Higher Education Pathways
In Australia you can choose from various types of higher education providers, including government-funded universities, private universities, private providers offering industry-specific training, and specialists in on-line higher education delivery. Currently there are 43 universities in Australia so the choices can be over-whelming. It may help to consider questions such as:
- What work will I be qualified to do after completing this study?
- What are the course fees, and do I have to pay the fees upfront?
- Can I get government income support?
- Where is the provider located?
- Does it have student support services, including support for students with disability?
- Does it have a good reputation?
- Will the qualification be recognised by employers?
There are a few different reasons to go on to higher education at university level. This includes:
- some professions require a university degree, for example medicine, law, registered nursing, engineering and teaching
- increasing your future earning capacity
- broadening your skills and knowledge in a particular area
- increasing employment options, or
- improving your chances of promotion.
A university student is expected to develop higher level and independent skills in areas such as research, written and verbal communication, critical thinking, and problem solving.
The most common qualification to start with at university is an undergraduate degree - usually a bachelor degree, although some universities also offer Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas as pathways to bachelor programs. After completing an undergraduate degree, you might then move onto further study, such as an honours year, or a masters, a graduate diploma, or a PhD. These programs are called postgraduate study.
The AQF qualifications wheel shows the different levels of qualifications. You can find more information on the AQF website.
Applying to University
To apply to university as school leaver (i.e. after completing year 12) you will usually need to have an ATAR score, which means that during year 12 you completed pre-tertiary subjects identified as preparation for university study which acquire points. Usually, the more demand there is for a particular university course, the higher the ATAR score required. Ask your school or college careers adviser for more information about the ATAR scoring system for university admission.
Universities can provide services and assessment adjustments for students with disability and ongoing illnesses that affect their studies, although they don’t guarantee that applicants with disability will be offered a place in a course. The types of adjustments that can be made include academic adjustments, use of technology, interpreting services, and library support. Talk to your disability services staff for more information.
Most of the universities who participate in a centralised admissions process in their state (i.e. UAC, VTAC, TISC, SATAC) offer educational access or special entry schemes that assist students with disability to gain admission to university study. The University of Tasmania has their own admission processes and has an equivalent scheme. The list of participating providers can be found on the Admission Centres page
Universities use a special entry/educational access scheme to make offers of admission for school leavers in two ways:
- Set aside a certain number of places for special entry
- Allocate bonus points to the ATAR score
Bonus points are allocated for studying subjects relevant to the course for which you are applying. These points will change your selection ranking but not your ATAR score. The allocation of bonus points for each provider and each course is different, and selection ranking may also be different for each course applied for.
Some universities will accept a special entry/education access application from a non-school leaver with a history of higher education study. Bonus points may also be given for students from regional and priority schools.
The number and process of awarding bonus points and selection ranking can be difficult and complicated. Make sure you talk with the course selection staff at your local university and/or secondary college staff for further information and clarification.
Non-University Education Providers
There are approximately 130 non-university education providers operating across Australia. Most of these providers are privately owned and funded, and offer diplomas, associate degrees and bachelor degrees, as well as some postgraduate degrees in specialised fields.
Each provider operates its own enrolment process, and support services for students will differ between them, including the type and availability of learning support and academic adjustments.
For more information on available courses and student services, fees and enrolments, go to the provider’s website and search on the relevant category.
A list of all higher education providers
Open Universities Australia
Open Universities Australia (OUA) offers over 140 different courses across many different disciplines and has 12 participating universities across Australia.
In addition to undergraduate and postgraduate courses, OUA offers bridging and preparatory programs, and English language test preparation courses. Many of the undergraduate courses and units have no academic requirements or prerequisites. There are no ATAR scores or rankings here!
Online learning offers flexibility in addition to accessibility, allowing you to select units across several universities and study to suit your own timetable.
A range of academic adjustments is available for students with disability once you are enrolled in a course for a minimum of 13 weeks.
OUA has an informative website with a lot of information on pathways, courses, units, fees and charges.
In addition to university courses, OUA facilitates an Open Training Institute (OTI) similar to TAFE, where you can choose to study at a certificate or diploma level.