The attributes needed to thrive in further learning

The pact aims to create a more equitable, consistent and transparent way for all young people to demonstrate the broader and deeper skills and capabilities they need to succeed in higher education in a way that is clear and trusted for use in any state or jurisdiction.

It includes the development of a series of tools and processes to support the evidencing and assessment of a standardised group of attributes that are agreed on and determined by universities as predictors of success: ‘ATAR is not always the best measure alone of if someone can succeed at uni... We’re looking for that something else that isn’t currently captured’.

Young people have many different skills and dispositions they are developing in many different environments, but they hold little value within the current learning recognition system.

The tools in the pact presents a broader definition of success and a way for traditionally ‘hard to measure’ attributes, to be documented and assessed so they hold value for young people and tertiary institutions. 

Skye, a secondary student says: ‘If you sat down and and gathered moments in your life and looked at them in this way, then you could see the true value of these experiences’.

So far more than 208 people from across the learning system, including young people, secondary school educators and principals, tertiary providers, academics, technical experts and NFP organisations, have contributed to the prototyping, development and testing of a Tertiary Pathways Pact.

Contributors include, but are not limited to: 

  • A working group of 7 NSW universities and their partner schools including - Australian Catholic University, Macquarie University, University of New South Wales, University of Technology Sydney, University of Sydney, Western Sydney University, University of Wollongong
  • Secondary schools across NSW, Vic and WA including, Albury, Shenton College, Carey Baptist, Liverpool Boys, Sir Joseph Banks, Kurri Kurri, Hoxton Park and Hunter Sports


Equitable pathways to further education

Assessment criteria used by further education providers isn’t clear, consistent or navigable for young people or schools and does not reflect the skills and capabilities they need to thrive in further education. This leads to disengagement and drop-outs or young people not attending University or TAFE at all.

This means that:

  • Too many young people who would succeed in higher education are missing out because current criteria is limited and not an accurate predictor of success 
  • Universities are independently having to develop criteria for schools to then navigate 
  • Many alternative entry pathways rely on individual relationships between universities and schools - limiting options and creating additional barriers, especially for young people who are already facing significant challenges.

The pact does not replace ATAR or their other specific enrolment processes, but allows for a streamlining of costly processes for universities. Sonal Singh, lab team member and Executive Manager Student Equity at UTS says: “Every University can choose how to use the standardised evaluation component, without the loss of competitive advantage to open up a larger cohort of students for consideration.”

A careers educator who attended a Learning Creates workshop explained what this could mean for young people who experience disadvantage: “This will create positive impacts for students who haven’t thought about university as an option. It would allow them to see that University is a possibility for their lives.”

The objectives of the pact are to:

  • Provide access to alternative pathways into further education for young people facing challenges
  • Remove complexity for schools and the burden of numerous university criteria
  • Make it easier for universities to demonstrate what they need to see from young people
  • Support students to capture and articulate learning that happens in and outside of school
  • Reduce the resources required by universities to assess young people for entry
  • Enable a scalable process to get more young people into university and into the right courses


A common set of attributes

Drawn from the Human capabilities framework, Australian curriculum capabilities and the attributes that partner universities have identified in their current pathways programs. The attributes were compiled into 5 domains, with matching definitions and descriptors and tested by educators, career advisors, the university working group and young people for further iteration.

The common set of attributes are one in a series of tools that support the development of a Pact, a 1-2 page written agreement between schools and universties. Other elements include:

  • Assessment frameworks that allow for measurement of a young persons capabiility against the attributes
  • A program of in-school workshops supporting young people to uncover and identify evidence of their attributes
  • A template for evidence collection for students to compile evidence in format that universities value and trust
  • In-school implementation guide providing schools with guidance on how to adapt and adopt within their setting
  • Process mapping of current processes and new processes within schools and university admissions


An Active Learner has a strong desire to know or learn something. They have an ability to learn from their past experiences and look for ways to grow.


An Innovative Thinker is curious and can recognise a problem, applying logic and creativity to find a solution.


A Tenacious Learner has a belief in themself and their ability to envision and achieve their goals.  They  have the motivation to  continue on despite setbacks, failure or difficulty.


The Team Player works and learns with others. They use interpersonal skills to establish trust and create a sense of teamwork.  They look for opportunities to share knowledge and insights.


An Engaged Citizen is aware of themself and those around them. They act inclusively and respectfully of others’ beliefs and values. They demonstrate autonomy and a well-developed sense of personal responsibility.


Our starting place

The team have started with a draft agreement between multiple schools and universities in NSW that focuses on supporting young people who experience disadvantage, to demonstrate evidence of a shared set of attributes that tertiary providers have agreed they could use to assess young people for entrance into further education. 

'As someone who has been in different environments, it may not mean I had the prerequisites on paper but lots of other things set you up to be a more mature and worldly person.’ - Joel, Tertiary Student

Attributes are the personal characteristics or qualities that allow someone to learn and perform a skill effectively in a particular context and include things such as - curiosity, courage, empathy or resilience.

We are starting with attributes because - they are not currently well measured, but are what universities have identified as good predictors of success. They are increasingly in demand in the workforce, and are less discriminative - providing more equal opportunity for young people who experience disadvantage. 

We are starting with University admissions because - comparatively, Universities rely on the most narrow view of a young person's skills and capabilities to assess them for entry. This is ruling out many young people from applying or being considered and is resulting in a higher rate of disengagement and drop-outs for those who do.

Together, by 2025 we are hoping to prove:

  • It is possible to measure and assess the attributes of young people
  • Broader recognition of young people's attributes will increase the number of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds entering university
  • Universities are able to align on and agree to a standardised group of attributes that they trust as a predictor of success


We've been co-designing a portfolio of prototypes