Pathway programmes
Pathway programmes do more than prepare you for university. Source: Ulises Ruiz/AFP

Pathway programmes give you the knowledge, skills and English language training you need to meet the entry requirements for your chosen degree at university. These programs train students in a wide variety of subjects such as Arts, Humanities, Business, Biological and Life Sciences, Engineering, Technology, Natural Sciences and even more. 

Currently, there are over 150 pathway programmes. Different parts of the world and different institutions use various names to describe pathway programmes, such as foundation programme, international year one or preparation course (pre-bachelor or pre-master). The three different types of pathway programmes are bachelor’s preparation; accelerated bachelor’s preparation; and master’s preparation.

Pathway programmes enable students who do not have sufficient prior academic knowledge, or the necessary study or language skills, to undergo preparation and training that will allow them to enter undergraduate or postgraduate studies. These programmes do not result in a traditional academic credential — like degrees — but instead, provide for an assured progression to undergraduate studies for students that successfully complete their foundation studies. 

Although each type of pathway programme is designed for students at different levels, and with different goals, the overall concept remains the same: prepare you for degree-level study and help you qualify for entry to university. Here are some of the most common draws of pathway programmes:

Pathway programmes foster language skills 

Pathway courses do not just focus on academic development, but also include a focus on English language preparation. A pathway programme allows international students who want to study in the US to take English as a second language (ESL) courses while also taking courses that will count as credits toward their degree. They are especially useful for international students who want to study in the US, but don’t necessarily have the English language skills they need to score well on the English language standardised tests that are required.

Students who fail to achieve a certain score on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) will not be accepted to study at a US college or university. However, pathway programmes provide an opportunity for international students to study English while studying in the US.

Pathway programmes facilitate cultural adaptation

Many worry about whether or not they will be able to adapt to a new culture and environment while balancing new friendships and excelling at their studies. University accommodation or the campus setup on its own is ideal for making friends. With students coming from all around the globe, it’s also a unique opportunity to be exposed to a diverse range of cultures. 

Outside of the classroom, pathway programmes provide students with tutoring and academic advising that students need to succeed, as well as the cultural and social interaction they need in a campus community. In many other countries, higher education takes place entirely during lectures — students listen and take notes, and very rarely engage in dialogue. In the US, college students are expected and encouraged to take part in discussions and debates about the materials and research. In fact, many instructors require participation and factor each individual’s participation in their overall grade. 

Pathway programmes streamline university transition 

Pathway programmes allow international students who want to study in the US to take English as a second language (ESL) courses. (Source: Frederick Florin / AFP)

Experiencing new cultures and languages mean adapting to university-style teaching — where you learn through lectures, tutorials and seminar-style classes. While you develop the ability to work independently, improve your research skills and enhance other study skills such as critical reading and project work, international students who complete their pathway programme with the fulfilled GPA requirement are automatically accepted into the main college or university. 

Most colleges and universities that offer pathway programmes for international students also offer conditional admission into the school after completion of the programme. “What conditional admission does is it provides an opportunity for that student who would not otherwise have made it, and it gives a chance for an institution to reach out to a student who it would not have been able to recruit otherwise,” said Rahul Choudaha, director of research and advisory services at World Education Services, a credential evaluation agency.