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:

  • HND in Law or Accounting;
  • HND or degree in Business Studies or Business Management;
  • ICSA Level 5 Diploma in International Finance and Administration (IFA);
  • ICSA 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.

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, which are held twice a year, in June and November.

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 fee: Your initial registration fee includes your student membership for one year (or half a year, depending on when you register), access to ICSA 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 the last week of March and for November exams it is usually in the last week of 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



Subscription fee



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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