Australian Education System—Things you need to know!

Australian Education System

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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Australia and its education system

Australia, ranked 16th on the Legatum Prosperity Index, has become one of the most sought-after education and immigration destinations in the world. The sixth largest nation on the planet, with breathtaking natural beauty and a stable economy, Australia has proved to be a land of extreme promise to all those who wish to study abroad. The country is home to some of the world’s most reputed universities, which besides providing unparalleled quality of education also bring to the table immense job prospects and undeniably fulfilling campus life. Australian universities are known for their innovative approach to teaching and boasts of internationally acclaimed faculty members on their teaching panel. The Australian education system has consistently earned a top spot on the QS World Ranking and the Times Higher Education Ranking and offers about 22,000 + types of courses across 1,100 institutes and has the world’s top-rated cities for education, which includes Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, and Brisbane.

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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Details of Australian education system including the study levels

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 the “school education” refers to primary and secondary education, and the 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

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

a) Primary School – Running for about seven years, beginning at kindergarten or preparatory through Year 6 or 7.

b) Secondary School – Running for approximately 4 years from Year 7 to 10.

c) Senior Secondary School – This refers to the final two years of school education, namely Year 11 and Year 12.

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Vocational Education and Training

Also known as the VET, this aims to train students who wish to join the workforce directly after they finish their school education without pursuing a university education. VETs offer short, compact, hands-on alternatives to a college education and focus on specific areas of work. These courses are to train individuals for skilled, semiskilled, trade and paraprofessional careers. This sector is based on a partnership between the industry and the government, and the courses are provided by government colleges called Technical and Further Education (TAFE) Institutions.

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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.

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.

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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


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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