Foundation Programme

The first step to becoming Chartered

  • No prior qualifications needed
  • Distance learning
  • Self-study with access to study support resources, optional tuition available from partners
  • Exams June and November
  • Depends on when you register and where you are in the world
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Start your path to becoming Chartered with the Foundation Programme.

Our Foundation Programme provides the relevant skills and knowledge to help prepare you to meet the demands of Part One of our Chartered Governance Qualifying Programme. This is especially useful if you do not have the academic or professional experience to enter the Qualifying Programme at Part One. The Foundation Programme is your first step on the path to a career as a governance professional or company secretary.


This programme is open entry, with no prior qualifications required, and suitable if you are living or working in the UK or internationally. It is a Level 4 qualification, set at the same academic level as a first year undergraduate degree.

However, if you meet any of the following entry requirements, you are not required to complete the Foundation Programme and can proceed straight to Part One of the Qualifying Programme:

  • HND in Law or Accounting;
  • HND or degree in Business Studies or Business Management;
  • Level 5 Diploma in International Finance and Administration (IFA);
  • Level 5 Diploma in Offshore Finance and Administration (DOFA); or
  • an ‘unrelated’ degree (i.e. anything other than law, finance or business) and five years’ or more experience in a company secretarial or governance professional related role.


The Foundation Programme covers the following subjects:

  • Business environment – how businesses are organised and run and how the external environment affects business activities
  • Law – an introduction to corporate and business (commercial) law and the legal framework within which businesses operate
  • Company compliance and administration – introducing legal, ownership and management structures for companies, how companies are incorporated and routine company compliance and governance obligations
  • Finance – the basics of bookkeeping and how to understand the components of financial documentation as well as the principles of financial decision making.

Detailed information on the syllabus, a sample exam paper and an extract from the study text are available in the qualification Discovery Pack.


We recommend 150-200 hours of study for this course which will take around six to nine months.

You will be assessed in one 3 hour exam with 15 minutes reading time. You can take your exam in June and November each year. The paper contains a mixture of short- and extended-answer questions with a pass mark of 50%.

When registering for the course, you must pick from one of the next two exam sessions, which are held twice a year, in June and November.

Study options:

Option 1: Study with a tuition partner

We partner with a variety of tuition partners and we strongly recommend our students take tuition. They offer options that include distance learning and face-to-face classes. In addition to higher student pass rates, the benefits include:

  • a structured programme of tuition;
  • the ability to submit practice papers for feedback and guidance;
  • fast, practical answers to any queries throughout the course; and
  • regular contact with an expert tutor.

The cost of tuition is typically £350 – 600 per module depending on the tuition provider you choose and the services they offer.

View all tuition providers

Option 2: Self-study

You prepare for each exam yourself, using the facilities provided online as part of your student membership. These include:

  • access to resources such as syllabus, study skills text, past papers and suggested answers;
  • online access to the study text and e-learning platform;
  • study support webinars in areas such as planning your study and exam techniques.


Registration fee: Your initial registration fee includes your student membership for one year (or half a year, depending on when you register), access to study support resources – including past exam material and study support webinars – and an e-copy of the study text.

Examination entry fee: Once you are ready to take your exam, you will need to pay the examination fee before the close of the exam entry deadline. For June exams the deadline is usually in March and for November exams it is usually in September.

Subscription fee: Your first year (or half year) student membership subscription is included in the registration fee, but if you are still studying the Foundation Programme when this expires, you will need to renew your subscription.



Reduced rate countries

Registration fee - full year subscription



Registration fee – half year subscription

(1 Feb – 31 July)



Examination entry fee



Read about the benefits of student membership which your subscription brings.

Reduced rates

Reduced rates apply for Foundation Programme students living, registered and sitting their examinations in a number of countries. See all countries that are eligible for the reduced rate.


Are you ready to start your journey to Chartered status? Click the button below to begin your registration for the Foundation Programme.

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