Pathways to academic success
Special Report
The growth of pathway programmes is making it possible for more students to undertake university studies abroad, says Jane Vernon Smith.

The number of options for foundation programmes and other pathways to prepare international students for tertiary-level study have proliferated over the past 12 months, as some of the leading pathway specialists have entered into new partnership agreements.


Study Group has been particularly active, with James Pitman, Managing Director, Higher Education UK & Europe, commenting that its North American operations are expanding rapidly.  Last year, for example, it entered into partnerships with City College of New York (CCNY) and Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi (TAMU-CC), while early 2017 saw it reach agreement with Oglethorpe University to recruit and prepare international students for study there from September. At the same time, it will also be opening a new international study centre at Durham University in the UK.


Another pathway specialist to have negotiated new routes in the past year is Cambridge Education Group, which announced partnerships with both the University of Rochester in the USA and the University of Reading in the UK.


Corporate pathway providers currently account for half the market, according to a study by Cambridge English and Studyportals, while the remainder of the market is made up by universities working independently, language schools and also, in some cases, secondary schools. As a result, access to higher education abroad has never been so diverse and flexible.



One programme with a difference is the University of California Irvine (UCI)'s International Undergraduate Preparation Program (IUPP) Developed and delivered entirely by the university's own Division of Continuing Education, "It does not offer conditional admission to UCI itself or another university," says International Marketing & Recruitment Manager, Jessica Stern, "but has facilitated the admission of more than 800 international students to UCI". With selective admission, comprehensive programming and tailored support, she says the programme has maintained a 95 per cent average admission rate to the university, while also producing students with better retention and graduation rates than international students admitted directly.


A major advantage of the IUPP, says Jessica, is that students can earn up to 36 UCI course credits, allowing them to graduate within four years, and so lose no time through taking the programme. In addition, those who already know their preferred field of study can take core courses in that subject.


UCI has also recently launched a new track within IUPP that provides a route for non-eligible students to be admitted to other universities within California. In order to be able to offer conditional admission or other reassurance of admission, it is currently developing strategic partnerships with universities in the region.


Where pathway programmes are offered by third parties, they may be tailored to the requirements of partner institutions - in some cases offering direct entry - or they may offer more general preparation.


At ONCAMPUS Global (part of Cambridge Education Group), all UK and EU course content is agreed with its partner institutions. "This is particularly important for International Year One curriculum," comments Marketing Director, Andrea Grassby, "where our students must cover appropriate content to allow them to successfully progress to the second year."


In its US business, however, the model is different, "Our International First Year programme offers students study of their first year academic credit with additional English and study support. Here we use the partner institution's curriculum and deliver English and Support classes. This ensures that students study accredited courses and would be able to transfer the credit earned to the university or college [where] they choose to complete their degrees," she notes.


Navitas, which has a strong presence across Australia, prepares students for entry to programmes at prestigious research universities, as well as other tertiary institutions, covering degree, diploma, foundation and vocational studies, and offers three different Academic English curricula.


It has recently completed a major curriculum review "to ensure that content is contemporary, and continues to align with the diverse range of courses students go on to with our partners," says its Marketing Director for English & Careers, Sally Ling. She notes that it has increased the number of discipline-specific assessment tasks, so that, for example, a student planning to take Accountancy can complete research, develop analytic skills and compose assignments within that field.


Pathways into higher education in English-speaking countries - primarily the UK, USA and Australia - are currently the most prolific overall. However, Study Group is also working with universities in the Netherlands, where some courses are offered in English.


In 2016 it expanded its pathway operations there to include a new location at the University of Groningen, and also opened a new ISC, which is offering an international Foundation Year in Science and Engineering at the university. James adds that the company is also looking to cast its net wider within Europe in the future. Meanwhile, ONCAMPUS Global currently runs centres in both the Netherlands and Sweden.


Germany is a country that has been flexing its muscles as an international destination for degree studies, and this is now reflected in growing demand for pathway provision.


