The report looked at 2,275 pathway programmes globally, estimated at 80% of the total share.
Despite master’s degrees claiming a high proportion of the number of globally mobile students, just over a fifth (21%) of all pathway programmes are developed for students wanting to progress into this level of study.
“We actually assumed the market would be even bigger for pre-master’s than it currently is,” Carmen Neghina, head of intelligence at StudyPortals told The PIE News.
“It also means there’s a lot of opportunity for introducing pathway programmes at a pre-master’s level”
“Of course it also means there’s a lot of opportunity for introducing pathway programmes at a pre-master’s level,” she said.
Fewer pre-master’s programmes compared to undergraduate pathways could be the result of easier bridges between postgraduate levels in different education systems worldwide the report reasons.
“Even so, demand for pathway programmes at higher levels of education could still grow in line with the increasing number of international students,” it added.
Larry Jasevicius, director of student recruitment, ONCAMPUS UK/EU at Cambridge Education Group, said that he has also seen a growth in this area of pathways.
“We see pre-master’s programmes growing because we are targeting master’s students in more countries,” he told The PIE News.
Europe is home to over half of the world’s pathway programmes (55%), while North America accounts for 30% of the programmes. Oceania has 14% and Asia 1%.
However, when split into discipline level, North America offers half of the pre-master’s programmes, while European institutions provide 45%.
Virgil Ierubino, co-publisher of the report at Cambridge English said the research shows that “the USA, UK and Australia offer the majority of pathway programmes, delivered mainly on the university campus by an outsourced private tuition provider”.
Private tuition providers are responsible for 50% of all the pathway programmes considered in the study.
Six providers, five of which were featured in StudyPortals 2015 pathway report, continue to dominate the space: INTO University Partnerships, Kaplan International Colleges, Cambridge Education Group, Shorelight Education, Study Group and Navitas.
“We noticed quite a lot of the programmes offer access to quite a wide range of bachelor’s and master’s courses”
Just under a third of pathway programmes are developed by the universities, while 16% are created by colleges. Language schools provide the remaining 2% of the programmes.
“I think a lot of universities are looking to partner up with providers, as a means of trying for a new model,” Neghina said but added that she expects more homegrown programmes to emerge.
“Universities are going to get a bit bolder and try to develop their own programmes to meet their own needs,” she said.
Programme length varies among study levels, with around 45% of pre-bachelor’s lasting a year. The most common length of pre-master’s programmes is nine months, seen in almost 30% of programmes.
For students progressing onto further study, over half of the pre-bachelor’s programmes (56%) offer guaranteed entry into specific courses, while this is also the case for 42% of pre-masters’. The remaining programmes offer either conditional admissions or are general preparatory programmes.
The report found that of those offering guaranteed courses, over half offer entry into more than six courses.
“We noticed quite a lot of the programmes offer access to quite a wide range of bachelor’s and master’s courses,” said Neghina.
“It’s also one of the advantageous points for students that enter pre-master or pre-bachelor programmes, and that’s that they get access to quite a wide range of options so they don’t need to stick to one university or one type of programme afterwards.”
Routes to higher education: the global shape of pathway programmes will be released during the 2016 EAIE conference in Liverpool.