Pathway programme in the USA

Pathway programme in the USA

5 key criteria for a good university pathway programme

A good pathway programme meets three basic objectives, says Shane Wilkinson of BBSI. It accustoms students to studying a subject in a foreign language, gives them the academic skills they need to study at undergraduate or postgraduate level, and meets specific university requirements. Here, experienced IALC school staff outline 5 key aspects of a good university pathway or foundation programme.

1. Links with reputable universities

Look for universities with government recognition and good accreditations, then find pathway programmes that have well established links with these universities. Choosing a pathway with a language school that has strong links with universities helps guarantee progression to degree study. In some cases, students get a chance to visit the university during their foundation course, where they can experience sitting in a lecture, take a tour of the campus and talk to current undergraduate and post-graduate students, explains Julian Oakley of Wimbledon School of English in the UK.

Good coordination between the pathway programme and the university impresses students and saves agent time, says Georgina Herrera Moreno of BridgePathways in the USA. You won’t need to submit the documentation twice, for instance, and it’s easier to obtain essential documents such as (conditional) acceptance letters.

2. Student orientation and choice

While some pathway programmes offer admission to just one university, others offer a wider choice of options through agreements with many universities, and these particularly suit students who are unsure of what they want to study, says Rachel Falzon of the European School of English in Malta. Shane Wilkinson agrees, adding that students should have the freedom to show their potential during the pathway programme and the possibility to access a better university that they planned initially. “It’s common sense,” he says, “Commercial interest shouldn’t limit a student’s choice.”

3. One to one mentoring

Trained advisors help students through the application process. “Sessions with the university counsellor give students clear pointers as to what they should look out for when choosing a university, since it’s a decision they’ll have to live with for the next three or four years of their life,” says Rachel Falzon, ESE, Malta. “A school offering one to one mentoring is a good indicator of the school’s commitment to academic quality and students’ well-being”, adds Margherita Ciantia at Emerald Cultural Institute in Dublin. Mentoring can include more practical assistance, like finding suitable university accommodation.

4. A dedicated academic programme taught by qualified teachers

It’s essential that pathway programmes prepare the students for a different learning culture,” says Georg Tietze of GLS German Language School in Germany.  Some university access programmes combine academic coursework with language training, while others focus on language training first or separately. Discussing with the student and bearing in mind university requirements will help agents to recommend the most appropriate programme. F0r example, preparation for any language exam required should be included so that by the end of the programme, the student has the language qualification required by the university, such as a minimum TOEFL or IELTS score.

5. Continuous monitoring of academic progress

A school that has good links with universities will be fully aware of the language and academic requirements that students must meet, and will be able to monitor their progress more effectively. And a good pathway program provides a safe place for students to make mistakes, explains Chris Elliott at ILI Masachusetts. Absenteeism, plagiarism, passive learning: all these problems can be addressed by the pathway programme. At the English language Center in the USA, the academic portfolio tracks the progress of university-bound students and helps the teachers determine their students’ abilities, needs and goals throughout their Pathways Program.


A university pathway is a vital bridge for students that must help them prepare for the host country’s academic culture. Before enrolling a student on a pathway programme, make sure you cover all the aspects so that he or she has a positive experience. As well as good counselling, language training and academic support, make sure there is a good nationality mix on the programme, that the learning environment is safe, with dedicated facilities and adequate resources. In addition, a good cultural and social programme will help students settle down, integrate and discover the culture of their host country.

Article written by International Association of Language Centres (IALC).

Contributors from IALC-accredited language schools:
Shane Wilkinson, Managing Director of Bournemouth Business School International (BBSI) UK | school profile | website
– Vanessa Palmieri, Director of Marketing and in charge of Agent Relations with ELC, USA | school profiles: Boston, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara | website
Chris Elliott, IEP Coordinator with the International Language Institute Massachusetts, USA | school profile | website
Rachel Falzon is Academic and Business Development Manager at ESE, Malta | school profile | website
Julian Oakley is Assistant Director of Studies Wimbledon School of English | school profile | website
Georg Tietze is Educational Consultant with GLS German Language School Berlin | school profile | website
Margherita Ciantia is Marketing Executive with Emerald Cultural Institute | school profile | website
Georgina Herrera Moreno is the Manager of International Student Recruitment for BridgePathways in the USA | school profiles: Philadelphia, Grand Junction and Chadron | website

Read more on pathway programmes & university preparation.

About this blog

Members of IALC share their insights on the language travel industry. Contributors are owners, directors, managers, teachers or administrative staff of IALC-accredited language schools worldwide.

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