students shun universities in favour of vocational courses

Australian students have turned away from university degrees in favour of trades and vocational courses, the latest census data has revealed.

In 2021, 177,032 more students were completing vocational studies, which included courses offered by TAFE and private training providers, compared to 2016. In that same time period, there were just 24,824 more people studying at university.

Australians were more likely to complete TAFE and other vocational courses in 2021.

Australians were more likely to complete TAFE and other vocational courses in 2021. Credit:Louie Douvis

Vocational students made up 7.8 per cent of all Australian students in 2021, up from 5.9 per cent in 2016 and 7.3 per cent in 2011.

Meanwhile, universities enrolled 15.4 per cent of students in 2021, compared to 16 per cent in 2016 and 14 per cent in 2011.

The census data also showed that vocational students are getting older, with 63 per cent aged 25 and older in 2021 compared to 57 per cent in 2016.

Women were far more likely to be enrolled at university than men, making up 58 per cent of students, compared to 56 per cent in 2016.

National Apprentice Employment Network chief executive Dianne Dayhew said a shift in young people’s priorities, along with policy changes made during the pandemic, have contributed to the spike in demand for vocational studies.

From 2020, the federal government introduced funding for apprenticeships and the JobTrainer program which offered free skills-based courses.

“I think people are making more independent choices about what their pathway to employment needs to be,” Dayhew said.

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