Guide to TAFE Courses in Australia
One of the great things about Australia’s education system is the way in which it makes higher education accessible to all citizens. TAFE courses are designed to bridge the gap between school and university, providing important theory and practical experience in several fields of study for students of all ages. They can also be used as a pathway to undergraduate degrees. All of the courses conform to a predetermined national standard to ensure consistency in the quality of the education, as well as consistency in the material covered.
Each region in Australia has its own TAFE institutes, which we will explore.
What is TAFE?
TAFE is Australia’s way of ensuring that its citizens have the knowledge and the skills needed to thrive in the workplace. It helps to address the country’s skills shortages in essential fields by allowing students to progress step-by-step, at their own pace through the different levels of qualifications available. In this way, people are able to reach their full potential and help drive Australia’s economy forward.
TAFE stands for Technical and Further Education. Its approach to education is comprehensive in that it combines essential, industry-relevant practical skills with essential, industry-relevant theory. The result is students with well-rounded knowledge of their chosen field.
TAFE, VET & AQF
TAFE and VET overlap in many ways, but there are some differences between them.
Traditionally, VET (Vocational Education and Training) concentrates on a specific vocation. The education and training provided are narrowly focused on a particular job within a field, and not on the broader field itself. The courses are primarily practical and non-academic. VET courses are often geared towards school-leavers who are going to enter a specific trade; for example, plumbing or brick laying. However, VET courses in Australia are starting to broaden out, providing students with a more holistic education.
While TAFE (Technical and Further Education) courses have a strong practical element, they also have an academic focus. This provides a more comprehensive view of the field, and not just the specific trade. The qualifications are graded, so Certificate I courses are suitable for those who may not have completed high school. They may then work up the ladder to Advanced Diploma level, which allows them to enter university and complete undergraduate degrees.
AQF stands for Australian Qualifications Framework; it regulates the training and education sector, which includes school, VET, and TAFE qualifications, as well as the institutes that provide the qualifications. It allows students to trust the quality of their education, and it allows employers to trust the quality of their new recruits.
Additional Benefits of TAFE
TAFE has many benefits for students:
- Entry requirements are not nearly as strict as for university study. There are no entry requirements for Certificate I courses, for instance, and if you’ve completed your A levels, you may enter at the TAFE Diploma level.
- TAFE courses are flexible. They can be studied part-time or full-time, and online or on-campus.
- Some TAFE institutes offer rolling registrations, so you can apply for and start your course whenever is convenient for you. In other words, you don’t have to wait for semester dates.
- TAFE is affordable, and there are several government funding programs that make higher education even more accessible, no matter what your income or budget.
- TAFE qualifications can be used as pathways to undergraduate degrees, and can shorten the period of undergraduate study by up to a year.
- Some TAFE institutes are able to offer undergraduate degree courses and graduate certificates and diplomas, so you don’t even have to transfer to another school.
- TAFE courses are ideal for people who want to change careers and who need to study for their new profession while still working in their old one.
- Short TAFE courses can be used for continuing professional development.
- Short courses can also be used to develop a new hobby or expand on existing hobby skills
What study options are available to me?
TAFE is extremely flexible. It comes in a variety of formats which suit just about any lifestyle. There are part-time and full-time courses, and courses that can be considered a hybrid of both. There are on-campus options and online TAFE courses for people who may not be geographically close to an institute or who need to balance work, study, and family commitments. There are also semester-based courses and rolling courses, which are usually offered by online TAFE providers.
TAFE semester courses are structured according to predetermined dates: application dates, starting dates, assignment dates, exam dates, and closing dates, etc. All on-campus courses are semester based, but not all online courses are. Semesters vary from region to region and institute to institute, so TAFE courses in NSW may not start at the same time as those in QLD.
Most TAFE institutes offer students online study options, even though they may be traditional bricks and mortar institutions. It’s important to note that not all courses are suited to online study. If this is the case, some institutes may offer hybrid courses in which students have to attend a certain number of practicals, tutorials, or lecture hours per study unit or course.
TAFE short courses serve a number of purposes. They can be introductory courses for certain applications, like beginners courses in Microsoft Word. Interested parties can then increase their skills with intermediate and advanced courses. They can also top up skills, for example, research methodology for doctorate students, or BAS Registration for accountants and tax professionals. Short courses vary in duration from half-day to six weeks.
Regional Tafe Institutions
Every region in Australia has its own TAFE institutes, many of which have campuses spread across all the major cities and towns. Many of the major cities have several different TAFE course providers. Some institutes specialise in certain fields of study, while others offer the full variety of courses.
There are 13 TAFE institutes in Queensland (QLD), many of which have campuses in Brisbane. Other TAFE institutes have campuses that cover the territory’s north near the Great Barrier Reef, south west, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, and, of course, the interior. View our guide to TAFE courses in Queensland.
The Bremer Institute of TAFE in Inala, Queensland.
There are five TAFE institutes in Brisbane, including: the Metropolitan South Institute of TAFE, SkillsTech Australia, Bremer Institute of TAFE, Southbank Institute of Technology, and Brisbane North Institute of TAFE. Wide Bay Institute of TAFE has a specialist security training facility in Brisbane.
Brisbane North Institute of TAFE also offers TAFE Open Learning, which allows students to take advantage of distance and online study opportunities.
The Sunshine Coast Institute of TAFE has four campuses in the region: Maroochydore, Mooloolaba, Nambour, and Noosa. It offers students pathways to undergraduate degrees at the University of the Sunshine Coast. It offers a diverse range of courses in the fields of Business, Engineering, IT, Graphic Design, and Health, among others.
The Tropical North Queensland Institute of TAFE is based in Cairns, but it also has campuses in Atherton, Bamaga, Innisfail, Mareeba, Thursday Island, and Weipa. It specialises in marine-related courses, but it has faculties in Business, Environment, Sustainability and Tourism (BEST), Heath and Community Care, Marine and IT (HACC), Trade and Outdoor Industries (Trades). It also has a Faculty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (FATSIS).
The Southern Queensland Institute of TAFE is based in Toowoomba, but it has eight other campuses in the area: Charleville, Chinchilla, Dalby, Kingaroy, Nurunderi (Cherbourg), Roma, Stanthorpe, and Warwick. It offers over 300 courses across a spectrum of industries, and has pathways to the University of Southern Queensland.
The Central Queensland Institute of TAFE has campuses in the Mackay region, Central Highland region, Gladstone region, and Rockhampton region. It offers various apprenticeships and traineeships, TAFE certificates and diplomas, government funded programs, and indigenous programs. It provides pathways to several universities, including Queensland University of Technology, Griffith University, University of Southern Queensland, James Cook University, and Australian Catholic University.
New South Wales (NSW)
There are 10 TAFE institutes in New South Wales (NSW), including the Hunter Institute, Riverina Institute, and, New England Institute. It also has over 140 campuses. The institutes and campuses have the entire territory covered, but there is some overlap as different institutes are present in the same city. For example, Sydney has four TAFE institutes. View our guide to TAFE courses in New South Wales.
The Sydney Institute of Tafe located in Sydney, New South Wales
The four TAFE institutes in Sydney include: Northern Sydney Institute, South Western Sydney Institute, Sydney Institute, and Western Sydney Institute.
Northern Sydney Institute (NSI) has seven campuses in the city and offers the full range of TAFE courses and even some degree programs.
South Western Sydney Institute (SWSi) of TAFE has nine colleges (campuses) and specialist centres, including Granville College, Miller College, Bankstown College, and Chullora Campus. All of which provide extensive training and education to local and international students.
Sydney Institute has seven colleges (campuses) that provide a variety of TAFE and vocational training courses, including Ultimo College, Petersham College, and Randwick College. It even has training program for people who are unemployed, so that they can give themselves a hand up.
Western Sydney Institute (WSI) has eight colleges (campuses), including Oten, which is a specialist TAFE distance learning centre.
Illawarra Institute of TAFE has 14 campuses in NSW, including Wollongong, Bega, Cooma, Nowra, Moss Vale, Yass, and Ulladulla. Qualifications on offer include TAFE Statement of Attendance, TAFE Certificates I – IV, TAFE Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas, and Graduate Certificates and Diplomas. Wollongong is Illawarra’s biggest campus.
New England Institute of TAFE (NSW) has 11 campuses, one of which is in Tamworth. The others include: Armidale, Boggabilla, Coonabarabran, Glen Innes, Gunnedah, Iverell, Moree, Narrabri, Quirindi, and Tenterfield. Tamworth is the biggest of the Institute’s campuses in the territory with the widest range of study options.
Port Macquarie is just one of North Coast TAFE’s 17 campuses in the territory. Port Macquarie offers a variety of courses that include massage therapy, hospitality, assorted design courses, and assorted business courses. Online and distance learning are provided by the North Coast TAFE Open Campus.
Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
ACT is Australia’s smallest territory, so it’s not surprising that it has the fewest TAFE institutes: One, to be exact. Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) has been operating for more than 85 years. It has students from 86 different countries. Its part-time courses are very popular, as is its Adult Migrant English Program. View our guide to TAFE courses in Australian Capital Territory.
Bruce Campus, The Canberra Institute of Technology, Canberra, ACT
Canberra Institute of Technology has six campuses in the city: CIT Bruce, CIT Fyshwick, CIT Gungahlin, CIT Reid, CIT Tuggeranong, and CIT Woden. It offers over 400 courses, including apprenticeships, traineeships, certificates, diplomas and degrees. The subjects available are incredibly diverse and include Accounting, Aged Care, Drainage, Information Technology, Nursing, Travel and Tourism, Visual Arts, Welding, and Youth Justice.
Victoria (VIC) has many TAFE institutes and universities that provide TAFE courses to local and international students. Depending on the source, the number of course providers varies from 15 to 20. Some of the institutes include the Gordon Institute of TAFE in Geelong, Wodonga TAFE, Sunraysia Institute of TAFE, and the University of Ballarat. View our guide to TAFE courses in Victoria.
The Gordon Institute of Tafe located in Geelong, Victoria.
If you’re in Melbourne, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to TAFE course providers, as most have at least one campus in the city.
Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT) has seven campuses: Preston, Collingwood, Fairfield, Epping, Greensborough, Heidelberg, and Ararat. It also has training centres outside of Melbourne. These include: Northern Lodge at Eden Park, Northern Lodge at Yan Yean, and NMIT Kyneton Park in the Macedon region. The centres specialise in different subjects such as Welding, Food Technology, Environmentally Sustainable Practices, Manufacturing, Hospitality, Performing Arts, Aquaculture, Cattle Farming, and Wine Making.
Victoria University (VU) offers a variety of TAFE courses from its different campuses in the territory. Study fields include Arts, Business, Education, Engineering and Science, Health and Biomedicine, Law and Justice, and Sport and Exercise Science. The campuses in Melbourne include: City Flinders, City Flinders Lane, City King, City Queen, Footscray Nicholson, Footscray Park, Melton, Newport, St Albans, Sunshine, and Werribee.
Box Hill Institute offers TAFE courses from four campuses in the East Melbourne area. The campuses include: Elgar Campus, Nelson Campus, Whitehorse Campus, and Melbourne City Campus. Courses are available in a number of different fields, including Animals and Science, Arts and Music, Automotive and Transport, Business and IT, Construction and Plumbing, Education and Languages, Electrical and Refrigeration, Engineering and Manufacturing, Hair and Beauty, Health and Community, and Hospitality and Tourism.
Holmesglen Institute of TAFE has five campuses in Melbourne: Chadstone Campus, City Campus, Moorabbin Campus, Moorabbin-Bulli Street Campus, and Waverley Campus. It offers over 600 courses in various forms, including short courses, apprenticeships, online courses, university preparation courses, TAFE certificates and diplomas, and bachelor degrees and graduate certificates.
Chisholm offers TAFE courses from south east Melbourne. It has six campuses: Bass Coast, Berwick, Cranbourne, Dandenong, Frankston, and Mornington Peninsula. In addition to on-campus study opportunities, there are online learning options and even options to complete TAFE courses in your workplace. Chisholm TAFE courses provide pathways to several universities, including Monash University, Deakin University, La Trobe University, Swinburne University, and Victoria University.
Kangan Institute offers nearly 300 TAFE courses from six campuses in Melbourne, including Broadmeadows, Essendon, Melbourne CBD, Moonee Ponds, Richmond, and Docklands. It also has 10 training centres that cover fields such as Aviation, Automotive, Fashion, Health, and Engineering.
Bendigo TAFE has five campuses in northern and central Victoria, three of which are in Bendigo itself. Bendigo TAFE campuses include Bendigo City Campus, Bendigo Charleston Road Campus, and BTEC Campus. TAFE certificate to diploma courses are available in a variety of fields, such as Occupational Health and Safety, Conservation and Land Management, Engineering, Visual Arts, Nursing, Mental Health, Allied Health, Beauty Therapy, and Information Technology Networking.
