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TAFE is Technical and Further Education, which is available in all states of Australia and is an approximate equivalent of the community colleges in the US. TAFE institutions offer a wide range of training at the post-secondary level, especially in vocational fields such as hospitality, agriculture, tourism, construction, secretarial skills, etc, usually at a slightly lower level to that offered by courses in Australia. The courses are up to two years in length and lead to certificates, associate diplomas and diplomas. There is scope to use these qualifications as a lead-in to university courses where agreements between institutes exist. TAFE colleges are public, owned by state governments, as opposed to universities in Australia which are funded federally, although some universities have TAFE sections. The TAFE system is normally structured within the each state as a series of institutes representing subject areas, these institutes consisting of a number of campuses around the region. The TAFE authorities in all states and territories work together to create a network which provides the vocational training needed by industry and the basis for the next level of education for those who wish to study at university. All TAFE colleges are recognised and accredited by the government.
For international students, TAFE has the following advantages:
- Entry requirements are usually less demanding than universities in Australia
- The fees are lower than those charged at universities in Australia
- Class sizes tend to be smaller
- Qualifications are widely recognised and government accredited
- Courses are practical and vocational
- There is usually an option for using course credits to continue study at a university
As with the community college system in the US and Canada, there is a system of articulation agreements between TAFE colleges and some universities universities in Australia. Articulation is a process whereby a student can transfer from a TAFE college to a university, using the TAFE qualification as a credit towards his or her bachelors, with a proportionate reduction in the time needed to complete this. Specific articulation agreements exist between TAFE colleges and universities enabling transfer from one to the other with recognition of qualifications previously gained in a related subject. The degree of exemption the student receives will depend on the type of course already taken and its relevance to the subject to be studied. Within each state or territory, different agreements exist which should be studied carefully by a prospective student, who should apply to specific institutions for detailed advice before embarking on a course. A TAFE diploma can be worth up to two years exemption and an associate diploma up to a year.
Course fees vary according to the type of course studied and its duration but to give a guideline, a two year accountancy course, including course materials, will be in the region of US$6000, a one year course in electrical engineering US$3120 and an 18 week foundation in English US$1500.
The cost of living in Australia is generally lower than that in the US and the UK, although it varies a lot; if you are living in a big city such as Sydney, it will be much higher than if you are inland in a smaller town. As a full time student, you will have the right to work for up to twenty hours a week during term time and full time during the vacations.
For international students wishing to enter into mainstream TAFE courses, they must first show they have a sufficient level of English language proficiency. A score of 5.0/5.5 in IELTS, CSWE 3, a state certificate in ESL stage 4 or the equivalent of these must be achieved, although individual institutions should be consulted for their entry levels. Academically, students will have to have completed their grade 12 year successfully although a foundation course at the TAFE can be taken as an alternative. The minimum age requirement is usually 18. For older students, it is sometimes possible to use work experience or previous educational achievement as a contributory factor in your application. If you come from a country which the Australian Department of Immigration has classed as category 3 or 4, you will need to have passed IELTS in order to apply for a visa.
If you fail to meet the language requirements for a particular course, you may still be given a provisional place on that course which is conditional on your passing the foundation studies course for that TAFE. Entry requirements for entering the foundation course are lower than for mainstream courses, but again, you should check the individual institutions for their requirements.
There are strict criteria that TAFE colleges have to meet to achieve accriditation by their state or territory, and it is this system that ensures consistent competency standards. This has enabled TAFE to liase with higher education establishments internationally to gain recognition for their qualifications, which are now widely recognised in educational as well as employer fields. All TAFE courses are officially accredited.
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