TAFE or Uni – Which one is better?

Posted July 5, 2019, by Elesha

TAFE or Uni – which one is better?  Well, there are lots of things to consider when deciding between the two! From what career you’d like to pursue, your learning style and how you plan to pay the tuition fees. Other Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) can make great further education options too.

Let’s take a look at the different study paths to help you decide which one is right for you. 

What is a Registered Training Organisation (RTO)?

Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutions are Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) which are run and financed by state and territory governments.

RTOs offer the following qualifications –

  • Certificate I, II, III, and IV
  • Diploma
  • Advanced Diploma
  • Vocational Graduate Certificate
  • Vocational Graduate Diploma

TAFE is just one kind of RTO. There are also private colleges and online course providers that offer highly specialised, industry-focused knowledge and training and are a great alternative to studying at university or TAFE. 

What’s The Difference Between University and TAFE?

Trade vs Profession

Traditionally, trade vs profession was a key difference between the two – TAFE was for trades like electricians, builders, hairdressers, mechanics, etc while University for professions such as engineering, law, medicine, architecture, etc.

The decision was pretty easy; if you wanted to become an electrician, you went to TAFE and if you wanted to be an Engineer, you went to University. 

While some of these differences are still relevant, there is a lot more cross over. These days TAFE (and fellow RTOs) offers a scope of trades including IT, retail, aged care childcare, cosmetics, management, tourism, engineering, and business.

In the past University was the only path to complete a degree and TAFE offered a certificate or diploma qualification only – this has also changed. You can now earn associate and bachelor degrees for certain professions through TAFE.

Vocational Training vs Academic Study

The learning environment of TAFE is more focused on delivering practical, job-specific skills. Training emphasises skills and knowledge required for a particular trade like plumbing or hairdressing or a specific job function, like data entry or typing.

University, on the other hand, offers a more academic learning experience. ‘Academic’ education is focused on knowledge that is educational, scholastic and theoretical. This isn’t always the case though, some Universities focus on practicality and employability in their course options.

TAFE offers a variety of online course options and completing undergraduate and postgraduate courses online with some of Australia’s leading Universities is also possible.

Entry Requirements

Australian University degrees have varying levels of standard entry requirements into undergraduate (bachelor), postgraduate (master) and research degrees.

If you want to go to University fresh out of year 12, your Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) will be the main criteria for entry into the majority of undergraduate University programs. As you continue to further your study, subsequent degrees will have higher entry requirements.

TAFE also has minimum entry requirements no matter the qualification you plan to study but many courses have a lower minimum requirement than University degrees. Entry requirements can vary from English language, academic prerequisites or an additional portfolio. 


How will you pay for your course? When deciding where to study the financial aspects definitely require careful consideration!

Most students who choose the University path will have access to HECS – Higher Education Contribution Scheme. Essentially, HECS allows you to accumulate your University fees as a loan that you late repay through the Australian Taxation Office once your income hits a certain level.

Funding for TAFE isn’t as broad and while there is financial assistance and government subsidised training available, it depends on the course you choose. Funding also varies depending on where you study so be sure to check opportunities in the state or territory relevant to you.


The time commitment required for each qualification might play a role in your decision making. Usually, a bachelor’s degree takes 3 – 4 years to complete and a masters degree will take another 2 years approximately.

A Certificate through TAFE may take 6 -12 months full time to finish,  1 – 2 years for a diploma while apprenticeships and traineeships can last anywhere from 3 – 5 years.

Can TAFE Get Me Into University?

Yes! You can complete a Tertiary Preparation Certification (TPC) through TAFE which is a qualification equivalent to Year 12.

The TPC will allow you to gain a Tertiary Entrance Score which is equivalent to an Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) and can be used to apply for entry to universities across Australia.

Some TAFE Institutes around Australia also offer higher education degrees.

No matter where you choose to study, we’ve got some awesome study tips for you and mistakes you definitely don’t want to make!


AIM Business School
All Health Training
Australasian College of Health and Wellness
Australian College of Physical Education
Australian Institute of Business
Australian Institute of ICT
Australian Institute of Management Education and Training
Australian Institute of Personal Trainers
Builders Academy Australia
Building and Construction Training Australia
College Australia
College for Adult Learning
Deakin University
Ducere Global Business School
Edith Cowan University Online
Endeavour College of Natural Health
Everthought Education
Foundation Education
Griffith University
Hammond Institute
James Cook University Online
La Trobe University
La Trobe University Online (Delivered by Didasko)
MCI Institute
Mentor Education
Monarch Institute
Nepean Industry Edge Training
Onfit Training College
Open Colleges
RMIT Online
The Hotel School
UNE Partnerships
University of Adelaide
UNSW Online
UTS Online
Victoria University Online
Torrens University
University of East London
University of Mauritius
University of New England
University of Wales Trinity Saint David
Integrated Care & Management Training (ICMT)
Open Colleges School of Health
HTMi Australia
Southern Cross University