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Education system in Australia

Everything you need to know about the Australian education system

Australia offers a diverse range of study options for international students, with more than 1,100 institutions and 22,000 courses to choose from.

Australia’s educational institutions rank well in terms of student satisfaction, employability, quality of life and sense of student community, with Melbourne and Sydney ranking among the top five best cities for students to study in. Both of these cities are home to some of the top ranking universities known for their quality education.

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How does it work?

The education system in Australia is three-tiered with primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education.

University is the highest level of education in Australia. Australia has 43 universities: 40 government-funded public universities, two international universities and one private speciality university. Students can attend on-campus bachelor degrees or postgraduate courses (including certificate, postgraduate diploma, master and doctoral programmes). Vocational courses focus on practical skills and industry training. Vocational training courses are offered in government-funded institutions, including TAFE (Technical and Further Education), or other private institutions. Many colleges offer students credit towards university courses.

Qualifications framework

The Australian education system is distinguished from many other countries by the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). The AQF was established in 1995 and is a national policy that covers qualifications from the tertiary education sector (higher education, vocational education and training) in addition to the school leaving certificate, called the Senior Secondary Certificate of Education.

Fee structure

The average tuition fees at one of Australia’s tertiary institutions ranges between AUD$20,000 and AUD$30,000 a year. Find out more about the cost of studying in Australia in detail here.


There are a range of scholarships available for international students. It is best to check the website of your chosen university for the most up to date information. Know more about the available grants, scholarships and bursaries here.

Teaching and learning style

You can study at all levels of education from vocational education and training (VET), English language courses to higher education (including universities), and undergraduate and postgraduate studies. Tertiary education includes both higher education and VET.

Higher education

Higher education courses can be taken by students to earn an advanced degree and continue their studies in Australia. There are three main types of higher education that lead to bachelor, master and doctoral degrees. Teaching at universities normally takes place in large group lectures and small group tutorials.


An Australian vocational education and training (VET) qualification can provide a pathway to entering the workforce or university. There are many vocational training courses in areas such as information technology, business services, art and media, tourism and hospitality, childcare, transport and logistics, construction, mining, manufacturing and rural industries.

Pathway programmes

Australia also offers a number of pathway programmes to higher education for international students including foundation studies and English language preparation programmes, to ensure students receive the extra support and assistance they need to succeed.

Academic year

The Australian secondary or high school system starts each year in late January or early February, while vocational and university students start at the end of February/early March. Most high schools have three or four terms; universities and vocational colleges have two semesters. Exams are held at the end of each semester (June and November), with 2-4 week breaks between each semester, and a longer break over the summer from November/December to February. In some instances, you may be able to choose a course that offers a summer programme, which means you can do a third semester in the year.

Learning English

Learning English is probably the most important factor when planning your studies in Australia. If your proficiency in the English language is limited, you may be advised to enrol in an English language school before starting your program of study.

Australia has approximately 100 private English language centres around the country. Universities and TAFEs (Technical and Further Education) offer courses for those interested in developing their English language skills.

After graduation

Having an Australian tertiary qualification is highly regarded around the world. Combined with Australia’s strong economy and low unemployment rates, Australia offers strong employment outcomes for graduates.


Many international students now have the opportunity to spend more time in Australia following the completion of their studies. If you have completed a bachelor, master or PhD degree, you may be eligible for the Post-Study Work Stream of the Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa. This may enable you to stay in Australia following your studies to gain practical experience working in your field. More information on post-study work rights is available on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website

Postgraduate study

Both universities and private colleges offer postgraduate courses in Australia. A master’s degree has three formats – Master’s degree (coursework), Master’s degree (research) and Master’s degree (extended). Similarly, on doctorate level, there are two formats- Research doctorate (PhD) and Professional Doctorate. Admission criteria at postgraduate level is quite competitive including high levels of English language proficiency and remarkable academic qualifications. You should also know that some courses like architecture and medicine are only offered by universities.

Information That You Need To Know

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Australia Higher Education

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