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Your Guide to the Education System in Australia

Learn all about the Australian education system with this helpful guide!

Studying in Australia will provide you with an education of unrivalled quality, certificates respected around the world, and a wealth of career opportunities upon graduation. Many international students choose to study at one of Australia's universities because of its stellar reputation in the areas of research and training. 

The fact that Australian institutions frequently rank well in the QS World University Rankings and Times Higher Education Rankings is due in large part to their reputation for academic excellence, vibrant campus life, and qualified faculty. Its curriculum is well-structured and emphasises a variety of abilities, including analytical thinking, creativity, communication, reading, and ethics.

Additionally, Australia offers a diversity of academic degrees, with over 22,000 types of courses accessible in over 1,100 institutions and is home to five of the world's best student cities, including Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, and Brisbane.

Tables of Contents

  • Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF)
  • Study Levels in Australia
  • AQF Qualifications by Education Sector
  • Overseas Qualifications for International Students
  • Higher Education in Australia
  • How GPA Works in Australian Universities
  • Fee Structure in Australian Universities
  • Pedagogy in Australian Classrooms
  • VET (Vocational and Technical Schools)
  • Pathway Programs in Australia
  • English Language Training
  • Postgraduate Studies in Australia
  • Academic Intakes in Australia
  • Post-Study Work Opportunities

Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF)

The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), a national framework established in 1995, sets the criteria for qualifications for the tertiary education sector (further education, vocational education, and training) in addition to the high school diploma, known as the Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. The government recognises and authorises your degree if it is accredited by the AQF.

There are ten levels in the AQF, which link different schools, colleges, universities, and educational institutions into a single national system. As long as they meet the requirements for their student visa, this allows students more freedom of choice and better career planning as they progress from one level of study to the next.

Study Levels in Australia

Australia's education system consists of three levels: elementary, secondary, and university. Here is a summary of the various levels and credentials that are offered in accordance with the AQF.

Levels and qualifications as per Australian Qualification Framework (AQF)
Level 1Certificate I
Level 2Certificate II
Level 3Certificate III
Level 4Certificate IV
Level 5Diploma
Level 6Advanced Diploma, Associate Degree
Level 7Bachelor’s Degree
Level 8Bachelor Honours Degree, Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma
Level 9Master’s Degree
Level 10Doctoral Degree


AQF Qualifications by Education Sector

Schools SectorVocational Education and Training (VET) SectorHigher Education Sector
Senior Secondary Certificate of Education (2 years)Vocational graduate diploma (1–2 years)Doctoral degree (3–4 years)
Vocational graduate certificate (0.5–1 year)Master’s degree (1–2 years)
Advanced diploma (1.5–2 years)Graduate diploma (1–2 years)
Diploma (1–2 years)Graduate certificate (0.5–1 year)
Certificate IV (0.5–2 years)Bachelor’s degree (honours) (1 year)
Certificate III (1–2 years)Bachelor’s degree (3–4 years)
Certificate II (0.5–1 year)Associate degree (1.5–2 years)
Certificate I (0.5–1 year)Diploma (1–2 years)

Overseas Qualifications for International Students

You should check with your education counsellor at IDP to see if your home country's qualification meets the admission requirements for an Australian program. Australian Education International Website is a great source for learning more about how your credentials will be recognised abroad.

What deserves mentioning is that through the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (ESOS Act) and related legislation, Australia protects and enhances the country’s reputation for quality education, provides tuition protection, and supports the integrity of the student visa program.

Higher Education in Australia

In Australia, university education is the highest degree of education. There are 43 universities to choose from, 40 of which are government-funded, two of which are international, and one of which is private.

Higher education comprises bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. The skills and knowledge acquired at these levels make a student ready to work in the industry eventually.

Students have the option of enrolling in vocational courses that might pave the way for further study at the university level or a career in the relevant field. These courses are offered by both privately owned businesses and government-funded schools like TAFE, which stands for Technical and Further Education. The main focus of these courses is on practical workplace skills and training.

How GPA Score Works in Australian Universities

In Australia, a student's grade point average is often calculated as follows: grade points + course unit values/total number of credit points attempted. The final numerical results look like this:

Grade NameGrade Point
High Distinction (HD)7
Distinction (D)6
Fail Level 11
Fail Level 20

International students interested in attending one of the country's elite institutions in Australia should familiarise themselves with the Group of Eight (Go8).

Fee Structure in Australian Universities

The Australian government suggests a yearly budget of AUD$19,830 for a single student to cover basic needs. A significant portion of living expenses goes toward accommodation costs; additional money should be set aside for entertainment, unplanned expenses, and uninsured medical bills not covered by Overseas Student Health Cover. Changes in exchange rates can also affect your budget, and it's important to know how much you can expect to spend on necessities each month in Australia if you want to make a budget. 

The average tuition fee at an Australian tertiary institution is between AUD $20,000 and AUD $50,000 per year.

Pedagogy in Australian classrooms

The Australian educational system places a strong focus on imparting practical knowledge, real-world experience, and work readiness. Australia's universities offer a research-based learning method where you put all the theories and concepts you learn in class into practice.

VET (Vocational and Technical Schools)

When it comes to higher education, students in Australia have the option of enrolling in vocational courses that prepare them for a particular profession. Unlike traditional courses, which place a greater emphasis on theoretical and in-depth knowledge, the primary focus of these courses is on practical learning and professional skills.

Vocational and technical education (VTE) and TAFE (Technical and Further Education) programs are offered by many institutions (VTE). Keep in mind that most courses offer certificates, diplomas, or advanced degrees.

Students enrolled in vocational and technical education programs have a wide range of potential career paths to explore, including the manufacturing, sports, tourism, business, hospitality, and marketing sectors.

Pathway Programs in Australia

International students can need extra help and support to adjust to Australia's educational system and teaching style. That's why there are now numerous higher education pathway programs that provide foundational courses and English language training.

English Language Training

It is imperative to be fluent in English because Australia is an English-speaking nation, and all of your classroom education will be delivered in that language. It can be suggested that you take an English language course before starting your program if you don't speak the language well. There are more than 100 private English language schools in the nation from which to pick.

Postgraduate Studies in Australia

In Australia, postgraduate courses are offered by both universities and private colleges. There are three types of master's degrees: master's (coursework), master's (research), and master's (thesis) (extended).

Similar to master's degree, there are two types of doctorates: research doctorates (Ph.D.), and professional doctorates.

Postgraduate programs tend to be selective, requiring applicants to have exceptional academic credentials and excellent command of the English language. It's important to note that universities are the only places where some courses, like those in architecture and medicine, are given.

Academic Intakes in Australia

There are two mains intakes offered by Australian colleges and universities. Some Australian universities may also refer to academic intakes as a "semester." Australia offers two intakes, which are as follows:

  • Semester 1 begins in late February or early March and ends in late May or early June.
  • Semester 2 begins in late July or early August and ends in November.

In Australia, high schools and colleges often start in late January or early February. Universities only have two semesters, whereas schools have three to four terms. A break of two to four weeks is available between the spring and summer terms for students.

Post-Study Work Opportunities

After graduation, Australia offers a wide range of work opportunities. Upon graduation, you can apply for a subclass 485 temporary graduate visa, which will allow you to stay and continue your education or find jobs in Australia. If you choose to continue your education, you can apply to the next level of study, as there are many appropriate courses and programs for qualified candidates.

You're a step closer to studying in Australia; book your appointment to meet your certified counsellor. It's Free!

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