What study options are available?

Discover what’s available, from degrees to short courses and online learning. What learning style suits you, and how can you find a course that suits your needs?

What level of education are you seeking?
What is available? The following brief outline of the educational providers may assist your planning.

Most Australian universities offer both degree courses and single subjects. Degree courses generally take from three years full-time to ten years part-time, with many variations in-between. A full listing of Australian universities can be accessed from the Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs (DETYA). New Hobsons Press also provides a directory of higher education courses. These ‘Good Guides’ are a popular way of choosing university courses. These guides are comprehensive and independent listings of university courses nationally. The guides are supported by a website which allows an online search by course subject for the most appropriate institution. The printed guides include application forms, and the website allows for online applications.

Higher education in Australia is subject to the HECS fee (Higher Education Contribution Scheme). This can be paid up-front, for which a discount applies, or will be removed from your post-study salary via income tax. The fee will vary according to your chosen course and institution, but, as a benchmark, a three-year full-time Arts degree will require a HECS payment of approximately $3768 per annum, to be repayed when you start earning more than $25 347 a year. If you pay HECS upfront, there is a 25 per cent discount. All HECS fees are likely to increase substantially in 2005. Most universities also allow students to enrol for a single subject in selected courses. These classes usually involve a six-month or one-year commitment, and cost approximately $600 for eight 3-hour sessions.

TAFE courses
Courses offered by TAFE institutes around the country are often the most effective way of starting a career change. TAFE courses not only offer very practical, vocationally based education, but they also work in partnership with industry providing work experience and job opportunities along the way. Some courses are as short as one-year certificates, and the delivery of subjects is usually highly flexible, allowing a combination of work and study in the chosen field.

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Distance education
With the increasing use of Internet facilities for information delivery, it was only a matter of time before educational institutes would avail themselves of the technology required to deliver courses to those unable to attend in person. For many students, the collaboration and workshopping with other students, lecturers, and tutors face-to-face cannot be substituted by an online class. For others, the freedom and increase in opportunity brought about by distance education has been phenomenal, as courses previously unavailable in remote areas of the country became a real possibility. Some distance courses will try to address the concern of student isolation by organising frequent ‘in-house’ sessions where students who study via the Internet are required to attend for coursework twice a year for long weekends or week courses. Two such universities are Charles Sturt University and the University of New England in New South Wales.

Open Learning Australia is a consortium of eight universities which offer distance education with universities and TAFEs for a single unit or a degree or diploma or certificate. The vocational, undergraduate and post-graduate qualifications awarded are the same as those achieved on campus, and are currently offered in arts, business, general studies, health and science and technology.

Short courses
Non-diploma or non-degree courses are often a great way to test your enthusiasm for a subject. A good way to start is with the many councils of adult education in the different states. These organisations offer an amazing variety of courses, mainly short, which allow the student to sample subject areas, and then build on them if the subject proves of interest. Most adult education centres also offer resources to join or start up a book group for those wishing to stretch their brains by discussing their reading. Costs for courses vary according to the different providers, but usually $17 per hour is a good guide for courses which may range from two 3-hour sessions to fifteen 2-hour classes.

Click NEXT to discover online learning, unusual courses you can study and where to find more information U3A
The University of the Third Age started in 1972 in Toulouse, France. Its aims were to improve the quality of life for older people by offering academic programs from universities. Third Age refers to the age after youth and work. Whilst most older individuals now believe they are retaining the youth and work aspects of their lives, the U3A network in Australia is growing rapidly as a source of ongoing intellectual stimulation. Since its inception in 1972, some 172 Australian U3As have been formed. All are autonomous, with no entry requirements for membership or assessment of learning or credentials. Activities vary from group to group, from participatory to conventional lecture style. Annual membership fees range from about $15 to $40, and normally negate the need for individual course fees. A full listing of all Australian U3As is available from the national website.

Other learning options
Just because your area of interest doesn’t seem to be neatly fitting into the area covered by mainstream education providers, it doesn’t mean it’s not legitimate, or available. It probably just means you’ll have to search harder, and be more innovative within your search to find the right course. Circus performer? There are now a few courses available within Australia for aspiring performers. A search via the Internet search engine Google using the words ‘circus performer training’ came up with many options, including the National Circus and Physical Theatre Association, with ten links to training options. If access to the Internet is difficult, or doesn’t bear fruit, remember that not everyone is on the Internet – get out the Yellow Pages and let your fingers do the walking. Consider also asking those who are already enjoying the subject you wish to explore – not only can they tell you how they did it, but will also share how not to get started.

How do I find it?
The Resources section in Get a new life lists all contacts mentioned in this excerpt. This is no substitute for talking to the people in the institution itself. Nearly all universities and TAFEs offer open days, usually around August to coincide with September cut-off dates for applications for the following year. If you think you are interested in applying, do yourself a favour and visit the institution to take advantage of the opportunity to talk to staff and students in the course of your choice.

More information
Reprinted with permission from chapter nine of Get a new life by Kaye Fallick
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Written by Kaye Fallick