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The basics
Study abroad : Applying to University

Why study a pathway programme?

Pathway programmes are ideal if you’re a student with an eye on an international degree. We explore why.

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Choosing the right study option can cause a few sleepless nights, but it doesn’t need to be so tricky. Once you have your goals and objectives set out, selecting a path that fits your unique requirements is made easier. Sometimes it seems there is only one way to degree study, but this simply isn’t true. Pathway programmes provide the ideal foundation and kickstart to your academic journey. We guide you through what they’re all about and what you can expect if you decide to take the pathway plunge. 


University pathway programmes allow you to gain access to top-tier universities while boosting your skills and qualifications. Pathway programmes often have much more flexible entry requirements than university degrees, and they help you build the essential academic skills you’ll need for your higher education journey. 


What is a pathway programme?


A pathway programme is a course designed to get students up to speed with the academic requirements of an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. The focus is on key skills, knowledge and proficiency that relate to the subject area that will be undertaken at degree level. 


Pathway programmes assist students who don’t quite meet the entry or admission requirements for direct university entry but possess the potential to do so. The programmes also aim to develop English language skills that are critical for success in higher education. Successful completion of a pathway programme leads to enrolment onto an undergraduate or postgraduate degree at most universities. 


Some pathway programmes, called foundation programmes, have slightly lower entry requirements. Foundation programmes teach vital academic skills and eventually permit students to start a degree they weren’t eligible for previously. In other cases, students can complete a first-year equivalent programme, which allows them to enter directly into the second year of their desired degree.


Read more about the top 10 reasons to study abroad


What is a pathway provider?


Pathway providers partner with universities to deliver courses and programmes for students preparing for degree study, including English language programmes and vocational training. They are professional education providers with specialist knowledge and expertise in higher education. They also have a global network of institutions and industry contacts that greatly benefits students. Pathway providers are often based on university campuses, meaning international students get to enjoy the full student experience while earning credits towards their degree. 


One well-known pathway provider is Navitas, an organisation that has worked in international student pathways for over 25 years. Today, Navitas offers pathways to degrees at 32 partner universities across the globe, in the UK, Germany, North America, Australasia, and more. Some of the institutions you can study at with Navitas include London Brunel International CollegeLa Trobe College Australia, and Ryerson International College, to name just a few.


What qualification do you get after completing a pathway programme?


Pathway programmes are designed to prepare students for university, while also earning them credit towards degree entry. While some pathway colleges offer stand-alone qualifications such as certificates or diplomas, above all, pathway programmes are designed to help students achieve their goals of entering a university degree. 


Many universities design and curate their pathway programme curriculum specifically for international students. If you achieve the required academic level on a pathway programme, automatic admission to your chosen university degree is a very real possibility. Remember, always check what the undergraduate degree entry requirements are and if your prospective university guarantees admission upon completion of the relevant pathway programme. 


Take a look at your pathway programme options in the UK


What types of subjects can you study with a pathway programme?


Since pathway programmes are designed to progress you to either undergraduate or postgraduate degree study, the subjects you study will match with the degree you’re hoping to pursue. You’ll be able to enhance your academic and subject-specific skills before starting your degree, in subjects including:



Many pathway programmes also include an English language module for study. You’ll get a chance to learn the key language skills needed for study overseas, from academic writing to seminar participation. It also means that if you complete the course you’ll meet the formal English language entry requirements, such as IELTS. 

Some of the other skills that you’ll develop in your pathway programme include:


  • Communication 
  • Collaboration 
  • Organisation 
  • Critical thinking 
  • Analytical skills 
  • Project management


Find out more about studying a pathway programme at an Australian university


What are the admission requirements for a pathway programme?


Entry requirements for a pathway programme will differ depending on your chosen field and country of study. However, there are some general rules of thumb to consider. 


The first is that subject-specific or first-year equivalent pathway programmes can have higher English language requirements than a general foundation studies course. This is particularly the case in lawsocial scienceshumanities and business subjects. 


For a general foundation studies programme, you will need an IELTS score of 5.5, with no band lower than 5.5. This is equivalent to a GCSE English level C grade, an International Baccalaureate standard level 4, or a TOEFL score of 46 to 59. 


For subject-specific or first-year equivalent programmes, or in disciplines like law or social sciences, your IELTS score will need to be at least 6.0 with no band lower than 5.5. This is equivalent to an International Baccalaureate standard level 5 or a TOEFL score of 60 to 78. 


The academic entry requirements for a pathway programme will depend on the subject you intend to pursue. For example, if you wish to study for engineering, business, accounting or science degrees you will find that prior study in mathematics or physics is crucial. As an international student, you must also have an International Baccalaureate qualification or equivalent. 


How long do pathway programmes take?


How long it takes you to complete a pathway programme depends on several factors. These include which subjects you’re taking, the second the university where you’re studying and lastly the structure of your curriculum. On average pathway programmes take six months to a year to complete. 


Completion of the programme depends on you hitting all the key deadlines and achieving the required results. This means attending lectures and lab sessions, plus developing a study timetable for self-directed tasks and learning. You’ll need to complete several assessments during your course to gain the credits needed to progress. It is also possible that you will have to sit for a final examination that tests your overall knowledge. 


Investigate your pathway programme options with universities in the USA and Canada.


What to do after a pathway programme?


The goals of a pathway programme are to lead you to your dream degree, to fine-tuning your key skills in your chosen field, and to open up career opportunities. A pathway programme is indispensable in laying the foundation for your higher education journey and setting you up for success.


Having completed your pathway programme, you could also use your new skills to secure an internship or work placement, while you’re studying towards your degree. Never underestimate the value of real-world experience.  


You’re probably in a good place to start thinking about your application. However, if you’re still a bit unsure check out our guide to the degrees to take for professional careers, what types of bachelor’s degrees there are and how to map your study and career path


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