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Australian Education System – Levels of Education & Comparison

Updated on 24 October, 2023

Kanika Pruthi

Kanika Pruthi

Sr. Content Writer & Study Abroad Expert

Australia is ranked third in the world as an education destination and offers world-class education and an excellent scope of employment once you graduate. An Australian degree is accepted worldwide by recruiters. So, if you are looking for study abroad options, then there are plenty of reasons to choose Australia as a study destination, and therefore an understanding of the Australian education system is imperative.

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Important Link : Best Education Systems in World 

Australia Education System 

To provide students with wise options for the future, Australia’s educational system is properly designed and well-structured. The Australian education system has attained its popularity because of The AQF, or Australian Qualifications Framework, which was adopted in 1995. At the  primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of education, the AQF primarily offers certificates and certifies students based on different levels.

Under the AQF educational system, various degrees are given, including

Diploma (Level 5):

Students obtain specialised knowledge and abilities for skilled/paraprofessional work and/or further learning in the diploma program. It takes 1 – 2 years to finish.

Associate Degree/Advanced Diploma (Level 6): 

Students gain knowledge and abilities for paraprofessional/highly skilled jobs as well as for further learning in the Associate Degree/Advanced Diploma program. It takes 1.5 – 2 years to finish.

Bachelors (Level 7): 

This undergraduate degree requires three to four years of study and seeks to provide broad and coherent knowledge for a professional career or further learning.

Bachelors Honours (Level 8): 

This specialised undergraduate degree provides advanced knowledge and abilities necessary for a highly skilled job in the professional world or for future learning. It takes six months to one year.

Masters (Level 9): 

In Australia, a master’s degree is an expert-level graduate degree in a certain field. It can be finished in one to two years.

Doctorate (Level 10): 

In Australia, it takes 3 to 4 years to finish this postgraduate degree.

Country-Wise Education Systems

How does the Australian education system work?

To fully understand how the Australian education system works, we must first understand what the Australian Qualification Framework or the AQF is. The AQF is a national policy introduced in 1995, by the Australian government, Department of Education, Skills, and Employment, to regulate qualifications in Australian education and training. It incorporates qualifications from each education and training sector to form a single comprehensive national qualifications framework. AQF’s key objective is to establish pathways to, and through, formal qualifications. This policy is split into 10 levels and ranges from Certificate 1, and goes all the way to the doctorate degree level. 

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Level of Study of the Australian Education System

The country employs a tightly regulated education system, governed by the AQF, as discussed above, to uphold a high standard. The education system comprises primary, secondary, and tertiary levels, where “school education” refers to primary and secondary education, and tertiary education refers to postsecondary education. It includes higher (university level) education and Vocational Education and Training.

Let us now take you through the details of each of these levels:

School Education in Australia

Standard across the country, this level is mandatory for all students aged between six and sixteen and is divided into:

  • Primary School – Running for about seven years, beginning at kindergarten or preparatory through Year 6 or 7.
  • Secondary School – Running for approximately 4 years from Year 7 to 10.
  • Senior Secondary School – This refers to the final two years of school education, namely Year 11 and Year 12.

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Vocational Educational Training in Australia 

Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) is a study that gives you the chance to obtain specialized and practical employment skills. It’s the ideal path for overseas students who want to focus on practical, industry-based skills and a quicker pathway to the job. A lot of vocational courses include a period of on-the-job training in addition to classroom or online learning. 

VET courses are offered by privately registered training organizations (RTO), adult and community education centers, and Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutions that are financed by the government.

Depending on the number of study years and the acquired occupational skills and competencies, VET certifications range across four levels of certificates (Certificate I, II, III, and IV), along with Diploma courses and Advanced Diploma courses.

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Technical and Further Education (TAFE) Institutions

TAFE institutes are government funded colleges offering courses in vocational learning. These are often large organizations with a rather large gamut of course options and frequently admit more students than many universities, making the TAFE sector the biggest education and training sector in the country. Some of these TAFE institutes are affiliated to larger universities enabling them to certify students with a bachelor’s degree on completion of a course.

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Private Colleges

The private colleges in Australia also offer Vocational Training and Education courses, but unlike the TAFE institutes, they are much smaller in size and specialize in one or two areas of study, focusing on specific fields in industry.

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VET in Schools

VET training is also offered as a part of the curriculum at senior secondary schools, where students can earn the VET certificate I, II, III and IV along with their senior secondary certificate.

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Higher Education

This brings us to the tertiary education level in Australia. Higher education will allow a student to pursue an undergraduate, graduate, or postgraduate program at affiliated universities and they will be awarded a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree on successful completion of the course. A ‘course’ in the Australian education context refers to the academic program a student wishes to enroll in.

Universities are Australia’s main Higher Education Institutes or HEIs.

There are 41 universities in the country with some of them ranking quite high globally. These universities are government funded except for one or two international ones. They have an impressive array of courses that they offer at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The degrees you earn from Australian universities are recognized worldwide and hold a lot of value in the international job market. Some universities even offer a dual status, meaning that you can acquire both a VET and opt for higher education courses.

Universities put a lot more emphasis on academic grooming and include theoretical and practical examinations and research-based essay writing. The courses require you to choose a “major” or area of specialization. The universities also contribute to enhancing the student’s professional skills and personal attributes, rather than just focusing on training them in occupational skills.

