The Australian Centre for Student Equity and Success acknowledges Indigenous peoples as the Traditional Owners of the lands on which our campuses are situated. With a history spanning 60,000 years as the original educators, Indigenous peoples hold a unique place in Australia. We recognise the importance of their knowledge and culture, and reflect the principles of participation, equity, and cultural respect in our work. We pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future, and consider it an honour to learn from our Indigenous colleagues, partners, and friends.

Enter website
You are reading: New research — Non-ATAR university entrance

A new study fills research gaps around how young people find out about pathways into further education and future careers, including alternative non-Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) pathways into university and pathways to vocational education.

The NCSEHE-funded project, led by Megan O’Connell from RMIT University, brings to the fore the critical role of significant others, including parents and carers. The report finds that young people and their significant others need exposure to a range of success stories to see the multitude of pathways possible as equal.

The research team began with a hypothesis that young people from some equity groups—particularly those that are in a larger group of equity students such as those attending a school in a low socioeconomic status (SES) area—would be more likely to receive information about alternative pathways into university than young people who are isolated from their equity group peers. This included ways to university through vocational education and enabling programs.

As the project progressed, a second hypothesis arose — that young people need a combination of three types of information to make a smooth transition from school to university or vocational education. They need to understand: their skills and aspirations, their intended career/s, and the range of pathways they can take. The team also discovered that parents and carers also need that information — in particular, to hear first-hand pathway success stories.

Findings affirm and add to the existing research base about pathways and transitions. Ideally, all young people would finish school with a sense of:

  • what they like and are good at
  • careers they might wish to pursue
  • course and pathways that lead to their chosen destination, and an ability to navigate between different options.

Recommendations for educational institutions include:

  1. Career education should be prioritised in the curriculum, with resources allocated to mainstream career learning across subjects in addition to supporting dedicated career practitioners.
  2. Schools should draw on alumni and industry peers to provide relatable information to young people.
  3. Schools have a pivotal role in building parents’ and carers’ knowledge and understanding of alternative pathways from school to further education by showcasing a range of student success stories.
  4. Universities should personalise their information by utilising peers and technology to support personalisation and connection.

Read the full report, Pathways or Goat Tracks — Non-ATAR University Entrance


This research was conducted under the NCSEHE Research Grants Program, funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment.