Your bookmarked countries have an update since your last login. View Bookmarks x

Oct 2, 2020

Reforming Australia’s vocational education and training regulator

Australia passed the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment (Governance and Other Matters) Bill. This is a step towards improving Australia's vocational education and training vector (VET) with Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) as an effective, modern regulator.

Learn more »

Oct 1, 2020

Victorian year 12 students' VCE results and Atar to be adjusted for Covid impact

The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) will introduce a wide-ranging “consideration of educational disadvantage” process to calculate each student’s Australian Tertiary Admission Ranking. All students in Victoria will undergo this case-by-case review due to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Learn more »

Oct 1, 2020

Tertiary reforms to unleash potential of regional Australia

The Coalition Government of Australia hopes to reform their tertiary education with a new strategy plan that supports regional, rural, and remote education initiatives.

Learn more »

Sep 29, 2020

Applications for course accreditation for new Graduate and Undergraduate Certificates

The Australian Government has amended the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) to introduce a new qualification, called an Undergraduate Certificate.

Learn more »


There are 4 archived country studies available. Log in to view them.



The Commonwealth of Australia is slightly smaller than the contiguous 48 states. It is the world's smallest continent but the sixth largest country. The population of over 20 million is concentrated along the eastern and southeastern coasts. The government is a federal parliamentary democracy. The capital is Canberra, and the official language is English. The commonwealth of Australia comprises six States and two internal Territories: New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory.

Aboriginal settlers arrived on the continent from Southeast Asia about 40,000 years before the first Europeans began exploration in the 17th century. No formal territorial claims were made until 1770, when Capt. James Cook took possession in the name of Great Britain. Six colonies were created in the late 18th and 19th centuries; they federated and became the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. The new country took advantage of its natural resources to rapidly develop agricultural and manufacturing industries and to make a major contribution to the British effort in World Wars I and II. In recent decades, Australia has transformed itself into an internationally competitive, advanced market economy. It boasted one of the OECD's fastest growing economies during the 1990s, a performance due in large part to economic reforms adopted in the 1980s. Long-term concerns include pollution, particularly depletion of the ozone layer, and management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef.


State and Territory governments have major responsibility for government school education and contribute to funds for non-government schools. Most students are enrolled in government schools which operate under the direct responsibility of the State or Territory Education Minister. The school year goes from January to December. The Department of Education and Training serves as the country's ministry.

Primary Education

Schooling is compulsory from age 6 to 15 in all States except Tasmania, where it extends to 16. However, in most States and Territories, children start primary school at the age of 5 when they enroll in preparatory or kindergarten year, after which primary education continues for either six or seven years, depending on the State or Territory.

Secondary Education

Junior and Senior Secondary education is available for either five or six years, depending on the State and the length of primary education. Students usually commence their secondary schooling when aged 12 or 13, reaching year 12 at 17 or 18.

Type of school providing elementary education are Government and Non-Government Primary Schools.

  • Elementary Education
    • Length of program in years: 6
    • Age level from: 6 to 12
  • Junior Secondary Schools: Junior Secondary Schools provide lower secondary education, at Government or Non-Government Co-Educational Comprehensive/Multi-Purpose High School
    • Length of program in years: 4
    • Age level from: 12 to 16
    • Certificate/diploma awarded: Junior Secondary Certificate of Education (Year 10 Certificate)
  • Senior Secondary Schools:Senior Secondary Schools provide education at Government./Non-Government High Schools and Senior Colleges
    • Length of program in years: 2
    • Age level from: 16 to 18
    • Certificate/diploma awarded: Senior Secondary Certificate of Education (Year 12 Certificate)

Post-Secondary Education

The first universities in Australia were established in four of the original colonies—the University of Sydney in 1850 in New South Wales, the University of Melbourne in 1853 in Victoria, the University of Adelaide in 1874 in South Australia and the University of Tasmania in 1890. Following the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, the University of Queensland was established in 1909 and the University of Western Australia in 1911. Between the two World Wars, two university colleges were established—Canberra University College in 1930 in the Australian Capital Territory which later joined the Australian National University in the 1960s, and the New England University College in 1938 in northern New South Wales which became the University of New England in 1954. The post war period saw the establishment of the Australian National University in 1946 and several more new universities until the number of universities had risen to nineteen by the late 1970s.

