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Congratulations! You have received your SPM results after years of hard work. This is a very exciting time for you, but can also be a very stressful time as you try to work out what your next step is.

You may be considering studying abroad – but do you do A Levels first? Or should you look at Foundation programmes, such as the NCUK International Foundation Year, instead? What’s the difference??? All these questions can be quite overwhelming, so here is a quick guide to how you can use your SPM results to find the best option for studying abroad.

What is the difference between A Levels and Foundation?

In a benchmarking study undertaken by UK NARIC in 2014, it was concluded that “the IFY programme develops a comparable range and level of knowledge, understanding and competencies” as the GCE A Level qualification. Therefore, “it can be considered to provide suitable preparation for undergraduate study”.

Therefore, the obvious difference between A Levels and the NCUK International Foundation Year (IFY) is the time it takes to complete. Below is a table that outlines the key differences:


Length IELTS Guaranteed Place Choice of University
A Levels 2 years Yes N/A Unlimited
NCUK IFY 9 months No Yes – to 30+ Irish & UK Universities Unlimited


However, the difference extends far beyond time.

  • Transferrable Skills: the IFY is specifically designed for international students to help you to develop the vital skills you’ll need to succeed at university. These include critical thinking, problem solving and organisational skills
  • Lab Reports: during the IFY students complete lab practicals and then learn how to report on their findings from the practical assessments. This is something that is critical during the early years of any Science degree, but is not always covered in A Level schools
  • Western Study Principles: the opportunity to spend a year abroad, in a country like Ireland, before starting your degree allows you the opportunity to adapt to a new culture and the Western style of learning. This is done in a small, supportive environment, before you embark as an independent student studying in a large university.

What can I study after Foundation?

The IFY is specifically tailored to suit the needs for international students and provides academic preparation for your first year of undergraduate study in Ireland or the UK.

There are 4 main pathways for students:

  1. Business & Management: for progression to Business, Law, Finance, Humanities & Arts degrees
  2. Engineering & Technology: for studying Engineering or Computer Science related degrees
  3. Science: for progression to Pharmacy, Environmental Science or general Science related degrees
  4. Health Sciencefor studying Medicine, Dentistry or Nursing

Where can I study after Foundation?

Many students considering Foundation are concerned about the recognition of their IFY qualification for admission to University. However, the IFY was specifically designed by NCUK – a group of leading UK Universities – to help prepare you to succeed in your undergraduate studies.

The IFY is recognised by 16 NCUK Universities in the UK13 Irish Universities/Colleges and 8 specialist Medical Universities. In addition to this, past IFY students have progressed to a wide range of other partner universities across Ireland, UK, Australia and USA.

NCUK Universities


Irish Universities


Medical Universities


What are the entry requirements for SPM?

For students who have completed the SPM, you need to have achieve a minimum of five C grades in relevant subjects – including English and Maths – in order to gain admission to the IFY.

How do I apply?

The application process is very simple. All you need to do is complete our online application form and attaching a copy of your passport and SPM results transcript.
Apply Now

Have other Malaysian students been successful with DIFC?

In one word – yes! We’ve had some great success stories with Malaysian students over the years across Business, Medicine and Engineering.

Here’s some insight into Lakshmi’s experience studying with DIFC in Ireland

By the way, she’s just about to start her BSc (Hons) Finance degree with University College Cork!

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