Australian Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutes are government-owned providers of VET courses. International students attend TAFE institutes to complete courses that range from certificate to postgraduate level. For more information, visit the Vocational Education and Training section.
Who offers TAFE?
VET courses are also offered by private Registered Training Organisations (RTOs), typically known as private colleges, but many students choose to study VET courses through TAFE institutes because of the additional security they provide as government-owned education providers. Some Australian universities also operate a TAFE division and offer VET courses in addition to higher education courses.
The TAFE sector is the largest education and training sector in Australia. Each year, thousands of international students come to Australia to take advantage of the extensive range of courses and subject areas that provide practical skills and vocational training for a huge variety of careers.
International students enrol in Australian TAFE institutes to:
- improve their chances of being accepted into higher education courses
- gain practical, work-based skills to improve their employment prospects
- take advantage of the wide variety of courses on offer
- enjoy the individual attention that the typically small class sizes allow.
Courses and qualifications
The types of qualifications that can be obtained through the TAFE system include:
- Certificate I–IV: These courses are designed to provide introductory skills and training. They provide industry-specific knowledge and skills in communication, literacy and numeracy, and teamwork. They vary in length from six months to two years.
- Diploma: Diplomas prepare students for industry, enterprise and paraprofessional careers. Diplomas typically require one to two years of full-time study.
- Advanced diploma: An advanced diploma provides a high level of practical skills for advanced skilled or paraprofessional work in areas such as accounting, building design and engineering. Students can complete some advanced diplomas at university level. Advanced diplomas vary in length from 1.5 to two years of full-time study.
- Vocational graduate certificate/diploma: The vocational graduate certificate and diploma are the equivalent of the higher education graduate certificate and diploma. They provide high-level employment-related skills and knowledge. The graduate certificate usually requires six months to a year of full-time study, while the graduate diploma is typically completed over one to two years full time.
- Other courses: While TAFE institutes are traditionally known for their focus on vocational education, in recent years many have also started offering higher education programs such as bachelor degrees. TAFE institutes also offer English language courses. For more information, see Higher education — undergraduate and English language courses.
How is TAFE different to university?
- Practical courses: While university courses tend to have an academic focus, TAFE courses are typically more hands-on and are focused on providing students with the workplace skills and training needed by employers. TAFE facilities provide students with industry-standard equipment that allows them to train outside the classroom, such as automotive workshops and training restaurants that are open to the public. TAFE courses are designed with industry needs in mind, and many offer opportunities to complete on-the-job training through work experience.
- Wide range of courses: Traditionally, TAFE institutes are known for providing VET courses (such as certificates and diplomas). Some TAFE institutes also offer undergraduate and postgraduate degrees (the same as those offered by universities), as well as English language courses and secondary school studies.
- Accessibility: TAFE institutes pride themselves on their accessibility and typically have fewer (and lower) entry requirements than universities. This is because they offer a lower level of qualification, so be sure to check what qualification level you will need for your career. Because TAFE is more accessible to students, many choose to study at TAFE as a pathway to gain entry into university (see below).
Higher education pathways
TAFE courses at the certificate IV, diploma and advanced diploma level can provide students with a pathway into the higher education sector. In addition to helping students meet entry requirements, TAFE courses can also provide credit towards some higher education courses. For example, students who graduate with a diploma may receive up to two or three semesters of credit towards a related bachelor degree. The exact amount of credit granted depends on the institution, the degree and the TAFE qualification completed. It is important to check pathways and credit arrangements with institutions.
It is also becoming increasingly common for higher education graduates to complete TAFE qualifications in order to gain practical, work-orientated skills to assist them to enter the workforce.
Average tuition costs
TAFE course fees range from AUD$4000 to $22,000 per year. Higher-level vocational courses, including vocational graduate certificates and diplomas, may have higher fees. TAFE institutes that offer bachelor degrees will charge higher fees for these courses.
These figures were sourced from the Australian Government’s Study in Australia website in 2018. Please note that course fees can vary widely depending on the course, institution and location chosen, and should always be sourced from the relevant provider.
Entry into the VET system usually requires students to have reached a level of study equivalent to the Australian Year 10, 11 or 12. Some courses may have prerequisite subjects or work experience requirements. Entry into some courses, such as art and design, may also require submission of a portfolio. Students should check with individual providers for any additional entry requirements, English language requirements, information on fees and charges, and course starting dates.
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