There are currently 42 universities, including three private universities. There are also a small number of non-university self-accrediting higher education institutions funded by the Australian Government. Programs and degrees offered by non-university self-accrediting institutions often have an applied focus and are most commonly in fields such as Art, Business, Drama, Hospitality, Music, Religion and Theology and Teacher Education. The AQF Register lists self-accrediting institutions and contains links to listings of non self-accrediting institutions in each State and Territory.

Comprehensive information on the institutions and the courses they offer may be found on the Higher Education Department Statistics page and The Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students. Higher education programs and awards offered by non self-accrediting institutions must be accredited by the relevant State or Territory higher education accreditation authority. The accrediting authorities are listed in the Register of Authorities Empowered by Government to Accredit Post-Compulsory Education and Training Courses and may be found on the Australian Qualifications Framework.

The quality of the Australian higher education sector is guaranteed by a quality assurance framework developed and supported by the State, Territory, and Australian governments. Self-accrediting institutions have primary responsibility for academic standards and quality assurance. They are accountable to the Australian Government and are also subject to audit by the Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA). In addition, professional bodies and associations play a significant role as external arbiters in the quality assurance framework through their accreditation of professional courses in areas such as Nursing, Medicine, Law, Accounting, Engineering and Architecture. These bodies and associations also have an on-going role in monitoring the quality of such courses. The Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA) was established by the Australian Government, State, and Territory Ministers responsible for higher education in 2000 as an independent national quality assurance agency to monitor, audit and report on quality assurance in Australian higher education. The AUQA conducts quality assurance audits of self-accrediting institutions and State/Territory accreditation authorities on a five-yearly basis.

The Australian Government recognizes the value of its international education industry and seeks to protect and enhance its reputation and integrity, while also offering protection to overseas students studying in Australia.

Vocational education and training (VET) is the term used in Australia to describe the sector which prepares Australians of all ages for employment and improves the knowledge and skills of those already in the workforce. Since the late 1990s VET has been available in all three sectors of the education system—school, postsecondary and higher education—but the most important of these is at the postsecondary level. VET is competency-based and is a flexible system that can be undertaken through multiple pathways, allowing people to move between different levels of education (including school, postsecondary and higher education) and the workplace. It is provided as institution-based training or workplace-based training or a combination of both, and results in qualifications which are recognized across all States and Territories within Australia. Programs and assessment can be undertaken full-time in preparation for employment, or part-time in conjunction with employment. Entry is based on the skills required to undertake the program or assessment. VET includes para-professional and professional level education across a wide spectrum of occupations, a broad range of employment-specific skills, and craft or trade training associated with the traditional apprenticeships.

First Cycle, Academic

University level, first stage, undergraduate studies is the main stage of university education. There are a range of Bachelor degree programs: the 3-year degree, the 3- or 4- year professional degree, the combined or double degree, the graduate entry degree, and the Bachelor Honours degree. Undergraduate studies last between 3 years (Arts, Science, Commerce), 4 years (Education, Engineering), 5 years (Veterinary Science, Dentistry, Architecture) and 5 or 6 years (Medicine and Surgery) full-time. Arts and Science faculties usually offer either a Bachelor Degree obtained in 3 years or a Bachelor's Degree (Honours) obtained in four years; candidates for the latter undertake extra work in their specialty. The 3-year Bachelor’s degree is accepted for access to higher education degrees by Coursework. An Honours Degree is normally required for access to higher research degrees. Some institutions offer postgraduate Bachelor degrees in a number of professional fields such as Medicine, Law and Architecture.

First Cycle, Vocational/Technical

The postsecondary vocational education and training sector is diverse. Providers who have met national quality assurance standards are known as Registered Training Organizations. The Organizations include government-funded Technical and Further Education (TAFE) colleges, registered private and commercial training providers, and community-based registered training providers. These Registered Training Organizations provide a wide range of vocational training for trade, technical, professional and para-professional occupations as well as a range of adult education, leisure and general enrichment programs. The programs offered can lead to Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) Advanced Diplomas, Diplomas, and Certificates I-IV, Statements of Attainment, or, if the programs are not accredited, to unregulated forms of certification.

Second Cycle

University level, second stage, postgraduate studies allows the holder of a Bachelor's Degree to proceed to a Graduate Certificate (one semester) or a Graduate Diploma (two semesters) in a particular subject or to a Master's Degree, which constitutes the second stage of higher education. A Master degree may be undertaken with coursework, project work, and research in varying combinations with entry from a 3-year Bachelor degree, a Bachelor Honours degree, or Graduate Diploma. The Master degrees by Coursework typically require two years following a 3-year Bachelor degree and one or two years following an Honours degree. The Master degree by research is comprised of at least two-thirds research with a thesis and normally requires a minimum of one year of study. The entry requirement is the Bachelor Honours degree or Master preliminary year, a researched –based Graduate Diploma, or equivalent research experience.

