What Is TAFE (Technical and Further Education): A Complete Guide


Students want to know what TAFE (Technical and Further Education) is in Australia.


Are you looking for a practical course in Australia that leads to a higher education pathway or to build a career in a specific field? If yes, the Technical and Further Education (TAFE) is your correct choice.


This blog will teach you about TAFE, including colleges, courses, study areas, entry requirements for these courses, and more.



1. What Is TAFE?


Technical and Further Education (TAFE) studies are certifications or vocational programs provided by Vocational Education and Training (the national training system of Australia). 


TAFE courses operate through the Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) and include everything from construction and engineering to arts and winemaking programs. 


The state and territory government of Australia runs and funds TAFE institutes. TAFE provides diploma/certificate qualifications and has recently started offering post-graduate diplomas and bachelor's degrees in some fields. 


The TAFE system acts as an entry point for students who want to earn credits for a bachelor's degree granted by a university. In some cases, students can transfer TAFE credits to full degree programs. TAFE institutions mainly concentrate on one field or a range of related subjects. 



2. TAFE Institutes In Australia


TAFE is the most critical education and training sector in Australia. It has around 59 TAFE institutes spread across many regional and metropolitan areas of the country. 


TAFE courses give students the training, skills, and qualifications needed to join the workforce. 


The state or territory government regulates TAFE institutes. Hence, the fees and policies may differ everywhere. You can visit your territory or state's TAFE website for more information. Here are some of the well-known TAFE institutes in Australia:




3. TAFE Study Areas


Technical and further education institutions offer courses in various subject areas, including the following:




4. TAFE Study Levels


Apart from offering a wide range of courses, TAFE institutes provide many qualifications you can choose from, depending on your career goals. Some courses focus on the basics of a subject, while others are more specialised. 


The most common TAFE qualifications are as follows:


  • Certificate I: This is the first qualification level, covering training in routine tasks and basic skills.


  • Certificate II: This qualification helps to obtain operational knowledge in skill fields where you can apply solutions to foreseeable problems. 


  • Certificate III: With this qualification, you'll be able to develop higher skills and gain the theoretical knowledge required to solve various problems. A student who chooses this qualification can judge and interpret information. 


  • Certificate IV: You'll develop a broad knowledge base at this level. You'll also learn how to evaluate and analyse information and apply skills in various areas. The duration of certificate IV is usually one to two years (full-time) or equivalent (part-time). 


  • Diploma: Students obtain broad creative, theoretical or technical skills and knowledge at this level. Diplomas prepare students for paraprofessional and industry careers. Graduates at this level work independently in complex technical operations. Students also have a great chance to use their diploma study to earn credits towards university. The duration of this qualification is up to two years of full-time or equivalent part-time study. 


  • Advanced Diploma: This qualification takes your study to an advanced level by offering expert-level skills. It allows graduates to apply for managerial or supervisory roles in their chosen fields. Advanced Diplomas may vary in length and may last up to 1.5 to 2 years (full-time study). 


  • Graduate Certificate: The graduate certificate helps to acquire advanced employment-related skill levels. It often involves graduation with a diploma or higher level. Also, it requires industry experience and expertise relevant to the industry. 



TAFE Course Structure


Unlike university degrees, the skills and units covered by students in TAFE do not vary from one institute to the other. 


This is because VET qualifications follow an industry-relevant and nationally endorsed training package, which lays out the required competencies that students must accomplish at each qualification level. This help students gain uniform skills demanded by the industry. 


The training packages are available in various fields, such as hospitalityinformation technology, community services, business services, financial services, retail, engineering and the metal industry. All the qualifications range from certificate I to advanced diplomas/certificates, and the training packages consist of various course areas. 


VET students must complete their training from the TAFE institute and prove that they have met each competency level via assessment. 


On the other hand, higher education degrees do not consist of training packages, so the skills and units may differ from one institute to the other. TAFE students must complete both "off-the-job" training provided by the institute and paid "on-the-job training" with an employer to receive their qualifications. 



6. TAFE Tuition Fees


TAFE tuition fees may differ depending on the institution, course and campus you choose. Some courses are government-funded, and others are full-fee courses. Eligible students may also receive exemptions or concessions. 


The students who are completing their advanced diploma course are allowed to defer their fees until they earn a certain income. Scholarships are also available for TAFE students. And someone who's pursuing higher education courses can access FEE-HELP and HECS-HELP



7. TAFE Entry Requirements


As compared to universities, TAFE institutes have fewer entry requirements. Entry requirements for VET courses range from very little or no entry requirements (certificate I) to Australian year 12 or equivalent (certificate IV, diploma and advanced diploma).


Your work experience might count as well. Some courses require students to give interviews, auditions, and tests and provide portfolios before entry. Always remember that higher education degrees at TAFE institutes may have higher admission requirements than universities.



8. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)



What Does TAFE Mean In Australia?


TAFE stands for technical and further education.


It is a government-funded Registered Training Organisation that offers students specific and practically-oriented Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses. 


TAFE courses give students the skills, training, and qualifications for trade, semi-skilled, skilled, and paraprofessional careers. Every state government in Australia run TAFE courses to provide tertiary education option for students.


TAFE institutes provide nationally recognised, vocationally oriented VET courses such as certificates (from levels I to IV), diplomas, and advanced diplomas. Some courses are part of an apprenticeship or traineeship with an employer. TAFE courses can provide pathways and credit into the higher education sector.


Most TAFE institutes offer different study modes for students' convenience, including full-time, part-time, online/ external study by distance, and block study.


Besides secondary school studies and short courses, many TAFE institutes have started offering courses from the higher education sector in a more practical and industry-based environment.



How Long is TAFE in Australia?


Here are the types of qualifications offered at TAFE, along with the estimated duration:


  • Certificate I-IV: These are six months to two years long courses that provide students with introductory skills, training, and industry-relevant knowledge.


  • Diploma: These courses require one to two years of full-time study and prepare students for paraprofessional, industry, and enterprise careers.


  • Advanced Diploma: These courses range between 1.5 to two years of full-time study and provide advanced-level hands-on skills for paraprofessional work in accounting, building design, and engineering.


  • Vocational Graduate Certificate/Diploma: A graduate certificate usually takes six months to a year of full-time study, whereas the graduate diploma requires one to two years of full-time study. Both courses provide high-level employment-related knowledge and skills to students.


  • Other Courses: Besides vocational education, TAFE offers higher education programs like undergraduate and English language courses.



Is There Only TAFE in Australia?


Yes. The term TAFE originated in Australia. It is the only country that runs TAFE courses in the world.



Is TAFE Harder Than Uni?


In Australia, the number of TAFE students surpasses that of university students by four times. This is because TAFE offers greater ease of access, affordability, and accessibility to a larger population.



Am I Too Old To Study at TAFE?


With four times more students studying VET courses than university programs, TAFE is the most popular choice for education among school-leavers and career changers.


It is much more accessible to a broader range of students, that includes parents, mature-aged, and overseas students.


Though the minimum age to enter TAFE courses is 17 years, no maximum age is defined for these programs.



What Is The Biggest TAFE in Australia?


With over 430,000 student enrolments annually, TAFE NSW is Australia's largest vocational education and training provider.


From school leavers to businesses and career changers, the institute provides various short courses, vocational courses, and qualifications in variable study modes to suit everyone.


TAFE NSW is also registered as a higher education provider and offers undergraduate degree programs. It also provides accredited qualifications and customised training small businesses need to develop the skill set of the workforce and support growth.



Why Is TAFE Cheaper?


As TAFE courses are government-subsidised, they are much cheaper than university courses. The fees for government-subsidised students are often heavily reduced compared to full-paying university students.



Is TAFE Cheaper Than Uni?


Yes. TAFE courses are usually cheaper than university programs, and government subsidies make a huge difference.



Does Centrelink Pay For TAFE?


Most TAFE institutions, including South West TAFE, offer payment plans wherein students can pay their tuition fee via Centrelink.


Students who receive a financial benefit from Centrelink may have the choice to pay their tuition fee, general service, and course consumable fees through Centrelink benefit through Centrepay.


TAFE Queensland also offers fee concessions to students enrolled in government-funded courses or subjects. To avail of fee concessions, they need a valid Health Care Card or Pension Concession Card issued by Centrelink.


TAFE South Australia offers a Standard Payment Plan option to students who undertake a government-funded vocational course whose fee is more than $250 and receive payment from Centrelink. Such students can pay their course fees through Centrepay. For more details, click here.



Can You Go To TAFE after Uni?


It is becoming common for higher education graduates to study TAFE qualifications to gain work-oriented and practical skills to prepare them to enter the workforce.


TAFE Victoria offers Free TAFE to Victorians with a VET qualification or a university degree and looking to gain the necessary job skills to enter the workforce.


Click here to learn more about new free TAFE courses in 2023 offered by Victorian Skills Gateway.



What Is The Most Popular TAFE Course?


The Certificate IV in Hazardous Areas (Electrical) is the most popular TAFE course as it prepares graduates for the most in-demand industries in Australia, including mining and construction.



Can TAFE Get You A Good Job?


Yes. TAFE qualifications serve as an excellent pathway into the workforce. They focus mainly on industry-based, practical skills; they greatly enhance employment prospects.


TAFE qualifications are ideal for those training to enter the workforce, re-enter the workforce with a new job, or upgrade their skills. They are as valuable as university degree programs in terms of future employment.


