A Quick Overview of the Australian Education System

A Guide to the Australian Education System

The Australian Education System is one of the most well-structured and prestigious education systems. That is the reason students from all over the world are looking for opportunities to study in Australia. Whether you are an overseas student looking for opportunities or a student already living in Australia, this article will help you to get the required information you need to make an informed decision about your studies or the education of a loved one.

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Irrespective of whether it is a government or a private institution, the whole education system of Australia is regulated by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment, and Reporting Authority. It is controlled by the Minister of Education, currently Dan Tehan. The education industry of Australia is well established and comprises of major schools and universities, many of which are more than a century old. Education is a billion-dollar industry in Australia and contributes about 5-6% of their GDP. It is compulsory in Australia to provide education to a child between the ages of 6 to 16.

Distribution of the Australian Education System


1) Primary Education: It comprises the early stages of education that are provided to a child. It includes preparatory, also known as preschool and Kindergarten. It runs for 6 to 7 years.

2) Secondary Education: After completing their primary schooling, students get enrolled for secondary education, which runs for 3-4 years, depending on different institutions. It comprises classes 7 or 8 to 10.

  1. Senior Education: This comprises of the senior years of a student’s education. It is for two years and runs from classes 11 to 12. It is a part of secondary education.

3) Tertiary Education: After completion of their schooling education, students can pursue further higher education from any University or VET Institute of their choosing. This tertiary education comprises of their undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctorate programs.

Vocational Education and Training- VET

Apart from schooling and higher education from an accredited university, Australia has an interesting program called the Vocational Education and Training Program.

The vocational Education and Training sector offers many courses from Registered Training Organisations or RTOs. The RTOs consists of private institutions and Technical and Further Education Institutes (TAFE).

The VET sector in Australia aims to provide working skills to students after completing Secondary School. VET courses enable students to easily find job opportunities and continue their studies after taking a break and switching between different careers. They ensure consistent quality of training throughout the country, keep students updated with the latest advancements in the respective industry, and provide students with a nationally recognized certification course.

VET courses provide occupational skills to students in the form of certifications, diplomas, Advanced diplomas, and English language Courses. These training courses may cost from 5,000$ to 30,000$ depending upon the course and institutes.

VET courses require a student to have completed their senior secondary education to get enrolled; some courses even require pre-existing knowledge or work experience.

Australian Qualification Framework (AQF)

The Australian Qualification Framework is an integral part of the Australian Education System. It links all the different levels of schools, universities, and VET institutions together to form their National Education Policy.

AQF was introduced in 1995; it encompasses all institutions of education and establishes a set of requirements and goals which help in categorizing a student’s skills and occupational competency. The Australian Qualification Framework is a set of hierarchy levels that set a standard of abilities and qualifications of an individual.

Main points of AQF:


  1. It consists of ten levels.
  2. These levels start from 1, which represents very basic knowledge or skill of a subject, to level 10, which is the highest and is equivalent to a Doctoral degree.
  3. These levels are distinguished based on their level of education.
  4. Each level has a specified time that is required to complete the respective course of study.
  5. It ensures quality training and education standards.
  6. Provides international recognition to the students.

AQS in Australian Education System

Education Services for Overseas Students Act (ESOS)

The Education Services for Overseas Students act was established in 2000. This act was established to protect the rights of foreign or international students who are currently studying in Australia on a valid student visa.

The ESOS act helps an international student in the following ways:

  1. It protects your right to information. It ensures you get all the information about your course, tuition fee, curriculum, etc., from the university.
  2. It avoids any duplication and scams.
  3. It protects the tuition you have paid to the university by validating it.
  4. It helps in completing the refund process in case the university denies your course or if it is unable to teach it.
  5. It maintains an equal standard of education.
  6. It specifies the conditions which both the parties are liable to fulfill i.e., Student and University.

Academic Year in Australia

The days in an academic year in the Australian schooling system vary in different states and on the course which you have undertaken.

Schools: (Primary and Secondary)
In most schools all across Australia, the academic year begins in February and ends in early December. The year consists of 200 days which are divided into four terms.

  1. Term 1- February to April
  2. Term 2- April to June
  3. Term 3- July to September
  4. Term 4- October to December

Term 4- October to December

Tertiary: (VET and Universities)
Usually, in both the cases of VET Institutes and Universities, the whole academic year is divided into two semesters for Undergraduate degrees as well as Post Graduate degrees, but some universities also offer 3 semesters or trimesters depending on the courses. It starts in February in most institutes.

Doctoral: Ph.D. or Doctoral candidates on the other have the option to choose a time of starting the year by consulting with their universities since most doctoral candidates don’t have to attend classes because of their research.

