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From dropout to doctor with TAFE NSW


With HSC results set to be announced tomorrow, respected demographer Dr Liz Allen is sharing her unconventional pathway to tertiary education to inspire young people to consider TAFE NSW if they don’t get the ATAR they were hoping for.

According to a report by the National Skills Commission[1], people with post school qualifications generally have better employment outcomes than those who have not completed further education after leaving school. 

In 2019, the median weekly earnings for an employee with a certificate III or IV was $1150 while the medium weekly earnings for an employee with no post-school qualification was $820.

Dr Liz Allen is a respected demographer and lecturer at the Australian National University, and speaking to her now you would never guess the rocky path that led her to where she is today.

“Life became derailed for me while I was in high school and I did not finish my year 12. The mainstream school system was really never right for me,” Dr Allen said.

“I had my eldest daughter as a teenager and wanted to be a role model for her, so when she was around nine months old I started the Certificate IV in Tertiary Preparation (TPC) at TAFE NSW Mount Druitt.”

TAFE NSW offers two pathways to complete a Year 12 equivalent. The HSC at TAFE NSW can be undertaken at any time as an alternative to the HSC at school. The course takes place over two years and students graduate with an ATAR.

The TPC is a one year course aimed at providing students of all ages with an alternate option for completing year 12 and gaining a recognised Tertiary Entry Score accepted by the University Admissions Centre. Graduates can go on to pursue higher education, enter the defence force or pursue further vocational education and training.

“I could never have dreamed of the transformative impact a TAFE education would have on my life. TAFE was way more than education, it was a passport to life.

“Homelessness, teen parenthood and poverty had profoundly hurt me growing up. TAFE helped me take my life on a different course to the track it was on by enabling me to control my own destiny,” Dr Allen said.

TAFE NSW Career Pathways Team Leader Elizabeth Fisher said the TPC is first and foremost an academic course, teaching students how to learn, how to reason and how to research, in preparation for further tertiary or university studies. 

“The TPC is perfect for anyone who had an incomplete schooling experience, or wants to further their tertiary education or employment prospects,” Ms Fisher said.

“The TPC not only gives students practical skills in researching and writing essays, and a recognised Tertiary Entry Score, it gives them increased confidence in their abilities and sets up a strong educational foundation that will serve them for the rest of their lives.”  

Dr Allen says that what began as a desire to finish school ended up being a healing process. TAFE NSW offered her a supportive environment to find her way in the world. Now she’s encouraging others to consider an education at TAFE NSW to help them find their own path.

“I experienced a great deal of trauma growing up and wanted to feel like I belonged in society. Studying at TAFE gave me the opportunity to interact with educators and peers in a safe learning environment where it didn’t matter who I was or where I’d come from.

“TAFE was a truly transformative experience for me. The freedom and independence of the teaching and learning environment at TAFE is world-class. I gained an education and a pretty awesome life,” Dr Allen said.

To learn more about Tertiary Preparation Study and employability pathways available at TAFE NSW head to or phone 131 601.   

Media contact: Alice Dalley, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist,, mobile 0402 528 210.