Academic journal article The ACPET Journal for Private Higher Education

From Pathway to Destination: A Preliminary Investigation into the Transition of Pathway Students to Undergraduate Study

Academic journal article The ACPET Journal for Private Higher Education

From Pathway to Destination: A Preliminary Investigation into the Transition of Pathway Students to Undergraduate Study

Article excerpt


This article describes the results of a study conducted into the transition of students from a diploma course into mainstream university undergraduate programs. The main aim of the study was to explore the issues that relate to successful transition from the perspective of the students themselves. To that end, data were collected from 78 respondents to an online survey of students enrolled in mainstream study in a public university, who had previously undertaken a diploma with the private pathway provider. Follow-up in-depth interviews were conducted with 10 students.

Issues that were considered included English language development, academic adjustment and social adjustment. Participants were also invited to comment on their experience of the pathway provider in terms of how well it prepared them for mainstream study. The findings indicated that there are many factors which can facilitate successful transition, and that in general the pathway was valued for its capacity to ease students into becoming familiar with the university environment and coping with the demands of mainstream study.


transition to higher education, academic adjustment


The number of students articulating from non-school-based, post-compulsory education courses into universities in Australia has risen markedly in the past two decades, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of the overall student population. This has no doubt been assisted by the creation of the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) in 1995, which was intended to support movement between educational sectors and enhance comparability of qualifications. Such pathway programs are an embedded feature of the Australian higher education sector, with a diversity of programs delivered through both public and private institutions. Their significance for the recruitment of international students is highlighted by a benchmark study of universities' recruitment via pathway programs carried out by the Australian Universities International Directors Forum in 2006 (reported in Adams, Burgess, & Phillips, 2009), which found that "12.4 per cent of commencements [for 23 of the 26 universities providing data] were recruited from the university's own pathways, on or offshore" (p. 181).

As the range and diversity of student recruitment pathways increase, it is important that both pathway providers and their partner universities pay attention to the factors that might impact on that specific cohort's educational experience. Issues such as students' adjustment, academic progress and overall wellbeing need to be clearly understood, to allow the development of approaches and activities which facilitate successful transition. Moreover, this is something that was encouraged in the 2009 AQF National Policy and Guidelines on Credit Arrangements, which stated that "clear and transparent quality assurance mechanisms are essential for ensuring confidence in the credit decisions made by different education and training providers and sectors" (Australian Qualifications Framework Council, 2009, p. 17). While there is a strong emphasis on the efficacy of pathway courses within the AQF, little work has been done to explore the actual lived experience of pathway students as they transition to the higher education setting. The study described in this article sought to address this gap. It was undertaken by one private pathway provider, in collaboration with its public university partner, to examine former pathway students' transition experience and to obtain their retrospective views about how well they believed their college experience had prepared them for undergraduate studies.

The pathway provider, described hereafter as "the College", is located on the main campus of its primary destination university (subsequently referred to as "the University"), and enrols up to 1500 fee-paying students at any one time. When the research was conducted, 85 per cent of enrolled students were international, and 15 per cent were domestic. …

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