TAFE in Tasmania is provided by two institutions: TasTAFE and the Australian Maritime College. View our guide to TAFE Courses in Tasmania.
Australian Maritime College Training Ship, Launceston, Tasmania.
TasTAFE has 14 campuses in Hobart: Alanvale, Inveresk, Launceton, Burnie, Devonport, Smithton, South Burnie, Bathurst Street, Bender Drive, Campbell Street, Claremont, Clarence, Drysdale, and Hunter Street.
South Australia (SA)
TAFE SA offers over 1000 courses to students in South Australia. TAFE SA diploma and advanced diploma courses provide a pathway to Flinders University. Various types of courses are available, including TAFE VET courses for secondary school students, apprenticeships, award courses, and short courses. TAFE SA has many, many campuses in Adelaide and regional South Australia, including Barossa & Riverland, Eyre & West Coast, Southern Regions, and Yorke and Northern Regions. View our guide to TAFE Courses in South Australia.
TAFE SA campus in Currie Street, Adelaide, South Australia.
TAFE SA campuses in Adelaide include: Adelaide, Adelaide College of the Arts, Adelaide English Language Services, Croydon, Elizabeth, Gilles Plains, Marleston, Morphettville, Mount Barker, Noarlunga, O’Halloran Hill, Panorma, Parafield, Port Adelaide, Regency, Salisbury, Tea Tree Gully, and Urrbrae. Courses cover a wide range of study areas, such as Agriculture, Design, Engineering, Marketing, Education, Beauty, Tourism, IT and Health.
Western Australia (WA)
Western Australia (WA) has several quality TAFE institutes and course providers, including the Challenger Institute of Technology, Central Institute of Technology (CIT), Great Southern Institute of Technology, Kimberley Training Institute, South West Institute of Technology, West Coast Institute, Pilbara Institute, Polytechnic West. View our guide to TAFE Courses in Western Australia.
Central TAFE Campus, Perth, Western Australia.
Three TAFE institutes have campuses in Perth.
West Coast Institute offers TAFE courses in northern Perth. It has campuses in Joondalup, Clarkson, and Wangara. Part of its reputation as an outstanding course provider relates to its Academies of Excellence which specialise in Health Sciences, Hospitality and Culinary Arts, and Digital Technologies. There are also the Aboriginal Academy of Sports, Health and Education, and Trades North, which offers vocational training in essential trades.
Central Institute of Technology offers TAFE courses from five campuses in the city: Perth Campus, Leederville Campus, East Perth Campus, Mt Lawley Campus, and the Oral Health Care Centre of WA in Nedlands.
Challenger Institute of Technology offers TAFE courses from campuses all over Western Australia, including Perth. Apprenticeships and traineeships are available, as well as VET in Schools. Courses can be taken full-time or part-time. Short courses are available for personal and professional development, and there are also corporate and industry short courses.
TAFE courses in Bunbury are provided by the South West Institute of Technology. Bunbury is the institute’s main campus. It offers students many state-of-the-art facilities, including the Epicure Training Restaurant, which has won many Gold Plate Awards. Students interested in Horticulture and Land managements are spoilt with the amazing hydroponics and hot house centres.
Northern Territory (NT)
TAFE in Australia’s Northern Territory (NT) is provided by Charles Darwin University. Charles Darwin University reached its status as a TAFE course provider via a circuitous route that involved the merger of several other colleges, institutes, and universities. View our guide to TAFE Courses in Northern Territory.
Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Northern Territory
Charles Darwin University offers a comprehensive range of TAFE courses across several industries, including Agriculture, Conservation and Land Management, Children’s Services and Education Support, Community Services and Health, Business, IT and Library Studies, Tourism and Hospitality, Construction, Drafting and Industry Skills Training, Plumbing, Metal Trades, and National Transport and Logistics Training.
The Australian government wants to make higher education and training accessible to all its citizens. As a result, it has launched several government funding and subsidy programs for people who want to improve their skills through TAFE and VET courses. Subsidies are also available for employers who want to help develop their staff members’ skills.
Types of Funding
There are several different funding programs available, depending on the region and the training needs.
The Victorian Training Guarantee (VTG)
The Victorian Training Guarantee (VTG) provides VET to people who never studied after completing school, as well as for people who want to build on their current level of higher education. The Victorian government has opened the program up to such an extent that there is no limit to the number of subsidised training places available – provided people meet the criteria.
