How to set up a tertiary pathway

Step-by-step guide

So you’ve read our FAQs and think a tertiary pathway or apprenticeship model might be for you. What next? This handy six step guide will tell you all you need to know.

1. Demonstrate industry need and student demand

The first step is to identify an existing skills shortage in an industry. Perhaps there is a need for new workers with higher level skills, or technological change has meant that an existing workforce needs to be upskilled.

Talk to employers and industry groups to see if the issues are industry-wide. This could be in existing industries (for example, trade areas where workers are traditionally Certificate III-qualified) or emerging industries that don’t yet have an established pipeline of skilled workers.

Confirm whether there is an existing group of potential students. If not, think about what methods or forums be used to attract new students.

2. Establish a consortium of key partners

Identify important industry and education provider stakeholders and form a consortium committed to developing the pathway.

If you need help identifying relevant contacts, let us know and we can help put you in touch with the right people.

Work with your partners to determine resourcing requirements for the project. Establish governance arrangements and working groups to assist with project management, and create a detailed project plan including milestones and responsibilities.

3. Determine the right model

Pathways come in two broad models: tertiary apprenticeships or tertiary pathways.

Tertiary apprenticeships either extend traditional apprenticeships to higher level qualifications up to a bachelor degree or embed an apprenticeship and a VET qualification within a university degree.

Tertiary pathways co-design new qualifications, such as advanced diplomas or associate degrees, that integrate VET and higher education content for the first time to allow a smooth transition for students.

Further information about the different models can be found here.

4. Co-design course content

This is one of the most crucial steps in the process. Work closely with consortium partners to develop relevant course content and work experience opportunities.

It’s important to spend time getting the content right so that when students graduate, they are equipped with the right skills, knowledge and experience to perform well on the job from the beginning. A key part of pathways is to avoid duplication of educational content and enable a seamless learning experience for students.

You may not need to start from scratch. Existing course content could be adapted, depending on the circumstances.

5. Establish a student-centred resourcing model

Funding for VET and higher education qualifications is provided at both the state and national level. It can be difficult and confusing for students to navigate the complexity of current funding arrangements.

It is important for the success of your pathway to make it as easy as possible for students to understand these arrangements and obtain funding for their studies. Make sure to clarify the funding arrangements for your pathway and establish a clear and easy way for students to access financial support.

6. Pilot your pathway

You’ve done all of the hard work to prepare - now it’s time to test your pathway!

Advertise to prospective students and enrol them into the pathway. Ensure there is adequate student support provided and an evaluation during and after the pilot so that you can enhance and improve the experience for future students.

Further information

Our Lessons Learnt paper details some key findings from past pilots which will help you to set up a successful pathway.

Contact us

Have additional questions? We’re here to help! Contact the Higher Education and Tertiary Policy directorate at the NSW Department of Education via email at

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