According to TAFE Courses:


  • VET students have a 10% higher employment rate than university graduates

  • VET graduates get a 106% increase in higher average salary than university students

  • 90% of the highest growth jobs in the next five years in Australia need a VET qualification, as opposed to a university degree. 

  • TAFE is also ahead in terms of graduate employment. 78% of TAFE graduates get a job in the six months after their course, compared to just 68% of university students. 

  • Students completing a TAFE traineeship/apprenticeship have a graduate employment rate of up to 92%.

  • In terms of graduate salary, the average salary for university students is $54,000 per year, and $56,000 for VET students earn. Thus, TAFE students with a VET qualification make approx—$ 2,000 annually more than University graduates.



Why Do People Go To TAFE?


If you wonder whether TAFE degrees are worth it, here are some reasons that show that TAFE courses are better than university programs:


  • TAFE courses are much more accessible to many students, including parents, mature-aged, and overseas students.

  • You can attend a leader educator without the time commitments and at a fraction of the cost. 

  • The enrollment process at TAFE is much faster, and students don't have to struggle to qualify for a loan and a place. 

  • In contrast to 1.3 million university students, Australia has around 4.2 million VET and TAFE students. 

  • Compared to university-led courses, TAFE involves a more hands-on experience and practical approach to learning.



Other Benefits of TAFE courses:


  • Free TAFE or government-subsidised course options

  • Industry insights and relationships

  • Learning practical skills

  • Flexible learning options

  • Course diversity

  • Lower entry requirements

  • Work placement

  • Pathway to university

  • Shorter course lengths



What's The Difference Between VET and TAFE?


VET stands for Vocational Education and Training, which covers all vocational training in Australia. TAFE is a part of VET that runs by the government.


Similar privately-operated institutions such as training providers, colleges, or course providers offer vocational training courses in Australia.


However, both TAFE and private training institutions are quality-controlled by the government's Australian Skills Quality Authority.


In 2020, 3.9 million students enrolled in VET courses. Out of those, 1.2 million students took government-funded TAFE courses.


Recently, the government has started offering funding to private providers and TAFEs. So, students may be eligible to study a government-subsidised course whether they opt for a TAFE or a TAFE provider.



Should I Go To TAFE or Uni?


Earlier, universities were the only medium to complete a degree program, and TAFE only offered a diploma or certificate qualification. However, you can complete bachelor's and associate degrees for certain professions via TAFE.


Here are the key things to consider when choosing between university and TAFE:



  • The Type of Job You Want To Pursue: Research the course structures to find whether TAFE or a university is suitable. For example, a TAFE course is ideal for becoming a plumber. At the same time, a university degree is appropriate to become a doctor. However, both TAFE and university are suitable for studying accounting.


  • Preferred Learning Approach: Are you a hands-on learner and prefer a practical approach to learning things? A TAFE course may be ideal. University courses are mostly theory-based.


  • Entry Requirements: You will usually need the required ATAR to gain admission into university programs. In contrast to university courses, TAFE has fewer entry requirements.


  • Cost: TAFE courses are much cheaper than university-led programs, where the average fee for a Bachelor's Degree in Australia is approx—$ 30,000. In contrast, TAFE courses range between $400 and $22,000 annually.


  • Learning Environment: If you are a self-motivated student and prefer learning online, then TAFE courses are for you. However, if you learn better when supported, you should choose the university route.


  • Study Duration: It is another major factor when deciding between pursuing a TAFE or a university course. TAFE courses are comparatively shorter than degree programs and help you join the workforce fast. However, university courses require at least 3-4 years of study commitment. You need to decide how long your course is and if you can stick it out. It will help you make the right decision.



Is TAFE Free in Australia?


According to the Australian Government Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, the government has partnered with state and territory governments to set out a $1 billion 1-year Skills Agreement to deliver 180,000 Fee-Free TAFE and vocational educational places from January 2023.



The Training Places Will Run Courses in The Below Areas of National Priority:


  • Care (aged care, childcare, health care, and disability care)

  • Technology and digital

  • Hospitality and tourism

  • Construction

  • Agriculture

  • Sovereign capability



 Priority Groups Are Prioritised For Fee-Free TAFE:


  • Young people (17-24)

  • First Nations Australians

  • Unpaid carers

  • Women facing economic insecurity

  • Unemployed people 

  • People who are receiving income support payments

  • Women pursuing studies in non-traditional fields

  • People with disability

  • Specific categories of visa holders.



State-wise Free TAFE Courses in Australia:



New South Wales


Under a combined initiative of the Australian and NSW Governments, Fee-free TAFE NSW provides tuition-free training locations for people to get trained, retrained, or upskilled.


