Australian Education System

Australia is home to over 1200 institutions, offering over 22,000 courses at all levels of education from school to vocational education & training (VET), from English Language Courses to higher education in universities. English is the primary medium of instruction.

At times, some international students are not able to gain entry into their desired institutions & courses because they are a bit short of the required entry levels in their education. The Australian Education system provides international students the advantage of having access to pathway programs, such as English Language courses, Foundation programs, diploma programs & bridging courses. These pathway programs enable international students to automatically gain entry into their desired courses upon successful completion of such pathway programs.

The Australian Education System provides primary, secondary & tertiary education and can be broadly classified as follows :


The Australian schooling system comprises of both government & non-government (private) schools. Each state government manages the school system within their state & provides funding for the schools. The curriculum taught in each state or school may vary but the learning areas are the same in all states. A “National Curriculum Framework” for all Australian schools ensures that uniform national standards in key learning areas are maintained by all Australian schools. It is compulsory for all Australian students to attend school until year 10 or age 16. The Australian schooling system is divided into :

  • Pre-School – Duration 1 year / Student Ages 3-4 years
  • Preparatory/Kindergarten – Duration 1 year / Student ages 4-6 years
  • Primary School – Duration 6-7 years / Student ages 5-12 years
  • Secondary School – Duration 5-6 years Student ages 12-18 years

Vocational Education & Training (VET)

It prepares people for work in a career that does not need a university degree. It focuses on developing career paths through a mix of study & practical work, and combines classroom study as well as hands-on-training. There are 59 TAFE institutes & over 5000 private colleges offering VET courses in Australia. VET providers offer a variety of certificates & diplomas, and sometimes even Bachelor degrees, graduate certificates & graduate diplomas. Typically, a VET course can take anywhere between 3 months to 2.5 years depending on the qualification one is seeking. The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) is the body which sets national standards for the registration & monitoring of VET providers, and for the structure of VET courses. Typically, VET students are –

  • schools leavers seeking to acquire practical skills for work
  • school leavers seeking an alternative pathway to university
  • workers who are seeking to further develop their career skills
  • university graduates who need to acquire practical skills for their work
  • those simply wishing to develop their personal interests

Some of the advantages of VET are as follows :

  • It provides an alternative pathway to higher education.
  • It also provides a pathway from university to VET qualification, that enables students to gain industry experience & improve their employment opportunities.
  • It gives students access to many job opportunities, at times, after as little as 10 months of training.
  • It is appropriate for students with lower levels of English language proficiency. By undertaking these courses, students are able to get more time to develop their language skills before undertaking academic level studies if they wish to continue.
  • Courses are taught by industry experienced instructors. This enables students to get job-ready skills & hence better job opportunities & higher earnings.

Higher Education

The higher education sector consists of mainly universities, both government & private. There are 41 Australian universities, of which 3 are private. The national government provides funding for universities in all the states. Each institution has the freedom to specify its own mission & purpose, modes of teaching & research, the make-up of their student body and the range & content of their education programs.

The academic year is usually from early March to November or mid-July to end-June of the following year. The year is normally divided into 2 semesters, although some universities offer 3 semesters in one calendar year for certain courses. Students studying towards a doctoral degree or other postgraduate research degree may be able to negotiate an alternative starting date with their research supervisor.

The quality assurance of the Higher Education sector is carried out by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), which registers providers, monitors quality & sets standards.

A higher education course leads to an award of any of the following :

  • A diploma (higher education)
  • An advanced diploma (higher education)
  • An associate degree
  • A bachelor degree
  • A graduate certificate (higher education)
  • A graduate diploma (higher education)
  • A bachelor honours degree
  • A masters degree (course work)
  • A masters degree (extended)
  • A masters degree (research)
  • A doctoral degree

The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF)

The AQF is a national system of learning pathways, which is endorsed by the Australian government & recognized throughout Australia & by other countries. It covers most courses & training undertaken by international students in Australia.

The AQF is a system of 17 national qualifications in 3 sectors :

  • Schools
  • Vocational Education & Training (VET)
  • Higher Education

It shows students how they can progress through the Australian Education System. It is important since it –

  • provides a clear structure for the level of each qualification
  • allows students to build their qualification from lower to higher levels
  • allows one education institution to clearly understand the level of a qualification awarded by another & provide appropriate credit.

Below is the link to the official Australian Government website for international students. The website provides ALL relevant information that you may need in order to choose the right course & institution. In effect, it is your one-stop source for all information that you need to take the right decision.

To properly advise students, education agents must have adequate knowledge of how to construct appropriate learning pathways for them. Hence, they need to understand the Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) and also be familiar with the range of study options available.

If you are unable to take a decision on the institution/course, or have chosen one but are unfamiliar with the process of applying, or have secured admission in an educational institution and wish to apply for a student visa, or wish to apply for a Student Guardian Visa, please contact us.