Everything you need to know about the education system in Australia
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 a multiplicity of top ranking institutions including The University of Melbourne, The University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, Monash University, Macquarie University, RMIT University, and many more.
How it works
University is the highest level of education in Australia. Australia has 39 universities: 37 government-funded public universities and two private universities. Students can attend on-campus bachelor degrees or postgraduate courses (including certificate, postgraduate diploma, master and doctoral programs). 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.
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.
Fees and scholarships
Australia is an ideal place to enjoy a world class education and outstanding quality of life, but there are several expenses to consider before you study overseas.
Australia performs incredibly well in terms of affordability, with living expenses (such as private rent) and tuition costs comparable with the United States and United Kingdom. You can also earn a small amount by working part-time while you study.
The Australian Government recommends a single student budget of AUD$19,830 a year for living expenses. Accommodation costs are a large component of living expenses; an allowance should be made for recreation, emergencies and health expenses not covered by Overseas Student Health Cover. Exchange rate variations may also affect budgeting. Knowing the average living costs in Australia is an important part of your financial preparation.
The average tuition fees at one of Australia’s tertiary institutions ranges between AUD$20,000 and AUD$30,000 a year.
There are a range of scholarships available for international students. It is best to check the scholarships website of your chosen university for the most up to date information.
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 (including universities) and vocational education and training (VET).
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, child care, transport and logistics, construction, mining, manufacturing and rural industries.
There are also a number of pathway programs to higher education for international students including foundation studies and English language preparation programs, to ensure students receive the extra support and assistance they need to succeed.
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 program, which means you can do a third semester in the year.
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 offer courses for those interested in developing their English language skills.
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.
If you are finishing your bachelor degree, how do you know if undertaking postgraduate study in Australia is the next step for you? Deciding to go on to postgraduate study is a big step. It means sacrificing more time and staying out of the workforce a bit longer, but it can also be a very worthwhile investment in the long term.
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