How to get into uni without an ATAR

There’s no one right way into university. Discover the alternative pathways you can follow to gain entry, even if you don’t have a strong academic history.

A young woman holding her finger up to her mouth in a shh gesture
There are a lot of reasons you might not have an ATAR. Maybe you’ve been out of the education system for a long time. Or you didn’t finish Year 12. Or you just didn’t do as you hoped in your final year of school. 

You can still get into university. We’re here to tell you how.   

What is an ATAR? 

In case you’re scratching your head about this, ATAR stands for Australian Tertiary Admission Rank. It’s a performance ranking between 0.00 and 99.95 that all Australian Year 12 students receive after they finish high school. 

Universities have traditionally used ATARs as part of their admission criteria, to determine if they should give someone a place in a course. Though as we’ll explain, it’s becoming increasingly common to get in through other pathways. 

The ATAR was introduced in 2009 and 2010, so if you graduated high school before then, your final year rank would have been called something else, like an ENTER in Victoria or a UAI in NSW. If you left school early, studied before these systems were used, or immigrated to Australia as an adult, then you might not have an ATAR at all. 

How does ATAR work? 

An ATAR is designed to tell you how you rank against other students in your state, based on how you scored in each of your final subjects. So as an example, an ATAR of 70.00 would tell you that you received higher results than 70% of your peers.

But while it’s easy to think that a low ATAR indicates low academic ability, this isn’t the case at all. There are a lot of reasons you might have a low or non-existent ATAR, including illness, injury, disability or barriers in your home life. Maybe you just had different passions and interests when you were in high school, and you wanted to get into the workforce sooner. Don’t be discouraged if you fall into this camp, because your future doesn’t rest on this one rank. 

How can you get into university without an ATAR? 

Start with single subjects

At Open Universities Australia we have a unique entry option called an open-door policy. Through us, you can enrol in single subjects offered by leading universities, regardless of your ATAR results.

As long as you successfully complete those subjects online, you can then move straight into the full qualification. You can even transfer to an on-campus place if you want. 

Taylah got into her Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice through single subjects, and wishes she’d known about the option while in Year 12, because it would have taken the pressure off. “Getting straight into the degree may be the easiest way, but it’s not the only way," she notes. 

Enrol in an undergraduate certificate 

Another way you can get into a degree without an ATAR is to enrol in an undergraduate certificate first. 

The undergraduate certificate is a relatively new university qualification. It was introduced in 2020 as a “starter course” that students can take in order to get into a bachelor degree.

Many of these certificates are open to everyone and don’t have any entry requirements. You only have to study the first four subjects from a related bachelor degree to graduate, and then you can keep going straight into the degree. Sounds like a perfect way to ease yourself into uni, right?

Use your work and life experience 

If you didn’t finish Year 12, but you’ve spent years building up your skills in the workforce, then there is a third entry option to consider: the work and life experience pathway. 

Universities know that on-the-job training counts for a lot. So if you can you can provide evidence of relevant work experience during the application process, you may be able to bypass entry requirements that way. 

Likewise, if you’ve completed vocational education and training (VET) at a Certificate III, IV or Diploma level, you may be able to use this to gain admission into an undergraduate course.

Every university has different requirements around this, including how much work experience you need to have. Check the entry requirements listed under your chosen course to learn more. 

What age can you go to uni without an ATAR? 

It’s a common misconception that you need to be a mature-age student over 21 before you can get into uni without an ATAR. But that isn’t true. 

You can explore alternative pathways as a school leaver, or even before the age of 18, provided you have your parents’ permission and the university’s approval. 

Uni courses without ATAR requirements

No-ATAR university subjects

Here are just a few online undergraduate subjects without entry requirements that you can study to get into a full qualification. 

However, please chat with us to clarify how many subjects you will need to complete before you’re eligible to enter a degree. 

Find more single subjects

No-ATAR undergraduate certificates

These online undergraduate certificates are open to everyone and offer a direct pathway into a related bachelor degree:

Find more certificates


Want more advice before taking the leap into university study? Reach out to a student advisor by calling 13 6736 or leave a message to start a chat. 


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