For many students, the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) has long been considered the gateway to university education. However, ATAR is no longer the sole determinant of academic potential. These days, many alternative pathways offer students the chance to build their expertise in preparation for higher education.
These alternatives celebrate diversity, consider unique talents and recognise potential, ensuring that university education is accessible to all who aspire to achieve it. In this blog, we’ll explore the different ways you can enter university without relying on the ATAR system.
What is ATAR?
In case the title of this blog has left you with more questions than answers, ATAR stands for Australian Tertiary Admission Rank. It’s a performance ranking provided to all Australian Year 12 students once they finish high school. Atar scores range from 0.00 to 99.5. The higher the number, the better a student’s performance at school.
Note that ATAR was only introduced between 2009 and 2010. If you’re a mature student looking for a fresh start at university, you may have a different final-year rank.
An ATAR score is a common way for universities to assess whether a student is suitable for a degree. Many university courses include a minimum ATAR score on their eligibility criteria.
But don’t worry! Nowadays, getting into uni without a high ATAR score is easier than ever. Let’s explore some of the alternative pathways available to you.
Do you need to be 21 to go to university without an ATAR?
No, there’s no need to be a mature-age student before going to uni without an ATAR. This is a common misconception. In fact, even those under 18 can start building their experience for university with their parent’s permission.
How to get into university without ATAR
If you’re looking to gain entry to university despite not having an ATAR, consider these four alternative pathways.
- Get started with vocational education
Vocational Education and Training (VET) programs are practical, experiential courses that provide an efficient, affordable pathway into higher education and employment.
Unlike many other programs, vocational education is all about hands-on skills. You’ll build real-world expertise, grow your confidence, and network with like-minded individuals.
Vocational courses are more than just a great way to gain skills. As long as you opt for a registered training organisation (RTO) like Sage Education, your VET certification will act as an accredited, nationally recognised qualification that you can use to get into uni.
If you’re looking to get started with vocational education, a Certificate III course is an excellent place to start. These entry-level training programs will give you all the fundamental knowledge you need to work towards higher education. They also don’t come with the entry requirements that advanced courses have.
Once you’ve completed your Certificate III course, build experience in your field by enrolling in a Certificate IV or Diploma course. This will allow you to learn more advanced skills and transition into higher-paying roles within your sector.
- Apply for bridging courses
Bridging courses are exactly as they sound. They ‘bridge’ the gap between your existing qualifications and a university-level degree.
Many universities and colleges offer bridging programs to help students build core knowledge and fundamental skills to succeed in undergraduate courses.
The bridging course you choose will depend on the university course you’d like to take. Universities typically create bridging courses tailored to niche subject areas. For example, if you wanted to study physics as an undergraduate, a short bridging course may introduce you to some fundamental theories you should know before you begin.
Bridging courses also give you a taste of uni life, allowing you to try before you buy. That said, should you decide that university education isn’t for you once you complete your program, the bridging course won’t act as a standalone qualification.
Therefore, if you aren’t 100% sure you want to attend uni yet, consider completing a VET qualification instead. A Vocational course offers a pathway into university but will still act as a recognised certification if you decide you’d rather enter the workforce once you finish your training.
- Apply with the work and life experience pathway
Previously, your entry to university depended entirely on your academic background. Today, universities are more understanding of alternative pathways and are willing to consider experience as an alternative to ATAR.
If your ATAR score isn’t high enough for your chosen university course, but you’ve spent a long time building up your professional experience, consider using your work background as a pathway to university.
If you can provide evidence of your work experience, or can show that you received on-the-job training, you may be able to access university studies without any of the traditional academic entry requirements.
Every university takes a different standpoint on the work and life experience pathway, so always check the specific eligibility criteria for your course.
- Take a Tertiary Access Course
The tertiary access courses (TAC) pathway provides a route to university for mature-age students who lack the necessary qualifications.
Note that to qualify for this pathway, you must typically be aged 21 or older.
Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutes, and some universities, are the most common suppliers of TAC courses. Much like bridging courses, TAC courses bridge the gap between your academic background and the demands of university degree programs. These courses are often referred to as the Tertiary Preparation Program (TPP) or the Special Tertiary Admissions Test (STAT).
Although bridging courses and TAC courses share some similarities, TAC courses are typically longer and often focus more broadly on building up the study skills, critical thinking ability, and fundamental expertise students require to complete a university degree.
Why choose vocational education?
Are you considering enrolling at a university without ATAR but aren’t sure that degree study is right for you? A vocational course from a registered training provider like Sage Education will provide you with an accredited qualification that will open both higher education and career doors.
Unlike many other courses that prepare you for university, a vocational course acts as a standalone qualification once you complete your training. This means you can put it on your CV, and it will always act as a reputable certification that you can use to secure employment.
If you decide you want to move into higher education once you complete your training, your vocational qualification will provide the perfect pathway to university. On the flip side, if you decide you’d rather enter the workforce and start earning, your VET certification will show employers that you have the necessary expertise and practical skills needed to thrive in your new role.
For example, enrolling in a Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care with Sage is a great way to build your expertise in preparation for an Early Childhood Education bachelor’s degree. Alternatively, suppose you decide that university isn’t for you. In that case, your diploma will also act as a pathway into a role as a childcare worker, family daycare worker, or recreation assistant.
Why enrol with Sage?
Sage Education is one of Australia’s leading providers of accredited, nationally recognised VET qualifications in the aged care, childcare and disability services sectors.
Since our launch in 1998, we’ve helped thousands of successful applicants graduate from our courses with lifelong skills they can immediately apply to their chosen career path.
At Sage, we put your employment first. Our priority is to help you build the skills you need to develop your career. Whether you’re searching for your first role or want to transition into an advanced leadership position, there’s a course at Sage for you.
Want to learn more about the courses we offer? Browse the course pages on our website, or reach out today for more information. A member of our team will be on hand to answer any questions you may have.