus on ways to explain how healthy living is important and supports the student’s development in their degree focus, including sports science, psychology, and biological sciences.

This module is assessed by an invigilated examination.

Recommended texts for this module include And Freeman, S., Quilin, K., Allison, L., Black, M., Podgorski, G. and Carmichael, J. (2017). Biological Science. 6th edition. London: Pearson Education. And Hillis, D., Heller, C. H., Hacker, S. D., Hall, D., Sadava, D. and Laskowski, M. (2020). Life: The Science of Biology. 12th Edition. New York: WH Freeman. And Lowrie, P. and Smith, M. (2019). AQA A Level Biology. London: Hodder Education.

Introduction to Ancient History

This module will provide an introduction and basis for further study of a specified period of Ancient History and culture. Students will be encouraged to investigate central themes and topics of at least one ancient culture. They will gain familiarity with and develop a critical perspective of the studied historical period and the analyse various primary and secondary sources of evidence.

This module is assessed by an individual presentation.

Recommended reading texts for this module are Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic and Greek Fire.

Introduction to Liberal Arts

This module will introduce key theories, ideas and philosophies, that inform present day British and other Western societies; it will also introduce students to the relationship between a range of cultural icons and historical events and the values of society. Students will become familiar with studying primary source materials alongside relevant critical work, which locates these sources in their historical/sociological/artistic contexts as well as within a body of academic scholarship. It will also work to develop students’ ability to demonstrate critical thinking by describing, analysing and evaluating source materials, through convincing and effective academic written work.

This module is assessed by an essay.

Recommended reading texts for this module are Bede’s History of the English Church and The Canterbury Tales and Lindisfarne Gospels.

Introduction to Modern History

This module looks to develop knowledge and understanding of selected periods of Modern History as well as the nature of historical sources and the methods used by historians, such as source analysis of primary and secondary sources. Students will also gain familiarity with and develop a critical perspective of differing interpretations of historical problems and alternative and conflicting sources of evidence.

This module is assessed by an exam and essay.

Recommended reading texts for this module is Reformation: Europe’s House Divided.

Law 1

This module aims to introduce students to the law and legal system in England and Wales, including its underlying principles, the process for creating legislation in Parliament and how it is interpreted by the Courts, the lay personnel involved in criminal case decision making and the mechanics of the legal process in civil disputes.

This module is assessed by an exam which focuses on three core skills of knowledge, evaluation and application of legal concepts and authorities. 

Recommended texts include: Frost, T. et al, Unlocking the English Legal System (7th edition, Routledge, 2023).  [Using current editions of legal textbooks is strongly recommended].

Law 2

The Law 2 module will focus on the Law of Tort (specifically the tort of negligence) & Contract Law. Through the Law 2 module, students will develop a knowledge and understanding of the key topics in Tort and Contract and develop the skills required to apply this legal knowledge to a problem scenario, drawing relevant conclusions. A problem-based learning approach is adopted, ensuring that the skills developed are similar to those required for legal practice.  This follows on from the Law 1 module, as students continue to build their understanding of how to use legal sources including legislation and case law.

This module is assessed by two problem solving essays; one in Tort, one in Contract.

Recommended texts include Turner, C. Unlocking Torts (5th Edition, Routledge, 2020) and Turner, C. Unlocking Contact Law (4th Edition, Routledge, 2014). [Using current editions of legal textbooks is strongly recommended].


In Politics, students are introduced to UK politics and government, through a range of contemporary political issues from political rights to executive power. Students will also explore political theory and ideologies from Conservatism to feminism. Politics encourages students to use their own contexts and experiences and develops the skills of persuasive argument, critical thinking, and evaluative reasoning.

This module is assessed by a debate and written speech.

Recommended texts include UK Government and Politics for A-level Sixth edition By Philip Lynch and Political ideas for A Level: Liberalism, Conservatism, Socialism, Feminism, Anarchism by Neil McNaughton.