Course Credit: The most impressive feature of the Australian education system is that it recognizes your skills and prerequisite knowledge while evaluating your course. In this feature, you are awarded course credits depending on the knowledge and skills you have learned elsewhere or the level of training and work-based skills you have.

The Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) program allows students to build on their course credits and transfer them. These credits allow students to skip certain subjects which they have already learned.

Australia has a dedicated organization that deals with the recognition of qualifications and skills from other countries, it is called the National Office of Overseas Skills Recognition (NOOSR).

The Australian schooling system requires a definite number of subjects that you must study to complete your qualifications. While selecting the course, the student must present proof of their prerequisite experience and qualification. This proof may be in the form of a reference from the place of work or in the form of a certification from a recognized university or educational institute. The National Office of Overseas Skills and Recognition (NOOSR) ensures the documents’ validity. Once approved, you can apply for exemptions from studying a particular subject or a unit, if applicable. Keep in mind that if you opt for exemption from a subject, you still have to take up another subject to complete your specified number of credits to complete your certification from that university.

Cost of Education

The tuition fee is a major deciding factor when selecting a course or subject of study in any university all over the world. It is very important to consider the financial aspects of a course before making any major decisions since education is one of the most crucial factors of life. The Australian Education System entails the following tuition fees per year according to the University and level of education.


Schools – $8,000 to $30,000
Depending upon the nature of the school and the subjects that you opt for, the tuition fee of one student per academic year may be anywhere between 8K to 30K

VET- $5,000 to $30,000
Vocational and educational training courses cost about 5K to 30K per year, depending upon the course and the institution for which you are studying.

Undergraduate Programs- $20,000 to $45,000
The Bachelor’s degrees in most institutions in Australia have tuition fees ranging from 20K to 45K.

Post Graduate or Doctoral Programs- $15,000- $60,000
The doctoral or master’s degree programs are the most expensive of them all. Their fee may be anywhere between 15K and 60K.

These fee ranges do not include many exceptionally expensive courses, such as medical schools and veterinary schools. Though you can get the exact tuition fee of each course from the respective websites of the Institutions where you are planning to study. Even then, the cost of education in Australia, especially in private institutes, is significantly high.

Scholarships: Due to the high cost of education in Australia, many students can not avail the facility of higher studies in Australia. To tackle this issue and make education more affordable, many scholarship schemes are available for aspiring students to help with their tuition fees. The Australian Government, Universities, and many private and public organizations offer these scholarship programs and grants.

Students have easy access to information about these grants and scholarship programs. All information related to the scholarship is present on the University’s website or the provider’s portal. Students have to contact the organization providing the scholarship to learn about the eligibility criteria. If eligible, students can avail of this aid to get help with their financials.

Here are some of the major Scholarships which are offered to international as well as national students:

1) Research and Training Program (RTP): The Australian Government provides these scholarship programs. It was previously known as the International Postgraduate Research Scholarships (IPRS) program. Applications for this program are open throughout the year. Applications for RTP are sent directly to the university you are planning to study at. These scholarships are provided only to domestic and international students undergoing post-graduation or doctoral research. This scholarship covers one or more of the following aspects:

  1. Tuition Fees
  2. Cost of living throughout the course
  3. Costs related to the research

2) Australia APEC Women in Research Fellowship: This scholarship is offered by the Australian Govt. and the APEC fellowship. It is an organization that provides financial aid to exceptional women who are doing research. It is provided only to females who are doing their post-graduation research. It promotes the participation of women researchers from the Asia Pacific region.

3) Australia Awards Scholarship (AAS): This scholarship aims to provide educational opportunities to participants from developing countries in the Indo-Pacific region. The Australian Government offers it for undergraduate as well as postgraduate courses. It was previously known as Australian Development Scholarships (ADS). It is offered only to international students to build Australia’s relations with partner countries. The dates of application are country-specific. The following benefits are included in this scholarship:

  1. Tuition Fee
  2. Accommodation Allowance
  3. Air Travel Allowances
  4. Fieldwork and Research Allowance

4) Destination Australia Program (DAP): This scholarship is funded by the government of Australia. It is provided to 1000 students each year. It is offered to domestic as well as international students. The selected students will be provided with an opportunity to study at regional campuses all across Australia. The main objective of this program is to invite students to study, research, and help develop regional Australia and its tertiary education providers. This program was announced as part of the Planning of Australia’s Future Population.

Apart from these, other private organizations offer scholarship programs to students from all over the world. With the help of these scholarships, many students are participating to get admission to the most prestigious universities in Australia.

Hope this article provided you with the information you needed about the Australian Education System and the various ways you can access the vast opportunities available.

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