Perspectives on UK Foundation license approach versus US equivalent

Entirely off topic but I sat my UK Foundation Exam recently and it was very insightful into the different approaches between the US and UK on minting hams.

If interested peruse my blog at…

Paul W6PNG


Hi Paul,

I am aware of the different approaches to both training and examination on the 2 sides of the pond. Our system has its roots very squarely in academia. The syllabus review that has been taking pace for perhaps 3 years is now close to completion. The big strength of the review is the formal topic linkage across the 3 levels and uniformity of nomenclature. It also address a perceived need to harden up the Intermediate examination by moving material from Advanced to Intermediate whilst adding new material at Advanced such as digital coms and digital processing. The basis remains, as a minimum, compliance with HAREC.

This new syllabus is planned for implementation at this time next year, but it is currently running 1 year late. So if you want to move upwards you need to get cracking.



Thanks for the heads up and my Intermediate Exam is tentatively scheduled for May 26th. I knew the current syllabus was good through the end of this year but was unaware of shuffling some of the Advance material into the Intermediate.

Makes sense on incorporating aspects of digital comms into the advanced and hopefully I’ll have that one under my belt by the end of 2018.

Hi paul,
It’s usually European Hams that, for reasons I don’t understand, like to collect the FCC licence certificate, despite the fact that it could downgrade their operation if they visit the US compared to using their home country Full licence under the CEPT arrangement that the US is affiliated to.

Interesting that you are going the other way.

If you are interested in comparing systems you might want to take a look at the Australian Foundation Licence which was broadly based on the UK one but with less privileges that the UK one, when passed.

73 Ed.

Hi Paul,

“More power to your elbow”, as they say. I had a look through the 3 manuals at our local club and wondered whether I would pass the Foundation Exam without a significant amount of revision. I am just pleased to have passed my City and Guilds exam 49 years ago and my 12 wpm morse test 13 years later… and not to have to pass a periodic retest. Most of my knowledge (which some would say includes morse) is pretty much obsolete!

Interesting that your /A QTH is not very far from my /A QTH. Maybe we can hook up for an activation sometime when you are over this side of the pond.

73, Gerald G4OIG

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I’m liking this comment a lot Gerald.

We’ve heard so much sneering criticism of the Foundation syllabus, “giving licences away in Corn Flakes packets” etc over the past 15 years. I’ve never recognised that. I have taught the course to 11-14 year olds in secondary schools, and the content is far from trivial.

Jimmy M0HGY - who got straight A’s at A-Level - failed the Foundation exam twice before passing on the third attempt. It is heartening to see such a well respected and experienced radio amateur as Gerald speak of it in respectful terms.

In my personal opinion, those people I have seen come through the three tier structure into AR, have a deeper understanding and knowledge of what they are doing, then I did when I passed the old RAE.

There is a lot of jealousy Tom and to my mind it partly on account of the fact that the change in the licensing regime threw away morse as having no value. I find it interesting that Paul is now going to Stage 2 and not just sticking with an often regarded as “lowly” M6.

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I have to say that I have heard relatively little of that sort of criticism of the FL. I came back to ham radio after a sabbatical when my kids were young and the FL was new, I had the 3 tier system explained to me by a new M3 and I was impressed, frankly I would have given my right arm for an M3 type license when I was working towards the RAE in 1962. You are right, Tom, it is not trivial, and in my opinion is beautifully crafted to help a beginner get a good start in ham radio. I’m sure I could pass the FL without trouble but I’m less sure about the higher levels, its been a long, long time…

It so happened that when I passed the RAE none of the local clubs were running morse classes, and working on my own I was unable to reach the necessary standard, so when the “B” license came along in 1964 I grabbed the chance to get on the air. It wasn’t easy as nothing in the RAE prepared you for the challenge of 70 cms, the lowest band available to the G8s at that time, and there was no easily available commercial equipment, but after one rebuild I succeeded. It came as a shock some weeks later when I called a G3 and he answered “I don’t talk to G8s!” Dammit, I had passed the same exam as him, I had years of SWL and electronic construction behind me and was running a fully homebrew station, but he saw me as either inferior or a threat because I hadn’t passed a morse code test! The same mindset as the (hopefully few) people that criticise the FL. Such dinosaurs are best ignored. Our three tier system has proved that it works, that’s good enough for me!


While I didn’t mention this in my blog, I like the approach whereby a Foundation holder has access to almost as much spectrum as the Intermediate/Full but most importantly HF (in a practical sense) as this gives the Foundation holder a chance to experience a wide breadth of amateur radio albeit with only 10 watts.

In the States the ARRL is petitioning to give entry level hams more HF but sadly none on 20m.


In for a penny, in for a pound!

The Intermediate does offer a lot of benefit for me as I can imagine running > 10 watts while in the UK. If I have the urge to operate 400 watts then I can always use Mx/W6PNG and take advantage of the CEPT agreement.

…and if I get to Intermediate then might as well shoot for Full!


There is a mammoth thread about that on the Zed, Paul, over 1,000 posts so far, and a lot of ruffled feathers!

Its an interesting balancing act. The US model sees many get their first level license, but some don’t engage, or are never approached by someone willing to get them involved. The UK model I imagine sees less get licensed per-capita, but most produces a more educated and engaged operator.

As mentioned in the blog, I fear the later could disenfranchise some from getting their license, as some clubs cease testing. Or the potential Ham does not want to be forced to perform a set of skills to be graded on, etc. Or the worst option, they begin illegally to transmit as the path to the license was made too difficult (in their mind) a task to overcome.

I bet that is like any current political discussion!

Lots of view points, each holder is convinced their’s is the right and only one and isn’t too interested in hearing another point of view.

Add a flurry of irrelevancies and a few private flaming wars and you’ve got the picture!

I wonder if I understand your post correctly. Are you saying that if you hold a US and a UK amateur license - that you have the option to use whichever call you want IN THE UK?

I know that the FCC does not allow this in their operating territory. If you do NOT hold an FCC callsign, under the CEPT provisions you can operate in the US with your UK license using the proper identifier.

But if you hold BOTH a UK and a US license, in any FCC territory you MUST use your FCC license LIMITED TO THE PRIVILEGES OF THE US LICENSE. The FCC rule is clearly spelled out. I can not find any guidance from the UK licensing authority on any matching regulation. Interesting.


Sorry Paul, no you can’t.

Once you have a licence in the country you are in, you cannot use one from another country.

I for example cannot operate as DL/VK2JI whereas I can operate as OE/VK2JI if I want to when in Austria as I have no Austrian licence. In Germany I must use my German call sign.

So if you only pass the Foundation licence when you are in the UK, you can only operate to the limits of that licence irrespective of what your US licence (or its CEPT equivalent) would give you.

73 Ed.

That’s similar to the entry level icence in Australia. They have 40m 15m and 10m but no 20m.


Do you have a citation for that?

I’ll look tomorrow - I believe it’s in the CEPT TR61/01.