Over 1.5 million students were engaged in university education in 2017, with over 600,000 of those being new enrollments, according to Universities Australia. That's an additional 500,000 total students from 10 years prior.
With the rapid uptake of university studies, it's important to ask: Are university students getting their money's worth? In this article, we'll dive deep into what makes university study worthwhile, and how vocational education and training (VET) may provide better bang for your buck.
What do you want out of your studies?
To really determine which study option will be more valuable to you, you need to understand more clearly what you're studying for. For example, are you studying for academic development or to prepare for a career?
This is a key area where universities and VET providers differ.
University studies are a valuable means to further your educational development, equipping you with a broader set of general knowledge and engaging you in high-level thinking. They're largely theoretical, however, so most of your studies will be based around academic concepts without necessarily including practical application or skill development.
Real skills, real career
Meanwhile, VET qualifications place a greater emphasis on the development of real skills. That means while you'll still enjoy tertiary-level education, more of your studies and assessments will examine directly applicable workplace skills. During your studies, you'll start working in a paid entry-level industry job, meaning you're building skills as well as experience.
The skills and experience you gain in a VET programme are what employers are looking for. They want to see you've worked the floor and understand the day-to-day issues employees and the business are facing. This is especially true to hospitality management – you can't manage a hotel, for example, without having experienced what it takes to lead. Your effectiveness as a manager is problem solving on the floor, so you need to know what people are experiencing.
Can you be work-ready straight out of university?
Many universities have work-integrated learning programmes which place students into industry workplaces to complete research projects. These are valuable exercises that provide some experience, but are usually at the management level and don't give you the right skill base to enter the workforce without starting from ground zero.
Often, larger businesses (hotel or restaurant chains, for example) will have graduate programmes which are designed to take university graduates and provide them practical skills that will help them climb the career ladder faster. However, there are only so many big organisations with graduate programmes, and with over 300,000 university course completions each year (according to Universities Australia), the competition is very tight.
Some students can improve their work readiness by taking on part-time work alongside their studies, but this requires strong self-direction and doesn't come with the same support as VET study.
In comparison, a VET programme complements paid, part-time work (usually around 20 hours a week) by reinforcing your practical experiences. Both work and study are intertwined, with your employer supporting your studies and your lecturers and mentors supporting your work. As a result, you build a strong skillset that's immediately desirable to employers.
How much does university study cost?
We've spoken about the "bang" – so what about the "buck"? When comparing the costs of university study and VET, there's more to consider than just the price tag. How will you pay for your studies, and when can you start earning? Below, we take a closer look at the financial considerations for domestic students.
The costs of university studies
For a Bachelor of Business, most undergraduates in a Commonwealth supported place (CSP) will be required to make a maximum student contribution of $10,958 per year (based on 2019 student contribution limits). In a typical three-year degree, that equates to roughly $32,874, assuming all courses are in the same CSP band.
During these three years, university students will need to take on individual part-time work in order to be earning while they study. As mentioned above, this involves no support from the university and can be distracting or add additional pressure to an already busy student's life.
Being a longer qualification, there's also more time before students start full-time gainful employment, delaying their career growth, particularly considering they'll most likely be starting with basic floor work in a hospitality job.
The costs of VET study
VET study has the potential to be considerably more affordable for students, particularly where Smart and Skilled subsidies are available. For example, an Advanced Diploma of Hospitality Management at Kenvale College would typically cost $18,000 for the whole qualification. Thanks to our Smart and Skilled subsidies, you may instead be eligible to study with tuition as low as $4,120.
Kenvale is also a registered VET Student Loan provider, meaning your studies may be eligible for a loan up to $5,171 – enough to the cover the whole tuition upfront. This means you won't pay anything until your annual income reaches the compulsory repayment threshold ($45,881 for 2019-2020), after which you'll pay back your fees at the relevant rate (currently between 2 and 8 per cent, per annum).
On top of this opportunity, Kenvale students – and those in most VET courses – are engaged in formal, gainful employment as part of their studies. So, they can choose not to take on a VET student loan and simply use their wages to pay for their studies. Otherwise, they may use their wages to support living out of home while studying.
Lastly, consider that the Advanced Diploma of Hospitality Management takes only two years to complete, during which you'll be working your way up the career ladder. For this reason, we often see our most dedicated Kenvale students graduate and enter full time work with a salary of $60,000, before they're 21 years old.
Prepare yourself for the workplace with Kenvale
Long story short, university studies are worthwhile if you're investing in your professional and academic development – but if you're studying to enter the workforce as a highly valued skilled employee, VET programmes provide a more direct pathway. Get more bang for your buck with a VET qualification at Kenvale College.
For more information, reach out to a course advisor today.