Pathway programs: The best routes to higher education
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Pathway programs: The best routes to higher education

PATHWAY programs. Gateway programs. Foundation years. They go by different names, but they all serve the same purpose – equipping international students with the tools they need to secure a place in a top university.

Many barriers still exist for international students seeking enrollment in Western universities. Language difficulties, academic requirements and immigration regulations are all very real stumbling blocks when it comes to securing that dream degree in Australia, Europe, the US or the UK. Pathway programs bridge these gaps and ensure international students get the university places they want.

It is difficult to find an area as diverse as pathway programs and foundation years. Some universities offer pathway programs aimed at preparing students for a specific discipline in that institution, while others offer more general qualifications that are recognized by multiple universities. Also in the mix are independent English-language schools that work in partnership with universities to bring incoming international students to the required level with IELTS and similar qualifications.


Pic: Jacobs University.

The right choice of pathway program or foundation year depends on where and what a student wants to study, and what their specific qualification requirements are. It is the role of pathway program providers to identify and cater for these needs, and find the ideal route to higher education.

Mike Ryan, Executive Director of Perth Education City (PEC), is no stranger to the importance of matching the requirements of universities with the needs of incoming international students. And while he admits the pathway program route to higher education has its challenges, he is quick to emphasize the benefits:

Pathway programs are not an easy option but they do provide a study environment that bridges the gap between school and university/further study. Teaching methods are adjusted accordingly and the supportive campus environment allows individual students to blossom and grow.

Sometimes students cannot meet the university entry requirements using their school leaving certificate and a course and further work at a pathway college can help them obtain entry to the program. English competency is a problem for some students but this can be improved with appropriate preparatory programs in smaller classes, which pathway colleges offer.


Pic: Navitas English.

Perth is a major destination for Asian students, who account for two-thirds of its sizable international student population. As a result, Perth’s tertiary education system is set up to provide foreign students with the tuition they need to secure places in local universities.  PEC partners with universities and colleges in the state to find pathway solutions for international students seeking a top quality English-language education.

Perth Education City’s Mike Ryan:

High rates of university entry can be achieved using Western Australia-based pathway programs. For example, the WA Universities Preparation Program (WAUPP) achieves around an 80 percent success rate.

Perth is a telling example of how one city has made pathway programs work for universities and international students alike. In today’s globalized world, millions of students cross borders every year to take up higher education places in exciting new environments, and there are thousands of pathway programs to accommodate them. Each region, country, city and university has its own pathway options, but they all have one thing in common – providing international students with the best routes to higher education.

Below we have listed 25 pathway program, gateway program and foundation year providers worldwide that we feel reflect the quality and diversity available to international students today:

Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany prides itself on its diversity and its ability to deliver a high-quality education to an international student population. More than three-quarters of students at this residential university are from outside Germany and a large proportion of these are from Asia. Jacobs’ one-year international foundation year program serves as the perfect springboard for international high school graduates who are looking to pursue a third level English-language education. This pathway program equips students with the tools they need to secure a place as an undergraduate in a top English-language university. Additionally, graduates are extremely well placed to gain admission to one of Jacobs University’s three-year undergraduate programs. Read the full profile…

Navitas English has 30 years of experience in teaching the English language to international students from more than 90 countries, and offers some of the most respected English language training in Australia. It is the largest provider of English language education in Australia and an ideal platform for students looking to enter further studies there. With centres in Sydney, Melbourne, Bondi, Manly, Brisbane, Perth, Cairns and Darwin, Navitas English offers the most comprehensive range of ELICOS (English Language Intensive courses for Overseas Students) programs and the widest range of destinations in Australia. Read the full profile…


Pic: Univerity of Arkansas.

The Spring International Language Center (SILC) at the University of Arkansas provides an intensive English language program designed to prepare international students for the demands of studying in a US university. An initial test helps determine each student’s ability and they are placed accordingly at one of six levels. In higher levels students are equipped with everything they need to excel in a US university, including academic preparation, debating skills, critical thinking, and more. An average class size of 11 students and a student/faculty ratio of 9:1 ensure that all students get the personal attention they need to bring their academic English to the highest level.  Read the full profile…

James Madison University offers a range of pathway options for students looking to pursue undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the University. James Madison pathways, offered at the International Study Centre (ISC), include the Foundation Diploma, which leads to a second-year start in an undergraduate degree, and the Pre-master’s, which focuses on English and academic preparation for a graduate degree. The pathway programs are designed for international students who meet all the academic requirements, but do not have the required English language level. Both programs are taught on campus and can be tailored to students’ needs, both in terms of program duration and curriculum.

The Centre for English Teaching at the University of Sydney offers a number of courses for international students who want to bring their English skills to the next level. The University of Sydney’s pathway programs prepare students for undergraduate or postgraduate studies in Australia and other English-speaking countries. Located on campus in central Sydney, this is an ideal option for students who wish to study at the University of Sydney itself or, indeed, anywhere in Australia. Pathway programs here include Academic English (AE), Intensive Academic Speaking (IAS), Graduate Academic Skills (GAS), and Advanced Skills for Academic Success (ASAS).

