The ACU Ethics Hub is celebrating the 30th anniversary of Ex Corde Ecclesiae with a ‘Masterclass on Any Catholic University’, exploring how various member groups are understood in the Catholic intellectual tradition. In this lesson, Professor Ramsay explores the role of pathways staff.


Many of us come from backgrounds from which university education was very hard to access, even unthinkable, and so was restricted to a few. University entry should be on grounds of academic merit and sympathy with the particular institution selected. But often there are practical impediments – money, class, language, ethnicity, social-economic status or other forms of discrimination; and less obvious factors such as unfamiliarity, believing this is ‘not for people like me’, lack of good information and real understanding, bureaucracy, uncertainty.

Students walking past a cross.

These are bad reasons for not considering university, and all self-respecting institutions have sought to eliminate them or at least address them. But even then, there will be people who do have academic merit but for various reasons cannot demonstrate it or have institutional fit and for various reasons do not know it.

“A path, in English, is a gentle thing. Paths take you somewhere, but unlike roads and freeways, they do not focus on a fast trip or even the most direct trip.”

University recruitment and admissions staff do much to address this, but a key part of that effort at Catholic universities comes from our pathway programs.

A path, in English, is a gentle thing. Paths take you somewhere, but unlike roads and freeways, they do not focus on a fast trip or even the most direct trip. Paths allow you to stop, explore, meander, rest, start again, take your own time. And so, it is with university pathways. Pathways staff help get you there but are also skilled in offering gentle and thoughtful support. For some people need time and study before they can address the questions: am I academically qualified for university studies, and is this sort of university one in which I will flourish?

Pathways continued…

At a Catholic university the gentleness and sensitivity matter very much. Much of Christ’s teaching concerns people in situations of deep need and so of suffering, and His way is not to offer mere sentimental responses but to address need and to do so with full awareness of the suffering the need has caused. Pathways witness to the institutional commitment to the Gospel through their combination of professional teaching and advice with compassion and reassurance that the path is really going somewhere and the journey can be a refreshing one.

Of course, pathways matter to each university because it requires continuous enrolments to survive. But no Catholic institution simply whips up business; each devotes significant effort to helping people who are not yet ready to enrol or quite sure they can discover the answers to those questions.

At the same time as universities meet their obligation to help students into the university, they have an obligation to contribute to people outside the university. Ex Corde Ecclesiae notes the importance of continuing education in extending teaching and scholarship outside the university to the benefits of those who are not degree students.

This reminds us of the extent to which the university exists for reasons other than its own particular ends – most obviously, for the truth, for the dialogue between faith and reason, as a contributor towards the evangelisation of peoples. And on the level of social engagement too, universities exist for others. Universities are major repositories of knowledge, centres of original thought, research and invention, drivers of innovation – and they do rely upon public finds and student fees. The obligation to serve society by making knowledge available, easy to obtain, open to community input is clear.

Through its teaching, dissemination of research, public program of engagement, lectures and other activities universities serve the community, both locally and nationally. Catholic universities also possess extraordinary energy and potential for evangelisation. As groupings of academics and students at an institution professing Christian inspiration, Catholic universities contain the knowledge and dynamism for cooperation, and leadership, with bishops and Church agencies in opening up the dialogue with the culture, forwarding evangelisation, serving the needs of people and their communities, and above all, witnessing to the harmony-in-action between faith and reason.

The commitment to help more people in the community discover and access university, and then to send our people out from the university back into the community, is an investment by every university. Specifically, Catholic universities add to this work the zeal that comes from lived and public commitment to truth, faith and reason, fidelity to the Church. Some of us will be more involved in this work than others, and sometimes we will shy away from some parts of it, and hopefully excel at others. But it is a reminder perhaps that when other universities offer pathways and continuing education as part of their ‘mission’, that word is Jesus Christ’s word and it refers to the mission-ing or sending-out in which at his last appearance on earth he instructed his disciples: go out now; find them; bring them home and make them my friends.

Student walking through the ACU Strathfield Campus.
Admission pathways at ACU

The path from Year 12 to university is not the only way into ACU – far from it. In fact, up to half of our students did not come straight from school. No matter your background, schooling or experience, our admission pathways can help you to meet the entry requirements of your chosen course. Learn about the entry options available to help you follow your dreams.

Learn more


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