It’s a fact – higher education has never been so accessible for young Australians.
But the smorgasbord of degrees, qualifications, and tertiary institutions on offer now comes with quite the catch: it can be pretty difficult to choose what to study.
And once the what has been decided, the where often comes down to TAFE or university.
But what about private colleges?
To help you guide your child into making the right decision for their careers, we’ve prepared an explainer about Australia’s wide (but comparatively unknown) range of private colleges and what differentiates them from university and TAFE.
So here we look at whether private colleges might be suitable for your child.
University vs TAFE vs… Private Colleges?
First off, let’s clarify the differences between university institutions and TAFE.
Universities are best suited to people wanting a career in regulated professions which they can enter after obtaining undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in fields of study such as law, medicine, nursing, engineering, dentistry and architecture.
Universities also offer courses in areas of study such as science, business and the arts, including specialised majors such as psychology, environmental studies and journalism.
On the other hand, TAFE offers more practical, hands-on VET courses at certificate and diploma level at campuses typically smaller than universities which help students prepare for paraprofessional or vocational careers, such as child care, design or hospitality.
Compared to universities they have shorter completion times, lower fees, lower entry requirements and a more practical focus which may greatly improve a graduate’s prospects in the job market. They can also be a pathway into university higher education studies to obtain higher-level qualifications (often with credit towards the degree).
Meanwhile, private colleges are small, independent tertiary education providers that offer a variety of vocational or career-focused higher education courses that can be undertaken at universities (such as bachelor and/or post-graduate degrees), VET courses, or a combination of both.
And the benefits are pretty enticing.
First off, since private colleges are often smaller in size they tend to lack the hustle and bustle of the average university or TAFE institute and offer a more personalised education experience while providing students with the opportunity of being surrounded by a small community of students with shared interests.
But here’s where it gets exciting for students.
Private colleges tend to specialise in a particular field like the creative arts, hospitality and business and often feature state-of-the-art equipment.
Institutions specialising in digital media, for example, might provide multimedia labs, while a hospitality-focused private provider might boast industry-standard training kitchens whereas a private college specialising in the performing arts might feature industry-standard performing spaces.
This can boost their prestige to the point they’re even outperforming universities.
The only catch?
While universities and TAFE tend to attract a large proportion of government funding, private colleges generate most of theirs from course fees.
That being said, there may be scholarships available and many private colleges are now eligible to offer FEE/HELP loans to students, which can enable your child to defer part – or even all – course fees until they begin earning a certain level of income.
So while the post-school choices school students and their parents often talk about oscillate between university and TAFE, Australia’s private colleges are a genuine third option to consider.