Tracing Success: A sector snapshot of Direct Entry ELICOS Tracer Studies in Australian Higher Education

Information for UECA Member Centres

Project Context

Direct entry (DE) programs in the Australian ELICOS (English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students) education sector are specialized courses designed to prepare international students for entry into Australian universities without requiring them to take additional standardised English proficiency tests such as IELTS or TOEFL (English Australia, 2017). These programs focus on developing students’ academic English skills and are designed to meet the demands of higher education (HE) studies. Upon successful completion, students are granted direct admission to partner institutions. It has been demonstrated DE programs can result in comparable or better academic outcomes for students in their chosen academic programs than for those admitted via meeting high-stakes English language test requirements (Roche, 2017).

The ELICOS Standards 2018 stipulate that for providers with a direct entry arrangement with a tertiary education institution, “formal measures must be in place to ensure that assessment outcomes are comparable to other criteria used for admission to the tertiary education course of study, or for admission to other similar courses of study” (Standard P4.1.C.ii). In order to meet this requirement, TEQSA suggests a number of possible approaches, including, external referencing through benchmarking, benchmarking against valid frameworks for language proficiency, external testing, and tracer studies of student cohorts (TEQSA, 2023).

Aligned with this guidance, University Language Centres employ a range of approaches to meet the requirements of Standard P4.1.C.ii, including the use of Tracer Studies. Tracer Studies broadly involve tracking DE English language pathway students’ performance in their degree studies to evaluate the extent to which direct entry programs have prepared students for their subsequent tertiary studies. In doing so, tracer studies seek to demonstrate that direct entry pathway assessment outcomes are comparable to the admission requirements for other students and methods of entry into tertiary institutions (TEQSA, 2023).

However, tracer studies are not well understood across the sector. There is no standard approach or format for conducting a Tracer Study, nor for the metrics assessed, the platforms used, reporting formats or the implications of the study outcomes. This not only presents a challenge for providers hoping to establish tracer studies at their own institutions, but also presents a challenge for the sector in establishing sector-wide best practices and presenting a cohesive picture of quality and reliability to regulatory bodies.

Project Scope

To help overcome these challenges, this project aims to build a picture of the current state of practice in conducting DE program Tracer Studies amongst UECA members. The output of the project will be a report which articulates which UECA member centres are conducting Tracer Studies and if so, the content of these studies, as well as the utility of their outcomes in informing improvements in direct entry programs. The report will identify the most common approaches to conducting Tracer Studies, with the advantages and challenges of several approaches highlighted. The report will provide several exemplar case studies which represent divergent or related practices, and, where appropriate, suggest recommendations for conducting Tracer Studies in the future. A commentary will also be included on the potential feasibility of completing cross-institutional reports on the outcomes of Tracer Studies and the potential correlations and metrics which would provide meaningful insight.

Out of Scope

No project can exhaustively cover a topic as broad as Tracer Studies. This project will not include commentary on the utility of university English requirements or means of testing, including IELTS and direct entry programs. It will not account for any TEQSA, ELICOS, or other regulations, policy directives, or regulatory requirements and the impact of these requirements on any offerings. Rather, it will contextualise Tracer Studies within the regulatory environment, and leave the specifics for institutions to elucidate depending on their individual needs and the emerging regulatory environment at the time. Lastly, this project will not create a journal-ready or publication-ready report in a format which could be submitted to a peer-reviewed publication, although this may be a future opportunity if the outcomes and recommendations listed in the project report are deemed of interest to the wider community.

Project Methodology

UECA members (n ≈ 28) will be provided with questionnaire via Qualtrics which asks them whether they conduct Tracer Studies. Those that do conduct these Studies will be requested to provide further information on their studies: what they measure, platforms used, reporting formats and the utility of the results. From those members who indicate that they are comfortable to be contacted for follow-up conversations, a selection (n ≤ 5) will be invited to participate in subsequent interviews, which will be used to elucidate a more detailed understanding of their approach to Tracer Studies. Together, the questionnaire and interview data will be coded using content analysis, summarised, and analysed to develop case studies which demonstrate divergent and related practices in conducting Tracer Studies, and to develop a list of recommendations for conducting Tracer Studies in the future.

A Steering Committee of UECA Committee members will provide direction, oversight, and decision-making support for the project, ensuring alignment with UECA’s goals and objectives. They will assist in managing project risks, resolving issues, and facilitating communication among stakeholders to guide the project towards successful completion.

Project Outputs

The outputs for this project will include:

  • a questionnaire, the data from which will be coded and summarised.
  • follow-up interviews with key providers who provide their consent for further engagement will be conducted, with the data from these again coded and summarised.
  • a report of approximately 25 pages will then be compiled and presented to the UECA Committee for their comment, before being presented to the wider UECA community.

