Education System in Australia

The higher education system of Australia has both government and private institutions in it. If a university or college is seen as part of the higher education system (also known as tertiary education), then it was either established by or is recognized by the Australian government as a tertiary institution.

Higher education programs include all of the schools that cover Levels 1 through 10 according to the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF).

There are hundreds of other schools out there that provide technical and further education (TAFE) and vocational education and training (VET). These schools offer short courses, certificates I through IV, diplomas, and advanced diplomas. They focus on training their students in a particular vocation or just to help their students get out into the work place. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Commercial training providers, usually run by a company or of their own accord.
  • The training department of manufacturing or service enterprises, which provide services to the employees that they already have or employees that have just been hired.
  • The training function of employer or employee organizations in a particular industry, which provide services to the employees that they already have or employees that have just been hired.
  • Group Training Companies.
  • Community learning centers and neighborhood houses.
  • Secondary colleges providing VET programs

There are also a number of smaller schools that you can find, which are not accredited, that will give you the same quality of vocational and/or technical education for a lower price; you just have to do your research to see if you can find one that suits your needs.

As of 2009, the Australia higher education system had 41 universities. 37 of the universities are public, 2 are private, and 2 of them are Australian branches of universities that are located overseas. There are also 3 self-accrediting higher education institutions. There are also dozens of smaller schools that do not grant any degrees or have accreditation – these are private schools that focus on theology, business, information technology, natural therapies, hospitality, health, law and accounting.

Most Australian universities are self-accrediting institutions that each run under a legislation (usually at the state or territory level). They get most of their funding from the Australian government through the Higher Education Support Act 2003. This act put the existing aims of universities into legal terms, recognized each of the universities, and introduced measures to strengthen the knowledge base of the country. Essentially, this act made it so that Australian universities were able to obtain money from the federal government via grants and loans.

Most of the syllabi are set by the universities that are offering the courses, and are not controlled by any government entity. Even though the higher education system is more unified than that of other countries, each university is still able to set their own coursework and program requirements. As with most countries, the teacher education program is the exception to this rule; the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership oversees any and all requirements related to becoming an educator in any age group.

Many Australian universities are featured in top 100 lists for international universities from around the world. The University of Melbourne and the Australian National University are two of the most well-known and well-respected universities in the world. If you are considering pursuing your higher education, whether vocational or academic, in Australia, you are in good hands. You will get a world-class education at a fair price that will make you ready for the world that you will be working in.
Types of Courses and Qualifications

Many institutions in Australia offer English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) that you can take before or alongside your regular coursework. These courses are often intense and have the intention of teaching you English as quickly as possible so that you can adapt to life in Australia and speaking English without a lot of frustration.


  • Certificate Levels 1 to 4: These certificates are the baseline educational steps. Getting these certificates take anywhere from 6 months to a year, but it could take more or less time depending on where you go. The first two levels of certificates are similar to certificates that you may find in other countries for jobs like administrative positions and other positions that take little to no formal training. Levels 3 and 4 are similar to the vocational certificates that you may find at trade schools, and may teach more specialized skills such as welding, machinery, and basic IT skills. It can also help prepare the student for higher undergraduate education.
  • Diploma (Level 5): The diploma level is a step above level 4, and helps the students involved to gain advanced cognitive and technical knowledge in a particular field. It normally takes about 2 years to obtain these degrees, and they are usually in paraprofessional fields.
  • Advanced Diploma, Associate Degree (Level 6): The associate degree or advanced diploma can take anywhere from 2-3 years, and counts for approximately 3 to 4 semesters of bachelor’s work if the student decides to go for a bachelor’s degree later on. Advanced diplomas are given to those studying technical or vocational fields; associates degrees are given to those who are studying fields that are considered to be more academic. A diploma or an associate’s degree can be very helpful in the process of obtaining employment in Australia or your home country.
  • Bachelor’s Degrees (Level 7): These degrees are the standard degrees that are recognized around the world as an “undergraduate degree.” In Australia, the average amount of time needed to complete a bachelor’s level degree is anywhere from three to four years, depending on your university and the degree that you are pursuing. Most fields that require any type of research are the ones that usually take four years.


Bachelor’s Honours Degrees, Graduate Certificates (Level 8): In our postgraduate article, we will explore the graduate level certificates, but we will take a brief look at bachelor honours degrees here. You can obtain an honours degree in two ways – if your bachelor’s degree would have been finished in three years, you can earn one by staying in school for an extra year and performing certain tasks and/or research. You may also obtain an honours degree if you graduate with a certain grade average while obtaining a four year bachelor’s degree. Any excess requirements (thesis, research projects, etc) needed to obtain your honours degree will be determined by the university you are attending and the program that you are in.

Graduate Certificates and Graduate Diplomas (Level 8): Graduate certificates and graduate diplomas in Australia take approximately one year after earning a Bachelor level degree (level 7). Whether you have a certificate or a diploma is dependent only on the school; there is no real difference between each. After you complete a certificate or diploma at level 8, you will have the skills you need for advanced job positions or for further postgraduate education.

Some people will choose to pursue a graduate certificate to obtain a graduate level education without the time commitment and energy or because they are not pursuing an academic endeavor. They may also pursue a graduate certificate because they are considering a change in career or desire to pursue a Master’s degree in a field that is not related to their Bachelor’s degree.

Master’s Degrees (Level 9): Master’s degrees are one of the higher levels of postgraduate education. These degrees are usually focused on research and academia instead of advancement in the work force. You will likely see those who are already employed in Master’s degree programs.

If you pursue a Master’s degree, you will have more of a focus on your chosen field of study than you did during your bachelor’s studies. This is the case because there are no general education requirements related to the degree. It takes approximately two years of study (after earning your Bachelor’s degree) for you to obtain a Master’s level degree. Many people take on a Master’s degree in order to pursue employment in a research field or to go on and receive a doctorate level degree.

Doctorate Degrees (Level 10): Doctorate degrees are the highest level of education that you can receive in the world. This is the 10th level in Australia’s AQF system, and can include PhD’s, M.D.’s, DPT’s, law degrees, DDS’s, and a variety of other degrees, each named for the profession(s) that they degree is related to.

At the end of your doctoral studies, you are considered to have the highest level of expertise that you can have in your selected field. Many people with doctorates either work in a medical profession, do research, or work in an academic setting like a college or university as a professor. Doctoral degrees can take anywhere from 3 to 6 years to complete, based on factors such as your current employment status, what field you are studying, and how long it takes to complete your dissertation.

Australia Student Visa

Request Counseling for the Australia

Application Form