The rough guide to tertiary education providers

by frank-stuart

The tertiary education landscape in Australia has never been more diverse. While this means more choice for high school graduates, it can also mean greater confusion. You will be trying to find the right qualification to suit your personal and professional goals and it’s important to understand what’s out there in terms of higher education providers.

Traditionally, there existed a clear divide between Universities on one hand, and TAFE on the other.

The Universities taught undergraduate programs (Bachelor degrees, typically taking 3 years) required for certain professions or for entry into postgraduate programs (Master degrees, for example). Think lectures in large auditoriums, complemented by smaller tutorials or lab sessions through the week.

By contrast, TAFE has long been associated with VET (Vocational Education & Training) providing Certificate and Diploma level qualifications that are earned over one or two years, and that stress specific workplace competencies.

Today however, the options have grown and in particular the market has seen the growth of quality Private educators.

So what is the difference?

The first thing to remember is that the education industry is highly regulated which is good news for students. It means that any education provider that is registered has to deliver quality and the curriculum is driven by the framework set by the regulators. So at the end of the day it comes down to your preference in learning style, the particular benefits you seek and the career outcome you want. A summary of the main differences are:


  • You have to go the UAC to gain entry
  • Admission for each course has an academic entry requirement based on your higher school certificate results
  • Offers undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in a wide variety of disciplines
  • Large classes which means mixing with lots of people and a little less individual attention
  • Heavy theoretical approach to learning
  • On campus life has many social opportunities for students outside their studies


  • Do not need to go through UAC to gain entry
  • Admission is not as heavily dependent on academic entry requirements
  • Offers mainly vocational education training and some pathways to university
  • Smaller class sizes with more opportunity for one to one interaction
  • Combination of theory and practical approach to learning

Private Institutions

  • Do not need to go through UAC to gain entry
  • Admissions for some institutions have academic requirements similar to TAFE and some have academic requirements similar to University but will tend to be slightly lower
  • Depending on the college there will be either vocational education training or undergraduate and postgraduate qualification (or a combination of both)
  • Often you will find that they specialise in a certain field, but not always
  • Smaller class sizes with lots of opportunity for one to one interaction
  • Combination of theory and practical approach to learning
  • Some have flexibility in regards to start dates, study schedules and completion times
  • Some also offer short courses that can be of benefit to people already in the workforce who are looking to upskill


All options will provide you with quality, recognisable qualifications that will benefit your employment prospects once you graduate. It is important to research what extra services your school of choice offers particularly in terms of career management so you are best equipped to enter the work force in your chosen field.

The internet will offer a wealth of information on what is out there. Do your research and really think about what you want to get out of your higher education studies. What on campus facilities are you looking for? Do you thrive on the theoretical stuff? Perhaps you prefer to get your hands into practical based learning? Maybe both. Are social activities important to you? Do you want to be able to develop good relationships with your lecturers? There are loads of questions to ask yourself. Jot down what’s important to you and then start looking for an institution that meets your needs.

Interested in a career in sport or dance? ACPE is a private college offering undergraduate degrees. See what ACPE can offer, visit

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