Some students from outside Australia don't qualify for direct entry into an Australian university as the English-language and high school diploma requirements can be quite high for entry into first year. One way around this is a pathway program as the language requirement is lower as often is the high school GPA requirement.
Pathway programs are especially designed with international students in mind and they make sure that international students are properly prepared for study at an Australian university. Even for Australian students, the first year at university can be quite daunting with big lectures of 300 or more students at a time.
Students that have done a pathway program consistently outperform those that entered the university directly and in some cases they get better GPAs than the local students.
The pathway program is usually equal to the first year of the partner university's four year degree program which means you would progress to 2nd year.
Most pathway programs are split into different academic streams such as business, law and engineering etc. So, for example, if you chose a pathway in business you would study various business courses in addition to English language classes. The class sizes are smaller than those you would attend as a regular university student which ensures personal attention from your teachers.
Generally speaking, successful completion of a pathway diploma program leads to entry into the 2nd year of an Australian university and successful completion of a pathway foundation (certificate) program leads to entry into the 1st year of an Australian university.