To qualify you must be:
- An Australian citizen
- A permanent resident
- A New Zealand citizen
You should also meet any of the following criteria:
- Be under 20 years old, or 20 years and older with the intention to build upon an existing higher education qualification
- Be interested in a course on the Approved Foundation Skills course list
- Have your eye on a Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) or a Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL)
- Have your eye on an apprenticeship
Skills for Australia (SA)
Skills for All (SA) is designed to entice more people to complete higher education and training to improve their chances of employment, and to combat the skills shortages in the country. Subsidies are available for everything from TAFE Certificate I courses to TAFE Advanced Diplomas. Some courses are fully funded. Priority is given to those who intend completing STEM courses – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths.
Eligibility criteria include:
- Australian or New Zealand citizenship
- Permanent Australian residency
- State sponsored visa prior to permanent residency
You should also meet any of the following criteria:
- Be 16 years or older and not currently in school
- Be 16 years and older and in school and participating in an endorsed VET program
- Be in school and in a training contract (as defined by the Training and Skills Development Act (SA))
- Not be in school and but be in a training contract (as defined by the Training and Skills Development Act (SA))
Criteria also depend on your employment status and current level of education.
Australian Apprentices Program
There are several apprenticeship funding programs designed to encourage training and development in the emerging workforce.
Some of the programs include:
- Tools For Your Trade Payment: Apprentices are given tax exempt cash payments to cover all training costs. Apprentices must be enrolled in Certificate III or IV courses on the National Skills Needs List, although there are certain exceptions.
- Living Away from Home Allowance: Apprentices are given a living allowance for the first three years of their training away from home.
- Support for Adult Australian Apprentices: Designed to encourage adults to improve their skills and training. The payment amount is determined according to the wages the apprentice earns. Criteria include being 25 years and old, and being enrolled in Certificate III or IV courses on the National Skills Needs List.
- Support for Australian Apprentices with Disability: Includes several initiatives for employers who want to accommodate more disabled apprentices and the disabled apprentices themselves.
- Apprentice Kickstart Initiative: Is aimed at employers to encourage businesses to offer apprenticeships in building and construction, and engineering.
Other Funding Programmes
- National Workforce Development Fund (NWDF): Aims to encourage organisations to assess their current and future workforce development needs, so that they can apply for the funding necessary to train new and existing workers to meet those needs. Applications are open to organisations, Registered Training Organisations, existing workers, and new workers.
- Skills Connect Fund: Allows employers to comprehensively address their development needs by accessing TAFE and VET courses, and mentoring programs and support services.
- Auswide Colleges New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS): For unemployed people who are over 18 years old and who want to start their own small business. The program is funded by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. Participants are required to complete TAFE Certificate IV in Small Business Management, and will receive a further 52 weeks of income support and mentoring.
Loan Schemes & Financial Assistance
In Australia, subsidised higher education fees and government loans are called HELP (Higher Education Loan Program). There are several different types of HELP available. These include:
- HECS-HELP: A loan scheme and discount program for Commonwealth supported students.
- FEE-HELP: A loan scheme that helps students pay all or a portion of their tuition fees. Students have a FEE-HELP limit; this depends on the field being studied.
- SA-HELP: A loan scheme that helps pay for all or a portion of student services and amenities fees, including sporting activities, child care, food services, and financial advice.
- VET FEE-HELP: For students taking higher level VET courses; i.e., diploma level and above. It is used for tuition fees and not sundry study costs.
A number of scholarships are available, including:
- Australia Awards: A scholarship program that consists of two streams. The Achievement stream helps promising students, researchers, and professionals enter Australia, and helps promising Australian students, researchers, and professionals spread their wings abroad. The Development stream helps build skills in developing countries.
- Australian Postgraduate Awards: Scholarships for outstanding research degree candidates in Australia.
- Commonwealth Scholarships Program: Provides scholarships for Indigenous higher education students who have to move from remote areas to complete their studies.
Universities themselves may offer financial aid to students who meet certain criteria. The loans can be used to pay tuition, living, or study-related costs.
- Guide to TAFE courses in Queensland (QLD)
- Guide to TAFE courses in New South Wales (NSW)
- Guide to TAFE courses in Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
- Guide to TAFE courses in Victoria (VIC)
- Guide to TAFE courses in Tasmania (TAS)
- Guide to TAFE courses in South Australia (SA)
- Guide to TAFE courses in Western Australia (WA)
- Guide to TAFE courses in Northern Territory (NT)