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The differences between university and TAFE

There are a number of differences between university and TAFE.

When making the decision about what type of qualification you want, you'll need to take a variety of factors into consideration.

And don't forget: Swinburne offers pathways between all levels of study.



University degrees provide specific professional outcomes.

Courses spend more time on theories, so that you have a framework for analysing and solving problems in your field of study.

But it’s not all theory. At Swinburne you’ll be given many opportunities to put theory into practice through work placements and capstone projects.

A key difference between school and university is that the learning environment is much less structured. You choose when to study and how hard to push yourself.

While lecture times are clearly set out, the responsibility – to attend, to do homework, to do the research, to study extra hours – is yours.


TAFE courses are more focused on learning for work and in many cases learning at work.

The teaching is based on supporting you to gain specific skills, so there are:

  • More contact hours
  • Smaller classes
  • More personal contact with your teachers

The skills you learn are directly relevant to performing tasks in the workplace and are aimed at improving your employability, and ability to adapt to changing work.


Choosing your study path has traditionally been a decision that, once made, can’t be changed. One of the great advantages of studying at a dual-sector institution like Swinburne is that this is not necessarily the case.

When considering which level of study suits you, it's important to keep in mind that Swinburne encourages movement between TAFE and uni through our Pathways Program.