Detailed outline of project activities: Activities and Outcomes

Background research on tracer studies
Questionnaire (instrument, building, committee review and edits, stakeholder consultation and continued engagement)
Analysis of survey data in qualitative and quantitative context as well as creation of appropriate visualisations
Presentation of survey data to UECA committee, discussion and feedback
Conducting, coding, and analysing follow-up interviews
Presentation of interview data to UECA committee, discussion and feedback
Preparation of case studies, including consultation with relevant stakeholders to deep-dive into relevant examples and processes which will underpin case study
Preparation of final draft report, including presentation to UECA committee, discussion and feedback
Completion of final report


Commonwealth of Australia. (2017). ELICOS Standards 2018. Available at: [Accessed 19 Feb. 2024].

English Australia (2017). Guide to Best Practice in ‘Direct Entry’ Programs (2017) Summary.

Roche, T. (2017). Assessing the role of digital literacy in English for Academic Purposes university pathway programs. Journal of Academic Language and Learning, 11(1), A71-A87. Retrieved from

TEQSA. (2023). ELICOS direct entry guide. [online] Available at:


UECA Integrated Assessment Grant Opportunity

Grants of up to $8000 will be provided for up to 5 projects

University English Centres Australia (UECA) is committed to supporting members in the provision of valid and reliable assessment of their students’ language learning outcomes.

With this end in mind, UECA is offering up to five (5) grants to support projects that further our understanding of integrated assessments and/or support Centres’ capacity to deliver quality-integrated assessments.

While the initial impact might be at the level of the institution, there should be clear potential value to the broader UECA membership or sector as a whole.

Full details here

The Opportunity
Grants of up to $8000 will be provided for up to 5 projects which meet the criteria set out below.

The funds may be used across participating Centres to:

  • buy out staff time to enable them to spend time on the project;
  • provide administrative support;
  • buy in specialist support, such as a digital/educational designer;
  • purchase required materials for the project;
  • cover other expenses for activities which would assist in the successful delivery of the project.

Grants will normally be disbursed on completion of the project and provision of evidence of expenses incurred.

Full details here

Important Dates

  • Monday 23 May 2022
    Grant applications open
  • Tuesday 21 June
    Virtual meeting to discuss the grant criteria and raise any questions
  • Monday 01 August 2022
    Due date for submission of bids
  • Tuesday 30 August 2022
    Successful grant applicants announced

Full Grant description and application details here

If you have any questions about this Grant Opportunity and the bidding process, please contact Simon Winetroube –

2019 – 2022

The UECA Innovation and Leadership Award

University English Centres Australia is committed to facilitating exceptional student experience through excellence in teaching, ongoing professional development and also building research capacity in the global TESOL community. The UECA Leadership and Innovation award generously funded by Education Solutions Australasia. The topic and focus of the award are decided annually by the UECA Committee.

2022 award details coming soon.

This year’s focus is Innovation in the development of Academic Integrity values (honesty, respect, trust, responsibility and support).

The award is for evidence-based developments in areas such as:

  • classroom resources to develop students’ Academic Integrity values
  • student training and interventions
  • technological innovations that educate students about Academic Integrity values
  • tools and techniques to assist teachers in identifying breaches in Academic Integrity
  • professional development which supports teachers in developing students’ Academic Integrity values


The award is open to employees of UECA member colleges, and is targeted at a broad range of roles, including but not limited to:

  • Teachers
  • Student Services
  • Management
  • Curriculum/ assessment writers

Anyone working for a UECA language centre can nominate an individual or a team within their centre for their work. Individuals can also self-nominate.

A centre may submit only one nomination per year and this must be approved by the Director of the UECA language centre.


The winner will be announced at the annual Director’s Forum. It is expected that the award winner will present on their area of innovation at one of the UECA PD Fests in the following 12 months. At the end of the relevant UECA PD Fest, the winner will be formally presented with an award and a cheque for $1500 by the UECA Award Coordinator.

Judging criteria

Nominations will be judged by two members of the UECA committee. The winner will demonstrate Innovation in the development of Academic Integrity values (honesty, respect, trust, responsibility and support).  The judges will consider:

  • A clear statement of the problem and solution
  • The originality and usefulness of the concept
  • Evidence of the benefit to the stakeholders, e.g. students, teachers, team members (one cohort’s data set would be sufficient)
  • How the concept can be scaled up (as numbers increase) or scaled across to other programs (if applicable)
  • On reflection, how the concept could be refined and developed
  • Specific and practical ideas of how the concept can be shared across the sector     


The nominator must complete the nomination form with the required details and forward the form to UECA on, or before, the submission date. The nomination from must be signed by the Centre Director, or representative.