TAFE NSW will provide over 300 qualifications to eligible students, from certificates to diplomas related to the state-level priority industry growth sectors. Training in priority qualifications is free of cost and fully funded by the NSW and Commonwealth governments.


People who enrol after 1 December 2022 and start their course between 1 January 2023 and 31 December 2023 are eligible for fee-free courses.


Check here for the Free TAFE Courses and eligibility to study these courses.





The Victorian government also offers Free TAFE for priority courses covering tuition fees for students eligible for government-subsidised training.


Eligibility for the free TAFE course depends on your citizenship status and the training you have begun or finished previously.





The Queensland Government offers Free TAFE training and apprenticeships in high-priority areas for students under 25s. Qualifications are chosen based on advice from industry professionals and national skills demand.


Free TAFE training is an initiative to support school leavers into work and to ensure students gain the skills required by employers and the state's economy.


Suppose you are a trainee or an apprentice studying a priority qualification. In that case, the Queensland Government will bear the training cost linked to your study.



Can You Drop Out of TAFE?


Yes. Students can cancel or withdraw from a TAFE course. However, they must notify about the discontinuation of studies by submitting a completed Withdrawal Application Form to their enrolment campus.


Students enrolled in a Government Subsidised course like Smart and Skilled may defer their studies instead of withdrawing. To do this, they must submit the Deferral Application Form to their enrolment campus.


It is worth noting that students can defer their subsidised training for up to a year during the course duration and support their request with a medical certificate. They can resume their studies within a year, and their Smart and Skilled student fee/ Concession fee will stay unchanged.


If they don't resume their study within this period, their student record will update as 'withdrawn/discontinued' your study.


TAFE NSW periodically reviews the student's progress throughout the study. Students who do not showcase participation and attendance in their studies may be deferred or withdrawn from their studies.



What Happens if You Don't Finish a TAFE Course?


Suppose you discontinue your studies in an enrolled qualification before it completes or has yet to resume studies after deferring them. In that case, you must submit a Withdrawal or Deferral form to the enrolment campus to inform.


Fee-refund is subject to conditions; you must contact your training provider.


After withdrawing from a course, if you wish to resume your studies in the future, you will have to undergo reassessment again against the Smart and Skilled eligibility and entitlement criteria at that time. It will determine your access to a subsidised student fee, fee exemption, or fee-for-service course fee.



What Is The Difference Between University and TAFE?


Universities and TAFE are both educational institutions, but they vary based on the teaching and learning methods employed and the types of courses offered.


TAFE courses differ from university programs in the following ways:



  • The study length is another difference between both types of study programs. Undergraduate-level university studies take around three or four years, while TAFE courses can take between one and three years.


  • TAFE courses are more hands-on and focus on providing students with workplace training and skills needed by employers. However, university courses have an academic focus.


  • TAFE facilities provide students with industry-standard equipment and training in public spaces, such as training restaurants and automotive workshops. These courses offer opportunities to complete on-the-job training through work experience.


  • Due to the practical learning component, TAFE education and training are most suited for trade courses such as electricians, hairdressers, etc. In contrast, university-level higher education is ideal for professional careers like medicine and law.



  • TAFE courses have fewer entry requirements than university courses that require ATAR for admission purposes. Due to this, TAFE is more accessible to students, and most choose to study at TAFE to gain entry into university.


  • The low cost of TAFE courses is another reason that attracts students to study at TAFE. Due to government-subsidised courses, TAFE education is comparatively cheaper than university-led programs. Some TAFE institutions also offer free courses to eligible students in high-priority areas. 



How Much Do TAFE Courses Cost?


At TAFE, you need to pay two types of student fees tuition fees and service fees:


  • Tuition Fees: The training provider charges this for education and training. It depends on various factors such as course length and study mode, i.e., online, full-time, or part-time.


  • Service Fees: They are charged for additional materials and services that a student receives. It includes clothing, workshop materials, workbooks, uniforms, course-specific tools, etc. 


The TAFE course fee varies widely based on the institution, course, and chosen location. 


Usually certificate and diploma courses typically cost between AU$ 9,000 and AU$ 15,000 per academic year. Bachelor's degrees and higher-level vocational courses, such as vocational graduate diplomas and certificates, may have higher fees. 


Useful Topics to Explore:

⇒ Types of Education in Australia
⇒ Applying to Study in Australia: Student Timeline
⇒ The Ultimate Guide to Australian Visas
⇒ Enligsh Language Courses Overview (ELICOS)
⇒ MBA and Management Education in Australia 
⇒ Vocational Education & Training Courses (VET)
⇒ Higher Education - Undergraduate Level
⇒ Higher Education - Postgraduate Level
⇒ Study Abroad & Student Exchange
⇒ Online & Distance Education
⇒ Foundation Courses
⇒ Secondary Education

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