Foundation Programme

The first step on the path to qualify as a governance professional or company secretary.


Start your path to becoming Chartered with the ICSA Foundation Programme.

Our Foundation Programme provides the relevant skills and knowledge to help prepare you to meet the demands of Part One of our qualifying programme. This is especially useful if you do not have the academic or professional experience to enter the ICSA 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:

  • Qualified lawyer or accountant
  • Completed a law or finance degree
  • Completed a selected business degree (contact our Student Support team for more information)
  • Completed an HND in Law, Accounting or Business Management
  • Completed an ICSA Level 5 Diploma in International Finance and Administration (IFA) or Diploma in Offshore Finance and Administration (DOFA)
  • Have a degree (not law- or finance-related) plus five or more years’ experience in a company secretary-related role.


The Foundation Programme comprises four modules covering 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.

Download the Foundation Programme syllabus >


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.

  • June - Wednesday 5 June 2019 at 1.30pm
  • November - Wednesday 27 November 2019 at 9.15am

Study options:

Option 1: Study with an ICSA-registered tuition provider 

We partner with a variety of registered tuition providers and we strongly recommend our students take tuition. They can be used on a module by module basis and 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.

Option 2: Self-study

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

  • access to past papers and suggested answers;
  • access to module-specific webinars and recordings, presented by the examiner;
  • a comprehensive study skills eBook; and
  • study support webinars in areas such as planning your study and exam techniques.


Registration fees: If you are starting the ICSA qualifying programme, there is a one-off fee to register as an ICSA student.

Subscription fees: Paid annually by all students. The first payment is due upon registration and is calculated according to the ICSA membership calendar.

Examination entry fee: Once you are ready to take your exam, you will need to pay a one-off fee. To take you exam in June you will need to register and pay by 1 April, and to take your exam in November you will need to register and pay by 1 October.



Reduced rate countries

Registration fee



Annual subscription



Half-year subscription



Exam entry



The complete list of costs is available here

*The total cost reflects the minimum price of the most direct route through the qualifying programme with no re-sits and every relevant module being taken at today's prices. For the duration of your study, it also includes the price of student membership, which provides you with many benefits.

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.

Discovery Pack

Download the Foundation Programme Discovery Pack for an in-depth understanding of the certificate.


Complete your registration and start your journey to Chartered status. Completing a few simple questions and we can look at your skills and experience to find the right route for you. 

Register today

When taking up student membership with ICSA, you will need to read and follow the Student Rules and Regulations and the Code of Professional Ethics and Conduct. Click the links below to read the documents.

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