Pathways: ELICOS, VET and Foundation Studies

If you plan to study in Australia, but need help to meet the entry requirements, a pathway program can help you reach your goals.

What are pathways and how do they work?

Study pathways offer another ‘path’ to entry for the courses you want to study if you don’t meet the entry requirements straight away. 

Pathway programs include English language courses (ELICOS), vocational education and training (VET) and Foundation Studies. These programs can help you to meet course entry requirements. Some pathways can also give you academic credit towards your chosen course, so that you might even graduate in the same amount of time.

There are various pathways available in Australia. Explore the options below.

Pathway options in Australia

Foundation Studies

Duration: Six months to one year

Foundation Studies prepares you for entry into an undergraduate course at a university or with another higher education provider. 

The course usually includes compulsory subjects that all students must study, as well as elective subjects that you can choose in a specific subject ‘stream’. English language support is usually available too.

Foundation Studies is offered by universities, schools, vocational education and training (VET) providers and specialist colleges. Some higher education providers will even hold a place for you while you do Foundation Studies, depending on your offer of enrolment.

Benefits of this pathway: 

  • It will prepare you for higher education studies with the academic skills and knowledge you will need to succeed.
  • You can improve and practise your English language skills before starting your higher education course.
  • It can give you a smooth transition into university life and is sometimes even offered on the same campus.
  • Your Foundation Studies could open up more options by helping you meet the entry requirements for a range of degrees.

Years 11 and 12 (senior secondary school)

Duration: Two years


If you complete Australian years 11 and 12 (senior secondary school), you will receive an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) score at the end of your schooling and examinations. These scores are used for direct entry into many higher education courses.

Benefits of this pathway: 

  • You’ll be just as prepared for higher education as other year 12 graduates in Australia.
  • You can make the most of Australia’s supportive school environment, with teachers and advisers to help you plan for tertiary studies.
  • You will be able to build a network of friends and community connections, before starting tertiary studies as a more independent young adult.

Find out more about schools in Australia

TAFE or Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses

Duration: Six months to three years


A Certificate or Diploma course can offer a TAFE-to-university or VET-to-university pathway. It is designed to give you specific knowledge in your field of study, and usually a pathway for entry into a higher education degree.

Benefits of this pathway: 

  • If you complete relevant TAFE or VET courses, you may be eligible for academic credit towards a higher education degree.
  • TAFE and VET courses usually cost less than higher education courses, so you might be able to save money - especially where academic credit is granted.
  • You’ll gain industry-relevant skills while you study, and this can help you when applying for work. 

Read more about Vocational Education and Training.

Read more about course credits and exemptions.

English language courses (ELICOS)

Duration: Five weeks to one year


An intensive English (ELICOS) course can help you improve your English skills and to meet the requirements for a VET or higher education course. ELICOS programs are available for general English, professional English or academic English. 

Benefits of this pathway: 

  • It will prepare you for future study and employment. Improving your English will help you gain entry to your chosen course, and to find employment while you study.
  • Boosting your English language skills will make understanding your studies easier and help you succeed.
  • You can immerse yourself in an English language speaking environment, with many chances to practise your skills and improve quickly. 

Search for English language courses 

Take an English practice test

Bridging courses

Bridging courses are usually designed for overseas-trained professionals who need to refresh their knowledge in order to meet the course entry requirements.

They can also be for students who have completed year 12 outside of Australia, but who need to refresh their knowledge or to study a particular subject to prepare for a future course. 

Benefits of this pathway:

  • Courses can usually be completed within 6–12 months.
  • These courses usually cost less than a higher education course, so you can save money for future studies.
  • Many higher education providers offer bridging courses, so you can start studying on campus straight away. 

Which pathway is right for you?

By considering a few important factors, you can choose a pathway that will suit your needs and give you the best opportunity to succeed.


Consider costs of tuition, accommodation and other expenses. Figure out what suits your financial situation best. You may be able to save money by choosing a pathway course that is more affordable


Having great support during your studies can help you settle in and succeed. It is useful to get more information from different providers about what support they offer, such as international student services, English support and mentoring. 

Learning environment

Think about the learning environments that work best for you. Some options require more independent study, while others have a more structured approach and are taught in classrooms with other students on campus.

Style of course

Some courses are more hands-on and give you practical experience. Others will involve more lectures and assignments. 


Australia offers courses at Australian and partner provider campuses around the world. Starting your course closer to home before moving to Australia might work best for you and your family.

Requirements for your future course

Ask education providers about the best ways to progress into the course you want to study and find out which courses offer academic credit towards future studies.

Your student visa and pathway ‘packaged courses’

Did you know you only need to apply for one visa if you are studying two or more courses in a combined offer of enrolment? For example, if you need to study a Foundation Studies course that leads into a Bachelor degree or you need to complete an ELICOS course first. This is known as ‘course packaging’ and can make your visa processing more efficient.

Find out more about visa conditions and course packaging

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