The Australian education system – Course Types

Photo Credit: Tourism Western Australia.

The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) is the body that oversees and regulates the education and training system in Australia. The framework divides the courses into levels 1 – 10 and institutions use these as a guide to establish minimum entry requirements, workload and expectations.

Level 1 – Certificate I

Level 2 – Certificate II

Level 3 – Certificate III

Level 4 – Certificate IV

Level 5 – Diploma

Level 6 – Advanced Diploma, Associate Degree

Level 7 – Bachelor Degree

Level 8 – Bachelor Honours Degree, Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma

Level 9 – Masters Degree

Level 10 – Doctoral Degree

Generally, international students will enrol into a Certificate III onwards. If you have already completed a degree in another country, this may help you understand what the qualification you hold is equivalent to in Australia. This is also useful to refer to if a certain job title or position requires you to have a qualification of a specific level. For more information you can visit the Australian Qualifications Framework website.

Course fees

  • ELICOS (English courses): $250 – $420 per week
  • VET courses (Certificate III to Advanced Diploma): from $4,000 to $24,000
  • Bachelor degree: $30,000 approx. per year
  • Master Degree: $30,000 approx. per year

Fees are indicative and do not take into account application fee, resources and materials or scholarships. Degrees and qualifications in certain areas such as nursing may be higher due to the practical component and necessary additional tools required to teach the course.

Course commencement dates

If you are planning to study at university or TAFE International, Australia offers two course commencement date options: February (known as Semester 1) and July (known as Semester 2). You have to bear in mind that you may need to first study English in order to meet the language requirements of your course. If so, you will need to plan in advance and set up the pathway correctly.

If you are looking to study a Certificate or Diploma, these courses are generally offered to commence several times throughout the year.

English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS)

General English – Focused on day-to-day communication skills to develop fluency in English

English for Academic Purposes (EAP) – Courses tend to be offered in ‘modules’ of 5 to 10 weeks at a time. Focused on vocabulary and skills you will need to meet higher study entry requirements

Study tours – Short courses combining holiday activities with study of english in a group, usually coming from the same source

English exam preparation – Usually IELTS focused but varies by institution. Concentrates on improving students’ English abilities in the tested areas of reading, writing, speaking and listening

English for specific purposes – Focuses on vocabulary and terms you will need in a specific field such as business, I.T, hospitality, etc.

Bridging Program – Offered in modules of 10 to 30 weeks at a university college. Usually acts a pathway and in conjunction with an offer to study a degree at that university*

*Not an ELICOS course but similar in structure and popular with overseas students

These courses usually have the following features:

Duration: 4-48 weeks

Levels offered: from beginner to advanced

Delivery: 20 hours a week

Intakes: several intakes a year

VET & TAFE Courses

VET (Vocational Education and Training) courses are mainly focused on developing your practical skills in a particular area for work purposes. They are cheaper than a university degree and have fairly low entry requirements.

TAFE (Technical And Further Education) courses are of higher level than VET and are more intensive. Units studied as part of a TAFE course can sometimes be later credited to a university degree.

A list of some of the fields you can study is outlined below:

  • Business Administration
  • Communications and IT
  • Design
  • Engineering
  • Hospitality
  • Fitness
  • Marketing
  • Leadership and project management
  • Music
  • Animation
  • Film
  • Accounting

Course Duration:

Certificate I: 3-6 months

Certificate II & III: 6-12 months

Certificate IV: 1 year

Diploma & Advanced Diploma: 1-2.5 years

Vocational Graduate Certificate: 6 months

Vocational Graduate Diploma: 1-1.5 years

University Education in Australia

Australia has 43 universities, two of which are private, so there is plenty of options to chose from! You can rest assured that you will receive world-class education as six of these made it to the global top 100 list published by the 2016 Academic Ranking of World Universities.

University courses are usually divided into two semesters per year with intakes in February and July. There are some exceptions where the academic calendar has three semesters instead. 

Popular courses for overseas students include:

Diploma: basic program in a specialised field (1-2 years)

Bachelor Degree: required qualification for most professions (usually minimum of 3 years)

Master’s Degree by coursework or research: specialised further study after a Bachelor’s degree (1-2 years)

Doctoral degree or PhD: the highest award offered in Australia

As an international student, you will have to meet a minimum English language requirement to be accepted into a college or university.

Depending on the course and level of study you want to enrol in, you may also be expected to meet other academic requirements. In most cases, you must have completed the equivalent of year 12 in Australia in your home country.

It is not unusual for students who do not meet the minimum English requirement to enrol in an English study course first and then continue onto further studies as a ‘package’.

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