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Pathways to university study

Did you know that only 31% of undergraduate students got into their course using an ATAR/OP?

If you finish year 12 and don’t quite get the ATAR/OP you wanted, you can be assured that there are more ways to get into the bachelor course you would like to study. Read on to see different options for entry to undergraduate study.

Apply using an ATAR/OP via a TAC

A year 12 leaver can complete their high school studies and get an ATAR/OP ranking to apply for admission to their preferred higher education course.
A prospective student can apply for their preferred course(s) through a Tertiary admissions centre (TAC). Australia has five TACs:

Note: Tertiary applications within Tasmania are made directly through the University of Tasmania.

In practice, universities and higher education providers offer students positions in courses via a number of offer rounds. In second and subsequent rounds, ATAR/OP cut-offs can vary from the initial cut-off one. This can happen for a few reasons, including if the provider seeks to fill the course where demand was lower than expected in the main round.

Gain a VET qualification and transition to university

You may wish to complete a vocational education and training (VET) qualification. This could lead to you being accredited in your chosen profession or you may wish to later undertake university studies. Through this pathway you may be able to get recognition for your VET studies in a related field at university. Some universities offer diploma-level courses with guaranteed entry to an undergraduate course they offer. TAFEs and other private VET providers offer many VET courses at different levels (for example: a Certificate III in Early Childhood Education; a Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety; or a Diploma in Information Technology). If you want to study a VET course, check out the myskills website to help you compare options, as costs will vary across all providers.

Recognition for study or work you have already done

Providers may recognise prior studies and/or work or community experience that you have completed and assess this as a part of the entry to the course that you are applying for. Some students are accepted on the basis of performance at interview, references or portfolios of work.

Two options that you can ask for include:

  • Credit transfer (aka advanced standing) will recognise academic experience and take into account previous studies relevant to the course and qualification you wish to enrol in.
  • Recognition of prior learning (RPL) – will recognise work and life experience and take into account achievements relevant to the course and qualification you wish to enrol in.

Apply for an enabling or sub-bachelor course

These tertiary education preparation courses can be used to develop skills for bachelor-level studies.

Sub-bachelor courses – these courses are qualifications in themselves (like a higher education diploma, advanced diploma or an associate degree). They are designed for students who would benefit from a supported entry to tertiary study that help them to acclimatise to the university environment and develop skills in academic studying and writing. These courses can be up to 2 years duration and can provide students with relevant credit for prior learning if they are continuing study into a bachelor-level course.

Enabling courses – these courses give students an opportunity to develop skills in specific prerequisite areas (e.g. like English language, chemistry, or statistics) to help them meet the entry requirements for a bachelor-level course through bridging units (they are likely offered over one study period or semester). You might recognise enabling courses as being called ‘foundation studies’ or ‘bridging studies’.

Mature age admissions

After getting some work experience or returning to study after a number of years, you may apply to a provider and be considered a mature age student. Having an ATAR/OP is not a requirement for mature age admissions, however depending on the course, your provider may want you to complete a Special Tertiary Admissions Test (STAT), which measures your capability, or they may want you to submit a portfolio of work to be assessed for entry into the course you are applying for.

Individual university options

You could:

  • contact your preferred provider(s) and ask if you are eligible for any bonus points or an Educational Access Scheme. Year 12 leavers could get bonus points based on outstanding academic achievement in particular subjects, due to social or economic disadvantage, regional or remote residence or other personal circumstances.
  • check if other entry criteria apply to the degree that you want to get into. For example, you can call the provider and ask if they accept school recommendations or principal recommendations to make early offers to students (Tip: if you’re in NSW/ACT, research if your provider participates in the ‘Schools Recommendation Scheme’).
  • Applying for university through your relevant TAC is not the only option. Don’t discount applying directly to the university (or other higher education provider) for a ‘direct entry’ to the course you want.
  • Students might also be given a late entry offer from a university or higher education provider after various rounds of offers have been completed.

Each provider determines the mechanisms and criteria (including the ATAR/OP cut-offs) through which applicants are accepted to study the courses that they offer.
Therefore, each of the entry pathways (and their corresponding requirements/pre-requisites) may differ between providers – even for a similar course.

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