Purpose – This paper aims to examine how students from foundation degrees (FDs) run at local further education colleges coped (academically and to a lesser extent psychologically) with the transition to a final year honours degree at a university. Design/methodology/approach – This paper is based on the experience of FD graduates who joined the final year of a full-time BSc (Hons) in Business and Management at Edge Hill University. The study utilised questionnaires and focus groups with the FD graduates. It also involved interviews with the lecturers at Edge Hill and the programme managers of the foundation degrees. Findings – The study found that the transition from foundation to honours degree created considerable levels of stress for the students. This largely arose because of the different approaches to teaching and learning adopted in further and higher education. In particular, Edge Hill adopted a more academic approach; there was less support; and there was a greater emphasis on independent learning. This paper identifies the need for more support for students making the transition from foundation to honours degrees. It also discusses different options for improving the transition process and highlights issues requiring further research and debate. Originality/value – The experience of students making the transition from foundation degrees to honours degrees is under-researched. This paper addresses this gap in the research. It will be of interest to policy makers, those involved in delivering foundation degrees and those recruiting FD graduates on to their honours programmes.