Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management


Taylor & Francis


School of Business and Law




Jackson, D., Li, I., & Carroll, D. (2023). Student access to higher education through alternative pathways and differences by equity group and discipline. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 45(6), 593-625.


Widening participation in higher education for under-represented groups is a priority internationally. In Australia, the most common entry pathway for domestic undergraduate students is by obtaining an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) in the final year of secondary school. The ATAR system, however, has been criticised as disadvantaging certain equity groups. Consequently, widening participation policy has encouraged alternative entry pathways into university, including enabling/bridging courses, vocational education qualifications, or portfolio entry based on demonstrated skills and experience. There is, however, relatively scarce evidence of student use of these pathways, including those from equity groups. Drawing on national enrolment data and institution-specific pathway data for 16 Australian universities, this study’s examination of admission data found increasing use of alternative pathways among most student equity groups, with variations by discipline. The findings inform stakeholder understanding of the relative success of alternative entry pathways in widening participation, informing strategies for improvement and future policy.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.