Hope William-Smith

With 2016 just around the corner, the NSW Government Tertiary Education Plan is promoting the importance of higher education.

The plan outlines 6 strategic priorities for the economic and social development of NSW. These include increasing participation in tertiary education, developing a skilled workforce that promotes social inclusion and supporting regional and sustainable development.

In addition to top tier Universities, NSW boasts more than 50 non-university education providers – more than a third of the national total. There are more than 130 TAFE institutes across the state, with over 600 000 students enrolled in further education. The removal of the University cap has also seen enrolments increase, with tertiary education now possible for most high school graduates.

While University remains a popular choice among many on the North Shore, experts are suggesting that TAFE studies, which are known for their high levels of practical experience, can be equally as academically rigorous and prepare graduates for the modern workforce.

There is an abundance of choice for school leavers now, with opportunities to gain placements at TAFE or University before school has finished is also becoming increasingly common.

For Nick Paton, an early round offer saw him enrolled in a Bachelor of Communications & Media / Bachelor of Marketing & Public Relations double degree at The University of Notre Dame, prior to sitting his HSC exams at St Aloysius College.

“I was so excited to find out I got accepted, because the stress of the HSC was essentially lifted,” said the 18 year old.

“University really interests and attracts me because it gives me the opportunity to actually do what I love and study it to become an expert on the things I enjoy”.

For Monique Enright, a Social Educator at The Housing Connection, qualifications at TAFE were the key to entering her industry.

“I found TAFE to be a very enriching experience” said Ms Enright, who started at University before transitioning to TAFE a year later.
“I found I could not learn or grow from the University style of teaching; I find it best to learn in a small environment where I can get a more one to one approach and TAFE is more of a hands on environment,” she said.

For those leaving school or changing careers, it can be more about what you want to do that determines where you should do it. Private colleges are paving the way for degrees in the creative industries. The Australian Institute of Music, The Australian College of Physical Education and The International College of Management are enjoying a surge of enrolments in recent years, with students graduating with enviable qualifications and job opportunities.

Despite debate over the value of tertiary education, it is steadily increasing in Australia, with government statistics showing a healthy number of candidates pursuing a range of qualifications that are adding dynamic and innovative workers across NSW.