To date, there appears to be a paucity of literature regarding the student experience on university-based foundation courses. There is some thought that such non-traditional, diverse groups of students might present problems during the learning and teaching experience and some students appear to have little insight into what foundation courses entail. The purpose of this study was to consider the influence of diversity on the student learning experience on a university-based foundation course for the health professions. Individual, unstructured interviews were performed in a purposive sample of 13 students (2 male, 11 female) who had completed a foundation course for the health professions. Data was analysed using a qualitative, grounded theory research methodology and emergent themes were analysed in relation to sociological theory. Key themes emerged in the narratives relating to competition (intra- and inter-cohort), self-preservation and camaraderie. These findings are related to the theories of social interaction and social identity, highlighting the processes associated with the student learning experience. Recommendations for improving the learning experience for foundation course students include encouraging early interaction between students (both intra- and inter-cohort) and staff to facilitate camaraderie and positive group dynamics, thereby reducing any negative impact of competition and alleviating fear of failure.