A pathway into a degree program: Forging better links

  • Helen Joy Benzie
Keywords: pathway programs, transition, document analysis, international students, academic literacies


While the transition experiences of international students have been widely studied, there has been limited analysis of the learning contexts they encounter in Australian higher education, particularly in postgraduate coursework degrees. As a result, little is known about how well prepared students are as they graduate from Pathway programs which prepare them for academic study by providing language and literacy instruction. Because academic language and learning activities in universities often take place outside students’ disciplinary learning experience, like academic language and learning (ALL) professionals, Pathway teachers face similar challenges in ensuring that student learning is relevant to future study destinations. Both have an ongoing task of attempting to forge closer links with the disciplines. This paper reports on the first phase of a study into the transition experiences of postgraduate coursework international students. Curriculum documents at both a Pathway program and the destination disciplinary program in a Business school are examined to determine how well the Pathway program feeds into the degree program. Using Critical Discourse Analysis to locate how each program represents its student audience, the study found authoritarian approaches in the Pathway program, presenting academic study as requiring the application of generic skills. In the disciplinary context, the more complex and ambiguous aspects of academic study are emphasised. Assumptions about the transferability of generic academic skills are questioned in the light of such differences between learning contexts. Approaches which engage students more fully with content relevant to their future studies could produce more relevant pathways to higher education for international students.

Author Biography

Helen Joy Benzie
Learning Adviser Learning and teaching unit University of South Australia
How to Cite
BenzieH. J. (2011). A pathway into a degree program: Forging better links. Journal of Academic Language and Learning, 5(2), A107-A117. Retrieved from https://journal.aall.org.au/index.php/jall/article/view/163