Nomination Form (PDF)


Time from announcement of winnerActionResponsibility
+ 14 weeksAward establishment for the year UECA Committee selects topic for the year’s award, nominates award coordinator, nominates judges and establishes timeline.UECA Committee
13 NovemberLaunch of Award at UECA PD FestPD Fest Manager
15 November  Publication of topic, submission dates and details Topic and submission dates communicated to member colleges along with calls for nominations. Promotional poster, advice on how to promote award and benefits of being nominated/ winning provided.UECA Award Coordinator and Zoubakin
17 DecemberSubmission date Nominations checked and sent to judges.UECA Award Coordinator
10-21 JanuaryJudging Nominations considered and selection made individually, using rubric to score.UECA Judges
21 JanuaryJudging conference
Conference/video call set up by UECA Award Coordinator for judges to discuss shortlist / final selection.
UECA Award Coordinator & UECA Judges
28 JanuaryConfirmation of winner Finalist’s details sent to UECA President and David Larbalestier for endorsement.UECA Award Coordinator
31 JanuaryAnnouncement of award to winner Director of winning college and winner of award informed.UECA Award Coordinator
31 JanuaryPublication of winner’s details Winner announced via UECA website / newsletter and social media.UECA Award Coordinator & UECA Communication Coordinator
Post publicationCommunication to PD fest organisers Local organisers of relevant PD fest informed that winner will present on their topic.UECA Award Coordinator
Post publicationTravel costs considered Travel arrangements to PD fest considered and subsidised if there is no annual PD fest in the winner’s state or territory.UECA Award Coordinator UECA Treasurer
Date depends on winner’s locationPresentation at UECA PD fest Winner presents at UECA PD fest and formally presented with award and prize.UECA Committee Member

Winner – 2019 UECA Innovation and Leadership Award

UECA is excited to announce that the winners of the 2019 Education Solutions Australasia Innovation and Leadership Award are Simon Messner and Dr Nadezhda Kurukulasuriya from CET, Sydney University.

Simon and Dr Nadezhdas’ outstanding work has involved creating an intervention program, the Wellbeing Ambassador Program, which provides students with the skills to support their peers’ mental health and well-being. The program has had an incredibly positive impact on Direct Entry Students, CET Wellbeing Ambassadors and the CET Counsellors themselves.

Many of our members may have had the chance to hear about Simon and Dr Nadezhdas’ work through the English Australia SIG for Academic Advisers and we look forward to meeting them both to celebrate their outstanding contribution and deserved accolade at next year’s Sydney PDFest.

A big thank you to those that took time to nominate their colleagues. It was very uplifting to read about the great work that is happening across the industry to facilitate an exceptional student experience.


UECA Benchmarking Project

UECA has supported its members through a range of benchmarking projects where Centres shared and compared data on a range of operational aspects, such as, enrolment details, staffing profiles and marketing practices.

In 2018, it was agreed to focus benchmarking activities on Centre policies, processes and assessment standards.

With this in mind, UECA commissioned the External Referencing of the ELICOS Standards and International Education [ERESIE] Project with Dr Sara Booth and Associate Professor Thomas Roche appointed as project leads.

Members agreed that the primary focus of the initial national benchmarking project would be the newly updated ELICOS (2018) Standard P4: Assessment of ELICOS students with a specific focus on written assessment.

The project was designed with a view to seeking peer feedback on Centres’ ELICOS Direct Entry program learning outcomes, giving peers a mechanism to provide an assessment of program standards, confirmation of good practice and suggested areas for improvement.

The Benchmarking report, available for download below, reiterates and consolidates findings from the extensive UECA National External Referencing Project Assessment Policies and Processes Report. The current document includes additional discussion of those findings for a wider audience.

UECA would like to formally acknowledge and thank the author of that original, comprehensive report, Dr Sara Booth.

The UECA Committee would like to acknowledge the good faith with which participating Centres have engaged in this project as they reviewed the ELICOS Direct Entry programs of other Centres and responded to the feedback they received on their own.

The project involved time commitment not only from Centre managers, but also program coordinators, lecturers, and teachers. We would like to thank them for their contribution to this project, the results of which are truly shared by all members.

Finally, the Committee would like to acknowledge the leadership of Thomas Roche and Sara Booth who through the benchmarking project have lead innovation in the ELICOS and higher education pathway sectors in Australia, in creating a robust mechanism and rigorous processes for ensuring the comparability of the standards of our programs.

You can download the UECA Benchmarking Project Report here.

Participating Centres

  • Australian Catholic University
  • Central Queensland University Australia
  • Curtin University
  • Flinders University
  • Monash University
  • Queensland University of Technology
  • RMIT University
  • Southern Cross University
  • Swinburne University of Technology
  • The Australian National University
  • The University of Adelaide
  • The University of Melbourne
  • The University of Newcastle
  • The University of Sydney
  • The University of Western Australia
  • University of New England
  • University of Tasmania
  • University of Wollongong
  • Victoria University
  • Western Sydney University