Studying in Australia (Group of 8)

The Go8 is focused on influencing the development and delivery of long-term sustainable national higher education and research policies, as well as creating elite international alliances and research partnerships.

The Group of Eight (Go8) comprises Australia’s eight most prestigious research-intensive universities:

In the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the Times Higher Education Rankings (THES), and the QS World University Rankings, seven of the Go8’s members are ranked in the world’s top 100 universities, and all of the Go8’s members are ranked in the world’s top 150 universities (QS).

Top Universities in Australia

Australia is home to a number of prestigious institutions. Below are the top 10 universities in Australia:

Australian UniversitiesQS World Ranking 2022
Australian National University (ANU)#27
University of Sydney#38
University of Melbourne#37
University of New South Wales (UNSW)#43
University of Queensland (UQ)#47
Monash University#58
University of Western Australia (UWA)#93
University of Adelaide#108
University of Technology Sydney (UTS)#133
University of Wollongong#193

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How is the Australian education system different from other countries?

The Australian education system has distinct characteristics that set it apart from other countries. Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) is an efficient system that facilitates ease of transfer between qualifications and courses. This tightly regulated, yet easy-to-comprehend framework allows countries to accurately identify qualification levels and issue equivalent qualifications that the students can use locally within the country.  There are 10 levels identified under the AQF that interconnects schools, universities, and other educational institutions; this allows students to exercise flexibility and offers them a better scope of planning for career paths.

Here are AQF levels of qualification:



Certificate I


Certificate II

Certificate III


Certificate IV



Advanced Diploma, Associate Degree

Bachelor’s Degree


Bachelors’ Honors Degree, Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma

Masters’ Degree


Doctorate Degree

  1. According to both the Times Higher Education Rankings and the QS World Ranking, Australian universities consistently rank among the top universities in the world for educational excellence. The well-designed curriculum would probably meet your demands if you wish to pursue higher education in Australia. It aims to develop a range of skills, including analytical thinking, critical thinking, communication, literacy, creativity, and ethical awareness.
  2. Australia’s educational system is regarded as one of the greatest in the world. The University of New South Wales, the University of Queensland, the University of Melbourne, and the University of Sydney are among the top fifty universities in the world, according to University Ranking by Quacquarelli Symonds.
  3. Australia welcomes international students more effectively than other nations. The Overseas Student Program is open to international students. Of course, in order to obtain the visa, you must demonstrate your eligibility in a number of areas. For an Australian student visa, you must first present proof of your enrollment in study courses at an Australian university. Second, you must demonstrate that you have the financial means to cover both the tuition and living costs. Finally, you must purchase health and liability insurance. The third need is to demonstrate your proficiency in English. Fortunately, the procedure for obtaining a visa for overseas students is not as difficult as it may seem.
  4. Australia provides a wide range of research possibilities for qualified people. The largest benefit is that it provides country-based research because it is dispersed around the nation. The recipients of the research opportunities will be chosen based on merit and will have a demonstrated history of academic success. Australian universities are world-class in a variety of fields, including the humanities, sciences, and education. Australian researchers are among the best in the world, as evidenced by their contributions to the development of penicillin, IVF, and Wi-Fi.
  5. The nation boasts of having over 2.5 million alumni from throughout the world who are making a difference in the world and has produced 15 Nobel laureates.  Very few people are aware of the fact that a number of breakthroughs, including Wi-Fi, Earth Hour, black boxes for flights, Cochlear implants, and many others, were developed by Australian university graduates.

Australia is definitely one of the finest places for a student to live in and benefit the most from its unique education system.

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Study in Australia with upGrad Abroad

Uniquely designed programs from upGrad Abroad enable students to save on tuition and other expenses. These programs allow students to take a portion of their course online and finish it on campus.

Benefits of enrolling in upGrad’s program:

  • Quality education at lower prices
  • Degree from international colleges/universities
  • Time-saving
  • Save up to 1/5th the education cost
  • End-to-end application and visa process support 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I work during my study in Australia?

All students with subclass 500 visas are permitted to work up to 40 hours per fortnight and full-time during vacations and doctorate students are permitted to work full-time throughout the year.






Can I apply for a scholarship in Australia?

Yes, there are many scholarships for international students in Australia that help pay for their tuition, housing, and other living costs.

It’s interesting that certain scholarships reward students for involvement in the community. This includes involvement in volunteer work, athletic teams, community groups, clubs, etc.

How can I apply for studying in Australia?

The application procedure may differ between universities, therefore it is best to check the institution’s website and get in touch with them to learn about the prerequisites.






What is the processing time for a student visa to Australia?

Typically, it takes a month to process a student visa. It could take three months, though, depending on the documentation and verification process.






What study program is best in Australia?

In Australia, there are numerous study options for undergraduate and graduate degrees. Business management, healthcare, engineering, architecture, information technology, business analytics, geology, and health sciences are among the top.







Kanika Pruthi

Sr. Content Writer & Study Abroad Expert

Kanika has 5+ years of experience as a writer and content developer. She has written for a wide range of industry verticals, including hospitality, restaurants, non-profits, finance, IT, HR, technology, payroll, and education. She has worked as a creator for a few leading companies and has also helped brands grow through her creative writing.

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