Education System in Australia

The Australian education system

The content in this section of the site is for those overseas students who are looking into the option of studying in Australia. Information on other parts of our website includes details on Australia’s education potential and industry and country information for Australian education institutes.
Every year, Australia welcomes ever growing numbers of international students from over 140 countries around the world to study in its universities, institutes, colleges and schools. By the start of 2009, there were over 500 000 enrolments by students on a student visa who would be full fee paying students. This was a 20.7% increase from the previous year. The greater proportion of these students (around 70%) took courses in higher education and the vocational education sectors.

Reasons to study in Australia

  • Excellence – the education standards are amongst the highest worldwide
  • Recognition – qualifications attained are recognized widely when seeking for further studies or employment.
  • Flexibility - many institutions offer a variety of courses with delivery methods that are flexible.
  • Protection – legislation and codes of conduct offer regulation of the industry protecting students.
  • Value – competitive tuition fees and the low cost of living are a combination that offers good value for money.
  • Lifestyle – good climate, secure and stable environment, delightful surrounds and amiable people make it a favourable place to study.
  • Multicultural – foreign student are welcome to the multicultural society
  • Support – various support networks are available to help students in all aspects of their stay in Australia.
  • Work/travel – opportunities available for students to work when studying or travel


The school system in Australia begins with a preparatory year then 12 years of primary and secondary school follow. Schooling is compulsory for those under 16 years or till the completion of year 10. Two additional years are necessary in order to proceed to tertiary education. In year 12 (final year), students may study for a certificate endorsed by the government which is acknowledged for further studies by all the Australian universities and the vocational training institutions.
There are two wide categories of schools in Australia – private and government. All admit international students. The academic year is divided into four terms which run from late January till December.

Vocational Education and Training (VET)

This sector is positioned in between secondary and university education and prepares students for further studies or employment. VET consists of Technical and Further Education (TAFE) public institutions and private colleges that specialize in one or more study areas related to future jobs.

TAFE institutes are government funded and are nationally recognized offering vocational education to fit a wide range of jobs. Courses may run for a number of hours to full time courses that last up to three years. Normally they are cheaper than university courses and students can proceed to university later with the credits for their TAFE. Qualifications enlist certificates, diplomas as well as advanced diplomas.
Private colleges enlist English language centres, business colleges, computer training institutes, aviation, photography, interior decoration, hospitality management, tourism, multimedia among others.
A number of institutes also give accredited English language courses and foundation studies for university diploma and degree (bachelor) courses entry. The government monitors all institutes and colleges to ensure unquestionable standards.
Australia has 37 universities that are public, 2 private ones, and some specialist institutions that provide approved courses at a higher eduction level. Universities engage in research and teaching in a range of academic and professional disciplines which may be specialist in nature (like Medicine, engineering) or generalist (e.g. Science, Arts)

Studies at the university can be taken at an under or post graduate level, resulting in awards in a graduate certificate to doctorate. A number of institutions also have extra programs like foundation studies programs, study abroad and English language courses.

Foundation studies

These programs (normally taking one academic year) prepare students from abroad for entry into Australian universities. Students take subjects that are directly related to their preferred university course. The English language course is for academic purposes. Successful conclusion of a foundation program gives students a guarantee of admission into specific undergraduate courses in participating institutions. Many schools, vocational institutes and universities offer foundation studies programs.

Study Abroad

These programs give an opportunity to overseas students to undertake courses at Australian universities for a semester or two and credit them at their institutions back home. Students have to gain prior approval for the subjects they want to study abroad and must also meet the usual pre- requisites for each subject.

English Language training

English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) can be undertaken at a variety of both government and private institutions. Currently there are over 150 accredited and registered English centres spread through Australia.
Courses are fashioned to include general English language training, academic purposes English (prepares for further studies), specific purposes English (e.g. computing or business studies), secondary school preparation and international exams (IELTS or Cambridge certificate) preparation.
English full- time courses are available for study periods that run from one to 48 weeks. Part time or full time study tour programmes are available and run from between one to 6 weeks. Students with a non-student visa may study for up to 17 weeks.
Comprehensive details on studying in Australia can be sourced from the Australian International Education which gives detailed information in a number of languages about studying in Australia