The University of Toronto’s International Foundation Program (IFP) for Asian students combines English language teaching and for-credit courses. This foundation program is tailored for students who have the academic requirements to take a place in a University of Toronto undergraduate degree, but do not have the required level of English. Successful completion of the IFP guarantees admission to the Faculty of Arts & Science or the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering with one full credit. This is a highly sought after place to study. In 2009, The Times Higher Education Magazine’s World University Rankings placed the University of Toronto in the top 15 in all categories, joining the likes of Oxford, Cambridge, and Stanford.

Macquarie University offers a range of pathway programs. For those who need to brush up on their English to secure a place in a university degree, Macquarie’s on-campus Centre for Macquarie English offers academic English courses. These discipline-specific Direct Entry Courses are recognized by Macquarie University so students do not need to sit an IELTS exam to enroll. Also on campus is Sydney Institute of Business and Technology (SIBT), which provides foundation courses and preliminary courses for students who wish to enroll in Macquarie programs. Alternatively, students can enroll in the Macquarie University Foundation Program, a collaboration between Macquarie City Campus and Macquarie University.  All three options provide international students with the foundations they need to secure a place on their program of choice and excel in their chosen field.


Pic: Macquarie University.

Working with the Office of the Board of Studies NSW, The University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia offers the opportunity for high-achieving secondary students to fast track their tertiary study. The HSC University Pathways program gives students the opportunity to enroll in a first year university course while completing the requirements for their Higher School Certificate (HSC). Aimed at the brightest minds, students must have completed or are expecting to complete at least one HSC course achieving Band 6 or E4. The pathways program allows students build credits towards a UNSW degree, with courses covering such areas as ecology, biotechnology, media, anthropology and philosophy.

Loughborough University offers two foundation year programmes for international students who wish to secure places at this highly regarded English education institution. The Loughborough University International Foundation Programmes (Business or Science) are specially designed for international students who require a one-year bridging foundation programme to qualify for a degree place. Students are taught at Loughborough College, adjacent to the university campus, and are guaranteed entry to Loughborough University’s undergraduate programmes on successful completion of the foundation year.

The University of Manchester offers a study abroad with English language pathway program to international students. In its standard study abroad offering, the University of Manchester offers international students a chance to spend a year or a semester studying at the university. The English language pathway program adds a valuable extra dimension to this as students can perfect their spoken and written academic English while continuing with their degree. Importantly, the English language learning includes modules that are tailored to students’ academic, professional and personal needs to help them excel in the new academic environment.

Southbank Institute of Technology in Queensland offers a number of pathways to university for Australian and international students. Diplomas, advanced diplomas and associate degree qualifications provide students with alternative ways to secure a place in a university degree. However, these qualifications are valuable in their own right and graduates have an excellent chance of securing well-paid work during their university studies. Southbank has partnerships with many of Australia’s top universities, including Griffith University, Queensland University of Technology, The University of Queensland, and the University of Southern Queensland.

Murdoch Language Centre in Perth, Australia offers a range of courses for international students to help them gain direct entry into Murdoch Institute of Technology Diplomas, or undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Murdoch University, without having to undertake an IELTS test. Murdoch Language Centre offers General English and Academic English language courses that are ideal for students who meet Murdoch’s academic requirements but need to brush up on their English. MLC is located in Murdoch University’s vibrant South Street campus and offers its students all the facilities and advantages of university life, as well as a top class education.


Pic: Murdoch University.

Boston-based Northeastern University offers a range of pathway programs for international students preparing for bachelor’s or master’s degrees. There are three main programs on offer that help international students secure degree places in Northeastern, one of the US’s top universities. Pathway Advantages improves English and academic skills, and successful completion of the course guarantees a place in a Northeastern degree. The Progression To Degrees pathways allow students to secure degree places in as little as one semester, depending on English levels and academic background. Finally, the Programs and Degrees pathway programs allow students to specialize in specific areas, such as engineering or science.

Study Group is a worldwide network of schools, colleges and support services that deliver English language and higher education pathway programs to international students. Study Group’s English language programs are delivered by Embassy, which teaches English to 30,000 students at locations around the world. For students looking to secure places at English-speaking universities, it offers one-year academic programs, and special English-language examination preparation courses. Additionally, Study Group’s Higher Education division offers University Preparation and University Placement programs to help students gain entry into their chosen undergraduate or postgraduate degree.

Polytechnic West in Western Australia has a number of campuses offering tertiary course options that allow international students pursue their chosen career.  Its Associate Degrees are developed by industry experts to equip graduates with the skills they need to secure employment or continue to a university degree. In 2011 Polytechnic West offered Associate Degrees in such areas as business, technology, hospitality and aviation. The school also offers English language training and testing to international students.

