Are onshore pathway students prepared for effective university participation? A case study of an international postgraduate cohort


  • Bronwen Patricia Dyson University of Sydney


international students, onshore entry pathways, postgraduates, English written proficiency, student perceptions, academic results


As English language (EL) proficiency becomes a key issue for Australian universities, EL entry levels and the pathways preparing international students for university are also rising in importance. Crucially, according to recent Australian government policy, universities are responsible for ensuring that students entering university have sufficient EL competence to participate effectively in their courses. This policy has its origins in concerns as to whether the large number of entrants from onshore (Australian) pathways have possessed adequate English skills. Despite these concerns, there has been little examination of this issue. The present study aimed to examine whether one cohort of onshore international postgraduate students was prepared for effective university participation. Three measures of participation were employed: student perceptions of preparation, English written proficiency and university grades. The study comprised two phases. In the first phase, the students (N = 173) completed a questionnaire on pathway preparation and wrote an essay. The results for the essay were further divided into those who entered and did not enter university. In the second phase, focus interviews were conducted (N = 8) and academic grades were collected from those who completed first semester subjects (N = 106) and their peers. The study revealed that the students perceived their academic skills as better than their language skills, did not receive significantly different grades to their peers but exhibited high levels of “at risk” writing, especially in their use of source material and grammar. The paper concludes that increased university monitoring of pathways on a range of key, language-related measures, particularly writing, is vital.

Author Biography

Bronwen Patricia Dyson, University of Sydney

Lecturer Postgraduate Writing Teaching and Learning Network Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences




How to Cite

Dyson, B. P. (2014). Are onshore pathway students prepared for effective university participation? A case study of an international postgraduate cohort. Journal of Academic Language and Learning, 8(2), A28-A42. Retrieved from



Research Articles