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Pathways into your course

If you’re concerned that you won’t meet the entry requirements to get into your dream course, don’t worry — there’s more than one pathway into a course you really want to do.

Entry requirements can be based on previous academic achievement or life and work experience. If you are lacking some of this experience or the academic track record required to get in to your course, there are alternative pathways you can take, including pre-tertiary courses and working your way up from lower-level qualifications.

Students studying in library

Some pathways guarantee you entry into a VET or higher education course on successful completion, and, even better, some actually provide credit when you enrol in the subsequent course, shortening your journey to your ultimate education goal!

In this section we discuss:

Pre-tertiary pathways

These are courses that you can take prior to entering tertiary study to prepare you with the skills and knowledge required to complete your course.

Bridging courses

Bridging courses help you to prepare for tertiary courses in the VET and higher education sector, usually assisting students to gain ‘assumed knowledge’ in specialist areas like maths or science that are a key component of the course. If a course requires a prerequisite in an area that you have not studied or worked with before, a bridging course will help you to ‘bridge the gap’ in your knowledge and gain admission to the course. If you are lacking a prerequisite, check with the institution to see what bridging courses are available. You may even be able to complete a test to check whether you can demonstrate the required knowledge.

Foundation courses

Foundation, university diploma, enabling or preparatory courses cover a broader range of topics and usually take around a year of full-time study. They are typically designed to prepare students who lack the academic entry requirements to enter undergraduate degrees and require a more comprehensive grounding in the skills and knowledge required for higher education. They may be offered both on campus and through distance education, and are often available in a range of study areas that lead directly to related degrees.

After successfully completing a foundation course, many institutions will recognise that students have made an effort to improve their skills and consider them ready to enter a degree. Many even offer students credit, allowing them to enter directly into the second year of their degree.

Foundation courses are offered by universities or colleges that are affiliated with particular universities. These courses usually offer guaranteed entry with credit to a relevant degree at the university affiliate. If you want to attend a college that is not formally affiliated with a particular institution, you should confirm that it offers a pathway into the degree you want to study.

Tertiary pathways

These involve you entering a lower-level course with fewer entry requirements and working your way up the qualifications ladder to enter your course. You will progressively expand your knowledge and skills to the level required by your course.

VET to VET pathways

VET qualifications from certificate I, II and III right up to advanced diploma level are linked so that completion of a course at one level leads directly into the next level. This is called ‘articulation’.

You will usually get credit for study already completed if you choose to advance to the next qualification. This means that if you don’t meet the entry requirements to enter an advanced diploma, you start with a diploma and work your way up or articulate to the advanced diploma.

VET to higher education pathways

Many VET diplomas and advanced diplomas articulate (often with credit) into bachelor degrees. This means that students who are wanting to enter higher education but don’t meet bachelor degree entry requirements are able to enrol in VET and work their way up. Likewise, students who choose to enter a VET qualification after school are able to articulate into higher education at a later stage if they choose.

While VET pathways aren’t available in all areas, you will find that VET qualifications are available in a wide range of areas and lead through to a wide range of bachelor degrees — from engineering, business and computing through to nursing, teaching and visual arts. Keep in mind that VET courses are not available in certain professional areas (such as dentistry), but you may be able to take a pathway into these degrees through a VET qualification in a related area (dental assisting, for instance).

The vast majority of Australian secondary schools offer their students the opportunity to incorporate VET within their Senior Secondary Certificate of Education (SSCE), and many higher education providers now have policies that give applicants who completed VET as part of their SSCE additional credit, so check with your preferred institution for details.

Higher education pathways

If you can’t get into a higher education course because of its entry requirements, you may be able to enrol into a similar course with a lower cut-off (at the same institution or elsewhere), perform well in your first year and then apply to transfer. You could also apply for a lower-level higher education course with lower entry requirements (such as a graduate certificate or diploma if you are looking to enter a masters degree) and work your way up the higher education qualifications ladder.

There are no guarantees of course, and you will need to check with the coordinator of the course you would like to enter to confirm whether your pathway will be recognised.

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