Foundations of Psychology

Please can this be changed to: This module provides students with a general introduction to the psychological processes underlying human behaviour. It will provide an awareness of application, and limitations of psychological theories. It will familiarise students with the scientific approach to interpreting data. it will provide students with an introduction to the psychological processes of cognitive development, conditioning, and social psychology. Students will develop scientific essay writing skills. 

This module is assessed by an invigilated examination and an essay.

Recommended texts for this module include Gleitman, H., Gross, J. and Reisberg, D. (2011). Psychology (8th edition – international student edition). New York. Norton. And Walker, I. (2010). Research Methods and Statistics. Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan.


This module looks to encourage students to think sociologically; to stimulate the ‘sociological’ imagination. It will introduce social science concepts and themes such as gender, family and inequality and explore the research skills needed for undergraduate study such as qualitative and quantitative data, research methods and literature reviews. Sociology also develops academic and analytical skills upon which students can build confidence for future learning and assessment.

This module is assessed by a research proposal.

Recommended texts include Discovering Sociology by Mark McCormak. 

All students who want to study LLB (Hons) Law after completing the International Foundation Year are required to pass the Law National Aptitude Test (LNAT) with a satisfactory performance in Section A and Section B, in addition to achieving the International Study Centre progression requirements. The definition of satisfactory performance for entry to Durham is set by Durham Law School and is reviewed annually. Students who do not meet the LNAT requirement will be able to progress to a second choice degree instead, providing they meet the progression requirements for this.

What is the LNAT?

The LNAT is used by universities to help them select the right people to take undergraduate law qualifications.

The test doesn’t test your knowledge of law. Instead, it allows for a university assess whether your ability and skills are a good fit to study law.

Section A is a Multiple-Choice Questionnaire consisting of 42 questions, based on 12 passages of provided text. You will need to complete the 3-4 questions per passage within 95 minutes.

Section B is an essay. You will need to answer one from a choice of three essay questions and complete this within 40 minutes.

If a student is unable to reach the requirements, they will be unable to progress to Durham Law School, even if they achieve their progression grade with the ISC.

For more information, visit the LNAT website.

Support for students taking the LNAT

As the LNAT is based on UK law and culture, international students with limited experience of the UK can potentially be at a disadvantage.

Students at the International Study Centre who are aiming to progress to LLB (Hons) Law are given weekly one-hour LNAT preparation sessions during the first term. These sessions are taught by law tutors, all of whom have experience with the LNAT and are in a good position to support and advise students.

Preparation sessions are held weekly during the first term only, with other support available after this before the students complete their LNAT. During the sessions, students will gain an understanding of the background to the questions, and have an opportunity to practice answers and get feedback. They will also be supported with their reading comprehension, critical thinking, and logical and analytical reasoning.

Why study this programme?

This programme leads to a wide range of highly-ranked undergraduate degrees at Durham University. The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 rankings include:

  • 3rd for Archaeology in the UK
  • 4th for History in the UK
  • 5th for Geography and Environmental Sciences in the UK
  • 8th for Law in the UK
  • 8th for Anthropology in the UK

Find out more about these degree subjects, and more, on our subject pages.

Arts and Humanities subject areas ranked in the world top 50

(QS World Subject Rankings 2024)

Gwen from Singapore

I feel like this foundation year is really geared towards preparing you for what university really is like in England. In classes, the teachers are always drawing comparisons towards what they’re doing in class now and what classes at university will be like at Durham.

Gwen from Singapore
Studied International Foundation Year in Humanities, Law and Social Science
Now studying LLB (Hons) Law

Progression degrees

When you successfully complete your International Foundation Year and achieve the required grades, you can progress to one of the following undergraduate degrees at Durham City:

Places may be limited so you are advised to apply and confirm as soon as possible.

Degree Programme NameAwardOverall GradeEnglish GradeGrade Module
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Please note:

In addition to achieving the International Study Centre progression requirements, all students wishing to progress to LLB (Hons) Law must sit the Law National Aptitude test (LNAT).

The degree Education Studies BA (Hons) is subject to availability.


Our student enrolment advisors are here to help with your application and answer any questions you have about studying with us.