Further Education: It’s Not Just About University

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 53 per cent of young people in full-time education or training were in current employment, with the average work rate 16 hours a week.

You are probably already working, or about to enter the workforce for the first time, so what happens when you want to study to further your career prospects and get the career of your dreams?

Are there other ways to learn?

University is always an option, but increasingly, Australians are turning to other methods of gaining the skills they require to enter the workforce, or to change careers. There is a growing focus on internships, volunteer work, taking up a trade or vocational study.

According to Australian Tax Office data last month, Australian university students currently owe a combined $15.8 billion, with the average unpaid Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) debt at $13,484. Students are now turning to other ways to learn that are more flexible and affordable in droves.

Successful men and women: not always uni grads

The media is flush with articles from successful politicians, entrepreneurs and business men and women who did not go to university. These include Alan Sugar, Paul Keating, Jane Austen, Henry Ford, Bill Gates and Steven Spielberg.

There are 772,000-odd Australians currently enrolled in university. In 2006, universities received almost $200 million from coursework postgraduate degrees alone. Last year, Sydney University conducted a survey which revealed some not-so-surprising reasons for enrolling at campus. 71 per cent of postgraduate students surveyed were enrolled in further study to improve career prospects and 35 per cent citied personal development as the reason for further study.

Last year, an Australian university conducted a survey which revealed the reasons for enrolling in further education. 71 per cent of students surveyed were enrolled in further study to improve career prospects and 35 per cent citied personal development as the reason for further study, but they don’t just do it at uni! Many students choose other methods of gaining the qualifications they need. According to the ABS 57 per cent (over eight million Australians) held at least one formal (non-school) qualification. These are Bachelor degrees (or above), Advanced Diplomas and other Diplomas, Certificate III or IVs and students studying at Certificate I or II level.

There has been a recent claim that Australian degrees are in fact the most expensive in the world. According to The Sunday Times in Singapore, “the cost of pursuing a university degree overseas found Australia now costs more than either the US or Britain.[1]

So what is a potential student to do?

Experts are saying that it’s important to consider all your options when considering further study. Are you planning to continue with your job? Will you work full time or part time? Do you have other commitments such as children or volunteer work that will take up your time?

Bruce Guthrie from Graduate Careers Australia was recently quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald as saying that students need to plan future studies with clear objectives, “sometimes the financial or career benefits [of additional education] are longer-term”.


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