As Andrew Geddes, Founding Director at German-based Eurasia Institute, points out, "The German pathway market is expanding year-by-year with new players of all sizes entering the market, and an increase in students competing world-wide for the high-quality and low-cost tertiary education programmes available in Germany."


According to Sabine Kaufmann of German language school chain, Carl-Duisberg Centren (CDC), there has been such a rise in applicants to public Studienkollegs (providers of university foundation courses) in recent years that many qualified applicants cannot be admitted, and this has fuelled demand for private foundation courses/pathway programmes.


CDC's own foundation course strictly follows the timetable and syllabus of the public Studienkollegs, she states. The course allows students to improve their German, as well as acquire the knowledge they need for their future field of undergraduate study in technical subjects or economics, and the package includes accommodation, insurance, student counselling and university placement upon completion.


The Eurasia Institute course takes the form of intensive language preparation, and a new module has recently been added, which contains specialist vocabularies in the fields of medicine, technology and business. At the same time, pre- and post-arrival services have been expanded in order to give students a "soft landing" in Germany. These services include visa support, accommodation, police registration, bank account activation and intercultural seminars.


Eurasia's Marketing Director, Imran Khan, observes that the institute is currently experiencing high demand from South Asia and the MENA region. He notes, too, that students from Latin America are looking for pathway programmes in Germany, "due to the political situation in the USA".


Looking at the overall market, demand is led by the Asian region. At Study Group, James observes that China and Hong Kong are the largest student markets, while East Asia and South-East Asia are well represented. He also reports growing demand from the Middle East, notably Saudi Arabia and Egypt, despite the weakening economic situation.


Students generally undertake their pathway studies in the same country, if not city, as their intended degree course, and, as always, the choice of destination country is highly dependent on prevailing government policy in the destination markets, as James underlines. "We see that the US market has reached a tipping point in relation to provision of pathways for international students and partnership with private-sector providers, so we are excited by the prospects in the USA." He concludes, "With global demand expected to grow further over the coming years, this is a market of significant opportunity and for those pathway providers with a strong track record of delivering well-prepared, high-quality international students who excel in the their degree studies with their university partners; we feel the future is bright."



"Students should carefully examine the provider's expertise, the contents of each programme and the services included!"
Sabine Kaufmann, Carl-Duisberg Centren, Germany


US$1.4billion - The estimated value of the global market for English-medium pathway programmes in 2016

Source: Cambridge English Language Assessment in collaboration with StudyPortals



" offers pathways in the USA, UK and Canada. We have seen a 70 per cent increase in the pathway programmes compared with when we used to offer Academic English courses in the past. Many more students are looking for pre-Masters programmes or direct entry for MBA. About 30 per cent need to undertake pathway studies, and it is the same every year. The preferred destination is the USA for MBA and MS programmes. Students tend to select universities for the MBA if they offer pre-Masters courses. We think demand for pathway programmes will increase by 30 per cent in the next two years."
Jivko Pentchov, Study Abroad Europe/ESL Traveler, USA



Pathway partnerships:


28 university partners and 40 college partners.
Agreements with partners in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA
Pathways to both undergraduate and graduate programmes.
Partners range from the prestigious University of Melbourne, research universities such as La Trobe,  and technology universities, including RMIT.
Partnerships with other providers across the tertiary education sector, covering degree, diploma,
foundation and  vocational programmes.


Study Group
Works with over 40 universities in Australia, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom  and the United States.
Partners include Durham University (UK), University College Dublin (Ireland), University of Sydney (Australia), University of Vermont (USA).


ONCAMPUS Global (CEG Group)
15 centres: 7 in the UK; 6 in the USA; 1 in the Netherlands; 1 in Sweden.
21 core partners in the UK, US and Europe.
Offers both undergraduate and graduate programmes in the UK; undergraduate only in the US and
Netherlands; postgraduate only in Sweden.
Medicine Foundation programme offered at ONCAMPUS UCLan.


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