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Exploring pathway programs and courses at university

Your options for a seamless transition to university study.
A woman walking with a bag in a park.

When it comes to choosing a pathway program at university there’s usually lots of options and it can seem overwhelming to know where to start. So let’s break down what university pathways are available and what each option could mean for you. 

What are pathway programs? 

Chances are you’ve heard the terms ‘pathway program’, ‘pathway to university’ or ‘bridging course’, but not known exactly what it means. Typically, all universities in Australia have these programs and courses which are designed to be a stepping stone to help you meet the entry requirements for a degree you want to study.

Maybe you didn’t do the right subjects in high school to get into your dream degree, or it’s been a few years since you’ve done any formal education - these are a few examples of when pathway courses will help you get into that future degree you’re hoping to study.

The next question you might have is, ‘what pathway options are out there and how do I know which suits me?’. Don’t worry, you’re in the right place - let’s go through the pathway programs available at UniSQ to help give you an idea of your next best step.

Tertiary Preparation Pathway (TPP) 

UniSQ’s largest pathway program is the Tertiary Preparation Pathway (TPP) which is free and completed in 6-7 week blocks. The program can be studied online or on-campus and has multiple intakes during the year which gives you the flexibility to fit it into your life schedule. The TPP program is designed around your interests and study desires, so no one program will be the same. Our expert team takes into consideration your past experience, education, and study goals in order to tailor the courses you study accordingly. You’ll generally sit a placement test to determine the most applicable courses to help you meet the entry requirements of your preferred future degree.

You might only need to study one course to satisfy the entry requirements for your future degree, or it might be more which will ultimately impact the length of time to complete the TPP program. Some of the courses include: 

  • Communicating at University 
  • Introduction to the Humanities 
  • General Science 
  • Preparatory Physics 
  • Introduction to Psychology and Counselling 
  • and more! 

These courses are all created to help you develop your reading, writing, maths, science and critical thinking skills, and give you a taste of the discipline area you’re interested in. To apply, the only requirement is that you need to be 18 years of age. Once you’ve completed the TPP program you’ll have guaranteed entry to a range of UniSQ undergraduate degrees.  

Diploma of Multidisciplinary Studies 

The next pathway program we’ll explore is the Diploma of Multidisciplinary Studies (DMS) which is open to everyone and has no entry requirements other than being 18 years of age. It’s studied completely online which allows for the most flexibility to fit study into your life commitments.

A big difference with the DMS is you’ll walk away with a formal university qualification which can be used to transfer directly into a UniSQ undergraduate degree, as long as all the entry requirements are met.

The DMS has three intakes a year; you can begin in January, May or September, and it’ll take you about eight months to complete it if you’re studying full-time (four courses per Trimester). If you choose to study fewer courses per trimester, this will extend the duration of your study. There are fees associated with the Diploma of Multidisciplinary Studies, however these can be deferred if you’re a domestic student through HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP.

With the DMS you’ll be able to sample a study area you’re passionate about at a more in-depth level than the TPP program. The specialisations include: 

  • Business & Commerce 
  • Construction 
  • Creative Arts 
  • Engineering 
  • Indigenous Community Development 
  • Science 
  • Social Studies 
  • Spatial Science 

You’ll study four courses under the specialisation you choose along with four core courses designed to prepare you for university education more broadly such as, developing your study management strategies and reflective and analytical skills. 

Undergraduate Certificates

An undergraduate certificate is a great way to get an introduction into uni studies – it’s much like other pathways to university but with some key differences. These certificates are offered across many universities across Australia and are recognised by the Australian Qualifications Framework as an entry-level university qualification.

UniSQ’s Undergraduate Certificate of University Studies is offered completely online and takes only one Trimester to complete (4 months). The main difference between an undergraduate certificate and other pathway programs such as TPP or DMS is that it’s only four courses to gain a formal qualification.

So why might you choose an undergraduate certificate? It comes down to how much time you have to commit to study and what you want out of it at the end. If you’re not sure you want to study a full degree and you want to try out a particular interest area then an undergraduate certificate is a great first step.

You can study any of the specialisations in the DMS and exit after completing four courses with an Undergraduate Certificate of University Studies. There’s also the option to learn broad skills required to research and write essays at university level by studying the Undergraduate Certificate of University Studies directly without a specialisation. 


You’ve more than likely heard of diplomas, they’re similar to the DMS program we mentioned above, however, more broadly Diplomas are typically a one year qualification where you can choose to study a particular area such as Diploma of Arts or Diploma of Science.

Diplomas are offered in vocational education training (VET) settings in addition to universities with distinct differences in the types of topics you’d study. VET diplomas are typically more practical in nature and are designed with a specific profession in mind such as Early Childhood Educator or Youth Worker. Whereas university diplomas have a wider range of focus areas, teaching you academic skills that will align directly in any further study you do at a university level.

At UniSQ some of the diplomas you can study are: 

These diplomas are highly flexible giving you the choice to study online or on-campus and the ability to start in January, May or September. There are entry requirements for most diplomas, however, you will usually be able to meet them through a variety of different means. 

Indigenous Higher Education Pathways Program (IHEPP) 

Indigenous pathways courses are for anyone who identifies as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent. The program is much like other pathways are designed to prepare you for university study, however the key difference is that you will develop integral university skills through courses that are imbedded with a First Nations focus.

Depending on the university you’re looking to study with, indigenous pathways will vary in what you’ll study, duration and how you can progress after completing the program. At UniSQ, IHEPP is completely free and can be completed in one trimester (4 months full-time). There is also a recommended intensive workshop to help with the assessment throughout the Trimester.

After completing the IHEPP you'll be eligible to apply for direct entry into a range of selected UniSQ undergraduate degrees. 

High School Pathways 

If you’re in high school and wondering if there’s any university pathways for you, keep reading! If your ATAR is lower than you expected and you don’t meet the rank for your chosen degree, a common practice is to study a similar or lower selection rank degree first, such as the Bachelor of Multidisciplinary studies, and then transfer into your original degree of choice later down the track once you meet the minimum requirements. That being said, there are also dedicated pathway program options at UniSQ for those high-school students that have a low ATAR or want to get ahead of their university studies while in high school. 


UniPrep is an ideal program for Year 11 or Year 12 students to get an introduction on university study and help them be eligible to apply for a range of UniSQ undergraduate degrees. It’s free and depending on your school the classes might be offered during school hours, otherwise you can study on-campus with us.  

Head Start 

UniSQ’s Head Start program is a great choice for high-achieving Year 10, 11 and 12 students who are keen to explore university study while still at high school. Your first course is free, you can choose from over 60 courses that will count towards a UniSQ degree, and the best part is you will gain early entry into a UniSQ degree through the Early Entry program.

So we hope you’ve got a more thorough understanding of the different pathway programs and courses that are available around Australia and at UniSQ. If you have any questions about the varying pathway options or how you can best reach your study goals, don’t forget to book a free appointment with our Pathways Advisors. You can also check out our UniSQ stories to learn about the experiences of other UniSQ students. Otherwise, if you are ready to take the next step, you can follow all the steps to apply online.