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How to get into higher education

How to get into higher education 

  • ATAR
  • VET Qualifications
  • Recognition of previous study or work 
  • Enabling or sub-bachelor courses
  • Other Options


After finishing year 12, you can use your Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) score to apply for a place at a university or non-university higher education provider.

You can apply through your state or Tertiary Admissions Centre (TAC):

South Australia and Northern Territory 
Western Australia 
New South Wales and ACT 

You may also be able to apply for your course directly through your higher education provider. A TAC is not the only option.

Places in courses are offered through a series of offer rounds. In the second and third offer rounds, higher education providers will sometimes consider lower ATAR scores. You could receive a late entry offer from a provider after offer rounds have been completed.

VET Qualifications 

You can get into higher education using your vocational education and training (VET) qualification if it is in a similar topic. Your higher education provider will decide what VET studies they will accept as entry for their courses.

A VET qualification might be a Certificate III in Early Childhood Education, a Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety or a Diploma in Information Technology.

You can do a VET course at a TAFE or other private VET provider. Some universities and schools also provide VET. Compare VET courses and their prices on the My Skills website.

Recognition for previous study or work 

Contact your provider and ask about: credit transfers (also known as advanced standing) - to recognise academic experience and previous study relevant to your chosen course  
recognition of prior learning (RPL) - to recognise work, life experiences and achievement relevant to your chosen course 

Enabling or sub-bachelor course

Each provider sets its own admission requirements and most offer pathway options to applicants who don't meet the general academic requirements. Check with your provider for options like:

  • Sub-bachelor courses - will lead to qualification (like a higher education diploma, advanced diploma or associate degree). They will help you develop skills in academic studying and writing and ease you into university study. If you study at a sub-bachelor level, you can receive credit for it. 
  • Enabling courses - give you the opportunity to develop skills in specific prerequisite areas (e.g. English language or chemistry) in the form of 'bridging units'. Bridging units can help you meet the entry requirements for a bachelor-level course. They are usually offered over one study period or semester.

Other Options

Ask your higher education provider or Tertiary admissions centre about adjustment factors or the Educational Access Scheme. Adjustment factors may support year 12 leavers if they have experienced economic disadvantage, attended a regional or rural school, or other personal circumstances apply.

Check if there are ways to improve your university or higher education application. For example, your provider may accept school or principle recommendations (some providers in NSW and ACT will participate in the 'Schools Recommendation Scheme').


Entry pathways to higher education may differ between providers, even for a similar course. Contact your intended higher education provider and check the requirements with them.


Victor got a FEE-HELP loan to study full-time online. Read his story