University Pathways for Elite Athlete Development

University Pathways for Elite Athlete Development   
Prepared by  Prepared by: Dr Ralph Richards, Senior Research Consultant, Clearinghouse for Sport, Sport Australia (formerly Australian Sports Commission) 
  evaluated by  Evaluation by: Martin Roberts, Performance Strategy Manager, Swimming Australia Ltd. (December 2016)
Reviewed by  Reviewed by network: Australian Sport Information Network (AUSPIN)
Last updated  Last updated: 17 January 2018
Please refer to the Clearinghouse for Sport disclaimer page for
more information concerning this content.

Community Sport Coaching
iStock 510740929


Universities offer higher, or tertiary, education and research opportunities. The majority of students who attend university are in their late teens to 20s – which is also a key demographic for elite sports performance.

Universities can, and do, have a strong impact on the sport sector, particularly in supporting and developing elite student-athletes through quality facilities and infrastructure, supportive programming, competitive opportunities, and sometimes scholarships or grants.

Elite athletes can benefit significantly from educational and career opportunities outside of sport. It is important for athletes, parents, and other support people (i.e. coaches) to understand the opportunities, both domestic and international, that are available for athletes in order to choose the best options to support both academic and competitive goals. Likewise, universities and sporting organisations need to clearly understand the role which university education can play for athletes and develop strong pathways for athletes to continue their holistic development.

Key Messages 


Many Olympic athletes have advanced their sporting careers during the critical development period from 18 to 23 years of age while attending university.


Sporting opportunities for Australian university student-athletes residing in Australia are primarily supported by their National Sporting Organisation, the Australian Institute of Sport, and the State Institutes/Academy of Sport network. Universities assist with the coordination of dual education and sport objectives.


The University/College sport system in the United States, the NCAA, offers extensive sport resources and competition opportunities for US student-athletes, and opportunities also exist for international students.


Acquiring a university degree and life skills are additional outcomes that a student-athlete can obtain.

Clearinghouse members

Please login to unlock this topic

Please contact us if you are experiencing any difficulty accessing the Clearinghouse information resources that you require.
If you are not a member of the Clearinghouse for Sport please join now

Related Topics


Is this information complete? 

The Clearinghouse for Sport is a sector-wide knowledge sharing initiative, and as such your contributions are encouraged and appreciated. If you would like to suggest a resource, submit a publication, or provide feedback on this topic, please contact us.
Alternatively, if you would like to be kept up to date with research and information published about this topic, please request a research profile setup.