Studying in Australia

Studying in Australia

Education System

Everything you will need to know about the education system in Australia

Australia offers an extremely wide range of study options for international students, with over 1,100 institutions and 22,000 courses to choose from. Australia’s educational institutions rank highly in terms of student satisfaction, employability, quality of life and sense of student community. Melbourne and Sydney rank among the top five best cities for students to study in and are both home to top-ranking institutions including The University of Melbourne, The University of Sydney, the University of New South Wales, Monash University, Macquarie University, RMIT University.

How the education system works

University is the highest level of education in Australia. There are 39 universities in Australia: 37 government-funded public universities and two private universities. Universities provide on-campus bachelor degrees or postgraduate courses (including certificate, postgraduate diploma, master and doctoral programs). Vocational courses focus on practical skills and industry training. Vocational training courses are offered in government-funded institutions, this includes TAFE (Technical and Further Education), or other private institutions. A number of colleges offer students credit towards university courses.

Qualifications framework

One feature distinguishing the Australian education system from many other countries education systems is the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). The AQF was established in 1995 and is a nationwide policy that covers qualifications from the tertiary education sector (higher education, vocational education and training) in addition to the school leaving certificate(Senior Secondary Certificate of Education).

Fees and scholarships

Australia is a great place to experience world-class education alongside an outstanding quality of life. However, there are some expenses to consider before you study overseas.
Australia continues to offer affordability in terms of living expenses (such as accommodation) and tuition costs comparable with the United States and the United Kingdom. And you can earn a small amount by working part-time while you study. The Australian Government recommends a single student budget of around AUD$19,830 a year for living expenses. Accommodation costs are a large part of your living expenses; but you should allow for recreation, emergencies and health expenses not covered by Overseas Student Health Cover. Exchange rate variations could also affect a student’s budget. Knowing the average living costs in Australia is an important part of your financial preparations.

The average tuition fees at Australia’s tertiary institutions range between AUD 20,000 and AUD 30,000 a year.


There is wide a range of scholarships available for international students. Check the scholarships website of your chosen university for the latest information.

Teaching and learning style

In Australia, you can study at all levels of education including vocational education and training (VET), English language courses right up to higher education (including universities) with undergraduate and postgraduate studies. Tertiary education includes both higher education (including universities) and vocational education and training (VET).

Higher education

You can take higher education courses to earn an advanced degree. There are three main types of higher education leading to a Bachelor’s, Masters and Doctoral degree. Teaching at universities will usually take place in large group lectures and small group tutorials.


An Australian vocational education and training (VET) qualification provide students with a pathway to entering the workforce or university. There are a great number of vocational training courses in information technology, business services, art and media, tourism and hospitality, child care, transport and logistics, construction, mining, manufacturing and rural industries.

Pathway programs

There are also a number of pathway programs to higher education available to international students which includes foundation studies and English language preparation programs. These ensure students receive the extra support and assistance they need to succeed.

Academic year

In Australia, the secondary or high school system starts each year in late January / early February, while vocational and university studies start at the end of February/early March. Most high schools have three or four terms; universities and vocational colleges have two semesters. Exams are held at the end of each semester in June and November, with a 2-4 week break between each semester, and a longer break over the summer from November / December to February. In some cases, you may be able to choose a course that also offers a summer program meaning you could possibly do a third semester within one year.

Learning English

Ensuring you have sufficient English skills is probably the most important factor when planning your studies in Australia. If your proficiency in English is limited, you may be advised to enrol in an English language school before starting your chosen program of study.

There are approximately 100 private English language centres around Australia. Universities and TAFEs also offer courses for those interested in developing their English language skills.

After graduation

Having an Australian tertiary qualification is highly sought after. Combined with Australia’s strong economy and low unemployment rates, Australia offers strong employment opportunities for graduates.


International students now have the opportunity to stay on longer in Australia after the completion of their studies. If you have completed a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctoral degree, you may well be eligible for the Post-Study Work Stream of the Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa. This visa enables you to stay in Australia following your studies to gain practical experience working in your field. You can obtain more information on post-study work rights on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website.

Postgraduate study

Once you have finished your bachelor’s degree, how do you decide if undertaking postgraduate studies in Australia is your next step? Deciding to go on to postgraduate study is a big step. It takes more time, staying out of the workforce a bit longer, but it can also be a very worthwhile investment in the long term.

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