Australian Education System
The information contained in this section of the site is for overseas students who are considering studying in Australia. Information on other sections of our website include Australia’s education capability and industry and country information for Australian education providers.
Each year, Australia welcomes an increasing number of international students to study in our universities, institutes, colleges and schools. In 2000, more than 180,000 students from 140 countries studied at Australian institutions, either in Australia or in overseas campuses. The majority of these students (almost 70 per cent) undertook courses in the higher education and vocational education sectors.
Why study in Australia?
- Excellence - education standards rank amongst the highest in the world.
- Recognition - qualifications are widely recognised and accepted when seeking employment or further study.
- Flexibility - multiple institutions offering a wide variety of courses with flexible delivery methods.
- Protection - government legislation and codes of conduct operate to regulate the industry and protect students.
- Value - the combination of competitive tuition fees and low cost of living represent good value for money.
- Lifestyle - favourable climate, safe and stable environment, attractive surrounds and friendly people make it an enjoyable place to study.
- Multicultural - overseas students are welcome in Australia’s multicultural society.
- Support - networks of support exist to help students in all aspects of their stay in Australia.
- Work/travel - there are opportunities for students to travel and/or work whilst studying.
The Australian school system starts with a preparatory year followed by 12 years of primary and secondary schooling. Schooling is compulsory until the age of 16 or completion of Year 10. An additional two years of study are necessary for those wishing to proceed to tertiary studies. In the final year (Year 12), students can study for a government-endorsed certificate which is recognised for further study by all Australian universities and vocational training institutions.
There are two broad categories of schools in Australia – government and private. Both accept international students. The school year in Australia is divided into four terms and runs from late January until December.
Vocational education and training (VET)
The VET sector is positioned between secondary schools and universities and prepares students for employment or further study. This sector consists of public institutes of Technical and Further Education (TAFE), and private colleges specialising in one or more areas of study related to future work.
TAFE Institutes are nationally-recognised, government-funded institutions offering vocational education and training over a wide range of occupations. Courses vary in duration from several hours to three year full-time courses. They are usually cheaper than university courses, and students may progress to university later on with credits for their TAFE studies. Qualifications include certificates, diplomas and advanced diplomas.
Private colleges include business colleges, computer training firms, English language centres, and colleges specialising in a particular field such as aviation, photography, interior decorating, multimedia, hospitality management and tourism.
Many institutes also provide accredited English language training and Foundation Studies for entry into university diploma and bachelor degree courses. All institutes and colleges are subject to Government monitoring to ensure high standards.
Australia has 37 government-funded universities and two private universities, as well as a number of specialist institutions providing approved courses at the higher education level. Universities engage in teaching and research across a wide range of professional and academic disciplines. These disciplines may be specialist in nature (eg, Medicine, Engineering) or generalist (eg. Arts, Science).
University studies can be undertaken at the undergraduate or postgraduate level, leading to awards ranging from graduate certificate to doctorate. Many institutions also offer additional programs such as Foundation Studies, Study Abroad and English language courses.
These programs (usually taken over one academic year) prepare international students for entry into Australian universities. Students undertake subjects directly related to their preferred university course, as well as English language training for academic purposes. Successful completion of a Foundation Studies program provides students with a guarantee of admission into specific degree courses within participating institutions. Many schools and vocational institutes, as well as universities, offer Foundation Studies programs.
These programs give overseas students the opportunity to undertake courses at Australian universities for one or two semesters and have them credited at their home institutions. Students must gain prior approval for the subjects they wish to study abroad, and must also meet the normal pre-requisites for individual subjects.
English language training
English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) may be undertaken at a variety of government and private institutions. There are currently over 100 accredited and registered English centres throughout Australia.
Courses are designed to include general English language training, English for academic purposes (in preparation for further studies), English for specific purposes (eg, business or computing studies), secondary school preparation, and preparation for international exams (such as the Cambridge Certificate or IELTS).
Full-time English courses are available for periods of study from four to 48 weeks. Study tour programs are available, either full or part time, for periods of between one and six weeks.
For comprehensive details on Studying in Australia, Australian Education International (AEI) provides detailed information, in various languages, about studying in Australia.