Eynesbury provides a comprehensive range of foundation and language programs for international students who want to enroll in a South Australian university. Home to Adelaide, one of the world’s most livable cities, South Australia has long been a popular education destination among Asian students. Eynesbury’s programs prepare students for a top class education at one of South Australia’s best third level education institutes – Flinders University, the University of South Australia, or the International College of Hotel Management. For international students who need to concentrate on improving their English, Eynesbury offers English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS). Alternatively, the South Australian Universities’ Foundation Studies Program (FSP) allows students to gain provisional acceptance into a degree program in South Australia. On successful completion of the foundation program they can begin studying for their degree in earnest. Ninety-six percent of students who complete this program go on to secure a place in a university degree.

Monash College offers a choice of foundation programs that help students secure degree places at Monash University and other Australian universities. The Foundation Year is the ideal bridge between an Asian high school education and a full-time Australian degree program. Students who meet the minimum requirements are guaranteed a place in Monash University if they successfully pass Foundation Year. Program start times are flexible and the course work is broad and varied, and so is of benefit to students from every discipline. Add to this the ideal location in the heart of Melbourne, Australia and this is a winning choice for Asian students. And for those who prefer to remain closer to home, Monash offers students the opportunity to take the course in Malaysia, Indonesia or Sri Lanka.


Pic: Monash University.

Kaplan is a worldwide leader in providing quality English language and academic pathway programs for international students. Kaplan has education centers in China, Hong Kong and Singapore, helping Asian students gain the knowledge and tools they need to secure places in top Western universities. Kaplan partners include City University, University of Glasgow, and University of Liverpool in the UK; Northeastern University in Boston, USA; and the University of Adelaide in Australia. Not only does Kaplan provide courses in general and academic English, it also provides foundation programs that are crafted to give students the perfect start on their academic study path, whatever field they choose.

The Center for Language Education & Development at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. has a clearly stated mission, to “promote global understanding and education through language programs and educational services that meet your academic, professional or personal needs.” CLED offers intensive English-language programs to international students who want to get ahead in their academic or professional lives. Its intensive semester-long and short-term courses are particularly popular with students who are looking to secure a place in a top US university. CLED designs curricula to meet student needs and prepares students for the demands of exam day and US academic life.

For Asian students who prefer to perfect their English-language skills close to home, Curtin Singapore offers a choice of general, academic and IELTS preparation courses. Curtin also offers two pathway programs that allow students gain direct entry into year two of its Bachelor of Commerce degree program. The Certificate IV in University Foundation Studies is a pre-university course designed to prepare students for the rigors of academic learning. Subjects include accounting, economics, computing, mathematics and communications, and prepare students for the second pathway program, the Diploma of Commerce.  This diploma is the equivalent of the first year of the Bachelor of Commerce degree program and allows direct entry to year two on successful completion. Both pathway programs are delivered on Curtin campus by Curtin College.

The International Study and Language Centre at the University of Reading in England offers a choice of programs to international students who want to study at a top UK university. Its pre-session courses help students reach their academic English language requirements to secure place in a degree program. Students emerge with all the skills they need to read, write, listen and speak in the academic environment. Also on offer is the International Foundation Programme, an intensive one-year access course with an excellent reputation. As well as providing essential English-language training, it provides academic training in three subjects.

Oxford Brookes, a premier university located in England’s capital, offers a range of courses that quickly and effectively help students meet its language and/or academic requirements. Two new course offerings were introduced in 2011. University English helps students bring their English to the required level to study at foundation, undergraduate, pre-master’s or postgraduate level. The Foundation Pathway program is aimed specifically at students looking to secure a place in an undergraduate degree, with course time divided between subject knowledge, English and study skills. Oxford Brookes also runs a Pre-Master’s pathway and International Summer programs.


Pic: Oxford Brookes.

For international students who want to study at the University of Massachusetts Boston but do not meet direct entry requirements, the Navitas at UMass Boston University Pathway Program (UPP) offers a very real alternative. This three-semester program is taught on University of Massachusetts campus and has a proven track record in bringing international students up to the academic and English-language standard required for entry into a degree program proper. Over 14,000 students have completed the UPP to date and it continues to be a crucial entry point for international students looking to secure a coveted place at the University of Massachusetts.

Cambridge Ruskin International University offers international students a number of pathway options to secure a place in an Anglia Ruskin University degree. Pathway programs are offered on Anglia Ruskin’s campuses in Cambridge and Chelmsford, and pathway students have full access to facilities and on-campus accommodation. This is a highly distinctive pathway program, in that its four phases bring students from university foundation through to the final year of education and graduation with an Anglia Ruskin University degree. The first two phases are spent at CRIC – University Foundation, and First Year Academic Study. This qualifies successful students to enter the second year of their chosen degree at ARU, which is competed the following year.

This little gem from Florida State University is aimed at students who want to secure a degree at FSU, but also want to sample studying in the UK. This gateway program allows students to complete the first year of their undergraduate degree at FSU’s London Centre Campus. After the first year in London, students transfer to Tallahassee campus in Florida. In some majors it is even possible for students to spend another year studying abroad, in Spain, Italy or the Republic of Panama. The small classes and personal attention students receive on the gateway program is an excellent way for them to acclimatize to US student life.