Elite Student-Athlete Pathways (ESAP)

Elite student-athlete support


High performance sport requires a significant commitment from the athlete, especially when combined with academic studies. Elite student-athletes often require extensive support to excel in both pursuits. As such, elite student-athletes may be entitled to access support from several organisations such as their university, NSO, state institute/academy of sport (SIS/SAS), sporting club, government (local, state and/or federal) or local community.  

Elite student-athletes may also be eligible to compete for the UniRoos at international university sport competition. For more information visit the UniRoos section of this website. 

ESAP Program

Launched in 2014, the Elite Student-Athlete Pathway (ESAP) Program is a partnership between the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and Unisport Australia (Unisport).


A key focus of the ESAP Program is to enhance the alignment and coordination of the university and high performance sport sectors.  The ESAP Program provides leadership and direction to establish and deliver strategies that build capacity and foster collaboration between Australian Universities, the National Institute Network (NIN) and National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) to identify, monitor and support elite student-athletes.

University support


Australian universities support over 4,750 elite student athletes across more than 48 sports. This support is provided to assist elite student-athletes to balance the demands of a dual career in sport and study.  Support provided by each university varies, however common forms include:

  • Academic support (e.g. timetabling flexibility, exam/assignment flexibility);

  • Financial (scholarships and travel);

  • Personal development such as workshops and mentoring; and

  • Training facility access.


To discover more about the support and services offered by Australian universities see the UniSport report

For information on what individual universities offer elite student-athletes, see the series of Showcases below.

Elite Athlete Resources

UniSport have produced a number of best practice resources directly related to elite athletes. One of the resources is a wellbeing journal for student-athletes, promoting improved mental health through strategies such as positive thinking, acquiring support networks and dealing with stress through mindfulness. There is also a Manager's Toolkit which provides an overview of what an elite athlete is and how manager's can best assist their student athletes. 

Elite Athletes

How an elite athlete is defined will vary across the university sector. Typically universities will support elite athletes within Australia whom are categorised by their respective National Sporting Organisation (NSO) and may also be on scholarship within the network of sport institutes and academies across Australia. 

Athletes who fall outside of this cohort must be identified and recognised, or be a member of one of the following organisations as an 'elite athlete or coach':


  • Australian Institute of Sport

  • State Institutes or Academies of Sport

  • AFL Players’ Association

  • Australian Cricketers’ Association

  • Rugby Union Players’ Association

  • Rugby League Professionals’ Association

  • Australian Professional Footballers’ Association

  • National squad members from Australian Sports Commission funded sports