Why TAFE and not University?

Why TAFE and not University?


If you’ve just finished school and are wondering what to do next, the variety of options may be difficult to decipher, leaving you confused as to what you should do. An accepted, often default route can be going straight into university.

But is this the right path for you? Is TAFE or university better suited to your learning style or career aspirations? And with pathway courses to university available, do you still have to choose?

What do you want to do?

Possibly the easiest way to work out what you want to do in your career (and therefore what to study to get there) is to understand what style of learning you suit – how do you best take in information?

Identifying what your learning style is can have enormous benefits, as it allows you to tailor your learning approach to how your brain processes information.

Studies suggest there are three categories of learners; visual, auditory and tactile. Visual learners pick up the most with diagrams, images, and presentations. They tend to make lots of notes rather than participating in discussions, as notes help them to absorb information more thoroughly.

Auditory learners get the most out of hearing and listening, and participating in discussions is much more their thing. Rhythms, music, recordings and clever rhymes can also be unique yet effective ways of absorbing information.

The third group is tactile or kinaesthetic learners – those who get the most out of doing rather than seeing or listening. Tactile learners can get a huge amount out of practical training, workshops, and excursions. They are very much ‘learn by doing’ people – and they’ll usually find they learn at a faster rate by getting stuck into an activity rather than passively watching or listening.

Find out more about different examples of learning styles.

So you’ve worked out your learning style, what’s next?

For many, the default option is going to university. Degree qualifications carry a certain perceived advantage of prestige and much better job prospects than Certificates, Diplomas or Apprenticeships. In select industries, salaries can be higher for degree graduates too.

So, which qualification is more likely to land you in a secure career? There is much debate on this topic but what is inarguable is that demands in the workplace for certain skill sets continue to change rapidly.

A recent report by the National Institute of Labour Studies stated that between 2008-2014, the proportion of university graduates finding full-time employment fell from 56% to 41%.

So which areas are experiencing shortfalls in finding employees?

According to the Australian Government’s Department of Employment, Victoria is currently undergoing skills shortages in dozens of trade areas. Everyone from an automotive electrician to a veterinarian is currently having difficulty filling roles.

So is TAFE or university better in terms of employment?

Fundamentally, the TAFE course model of learning is practical. Therefore if you’re a tactile learner, TAFE courses offer an enormous selection of hands-on options that may suit you if the idea of sitting in a static class does not appeal.

Many university courses consist of a bulk of lectures and more interactive tutorials, TAFE courses (particularly apprenticeships) offer a more applied model where doing is learning.

This naturally aligns TAFE qualifications with ‘hands on’ careers such as construction, mechanics and trades, hair and beauty, fashion and other creative industries, whereas university qualifications are more ‘white collar’ based and preference less physical, professional careers like law, medicine, and business.

TAFE courses also offer opportunities to ‘earn while you learn’ via apprenticeships. An apprenticeship is a structured training program where you learn the basics of your chosen profession, growing in knowledge and skills every workday until you are deemed qualified. You effectively start your career from day one of your studies.

There are many other qualifications available from TAFE courses too, from various Certificates right through to Diplomas. Certificates are nominally a series of courses that relate to a particular subject. They range from Certificate I to IV – the higher numbers referring to increasing duration or complexity of the qualification.

Diplomas are more advanced again and aim to build and progress skillsets learned in Certificates. A significant proportion of TAFE qualifications can be used as pathway degree options. These pathway courses to university may be right for you if you wish to get a mix of learning, or if you’re looking for a later entry point into university.

View more pathway degree options offered at Kangan.

What about salaries?

According to a recent report from the Skilling Australia Foundation, average starting salaries are virtually parallel, with TAFE graduates having a slight advantage ($56,000) over university graduates ($54,000). To read the report, head here: http://saf.org.au/perceptionsarenotreality/

The disadvantages with a TAFE qualification stem from the aforementioned bias of TAFE being ‘downmarket’ from a university degree, but also perceptions of freedom. By and large, a TAFE course offers a more structured, supervised learning process, whereas university is much more self-managed, with typically minimal prompting to attend classes or get assignments done on time.

Whilst this is not a definitive guide, your preferred learning style, coupled with further information about which qualification will more likely lead to a secure career should hopefully give you a more thorough idea of what is best for you.

If a TAFE course and qualification do suit, why not visit Kangan Institute to find out more about the great variety of options we have? It could be the best decision you ever make!