students flee universities in favor of professional courses

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

In 2021, 177,032 more students were completing professional studies, which included courses offered by TAFE and private training providers, compared to 2016. During the same period, there were only 24,824 more people who were studying at university.

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

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

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

Census data also showed that vocational students are getting older, with 63% aged 25 and over in 2021, up from 57% in 2016.

Women were much more likely to be enrolled in university than men, accounting for 58% of students, up from 56% 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 surge in demand for vocational education.

Starting in 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 path to employment should be,” Dayhew said.

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