Third Cycle

University level, third stage, Doctorate allows the holder of a 4-year Bachelor degree with Honours at a sufficiently high level, or a Master degree holder to proceed to a Doctoral program. The most common Doctoral program in Australia is the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). The PhD is typically undertaken by thesis after research and normally requires a minimum of three years of full-time study. A number of Australian universities offer the Professional Doctorate with an orientation towards professional practice, typically in fields like Education, Business Administration, and Psychology. Most universities also award a Higher Doctorate (e.g. Doctor of Science (DSc), Doctor of Letters (DLitt), on submission of published work representing a substantial contribution to knowledge in a particular field.

Teacher Training

Training of pre-primary and primary/basic school teachers is the responsibility for school systems and the employment of teachers lies with both government and non-government education authorities in each State and Territory. Each of the States and Territories has specific requirements for employment as a teacher in primary and secondary schools under their jurisdiction. Programs for preparatory or pre-primary teachers are often referred to as early childhood education/teaching programs. They provide education in the care and teaching of children from birth to 8 years of age, or from age 3 to 8 years. They usually cover child care education, preschool teacher education, preparatory/pre-primary teacher education, and education for the early years of primary school. Programs may be at the undergraduate or postgraduate level. The most common awards are a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood Education) or a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education, both of which require 4 years of full-time study. Alternatively, students who have already completed a 3-year Bachelor degree in a discipline other than education may complete a 1- or 2-year Graduate Diploma of Education (Early Childhood Education).

Primary teacher education programs provide education to teach children from ages 5 to 12 in years 1 to 6 or 7 of primary school. The programs generally offer a balance of professional and curriculum studies to foster the intellectual, physical, and social development of children. Students follow a four-year course leading to a Bachelor of Education (Primary). Alternatively, students who have already completed a Bachelor degree in a field other than education may complete a one- or two-year Graduate Diploma in Education (Primary) or a two-year postgraduate Bachelor of Education (Primary). These programs provide a combination of professional studies in education and methodology and supervised teaching practice in primary curriculum subjects. There are also a number of 4-year combined degrees such as the Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education (Primary) and Bachelor of Applied Science/Bachelor of Education (Primary) which combine primary education studies with studies in a discipline related to teaching. There are also some programs which prepare teachers to teach at both primary and secondary school, for example, the Bachelor of Education (Upper Primary/Lower Secondary) and Bachelor of Education (Primary and Secondary).

Secondary teacher education programs provide education to teach students in grades 6 or 7 to grade 12 of secondary school. Students follow program that provide a balance of integrated professional studies and curriculum studies in one or two disciplines in key learning areas appropriate for both the lower and upper years of secondary schooling. Programs may be at the undergraduate or graduate levels. The most common undergraduate award is the Bachelor of Education (Secondary) which requires 4 years of full-time study. Students who have already completed a Bachelor degree in a relevant curriculum area may complete a 2-year full-time Graduate Diploma of Education (Secondary) or a 2-year full-time Bachelor of Education (Secondary). These program provide a combination of professional studies in education and methodology and supervised teaching practice in subjects appropriate to the first degree. There are also a number of combined degrees such as the Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education which combine secondary teaching education studies with study in a discipline relevant to secondary school. Teachers of Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses in secondary schools are expected to be competent to conduct education and training programs and to assess skills based on the industry-endorsed competency standards in the Training Packages developed by Australian industry bodies and endorsed under the National Training Framework (NTF). Teachers usually have qualifications and substantial employment experience in a specialized field covered by the NTF and hold the minimum of an Australian Quality Framework Certificate IV in Assessment and Workplace Training. Educational authorities also require teaching qualifications up to Bachelor degree level.

The school year for higher education goes from late January/February to late November/December.



Upcoming AACRAO Events

Crises as Catalysts for Transformation

Fall 2020 | virtual conference

Join us this fall for a virtual Strategic Enrollment Management Conference - Crises as Catalysts for Transformation: 2020’s Impact on Higher Education and Enrollment.

This three day, virtual conference will feature models for adapting to change, meeting challenges, and planning strategically post-pandemic.

Explore the SEM Conference
SEM_2020_1440x400 update

106th AACRAO Annual Meeting

March 28 - 31, 2021 | National Harbor, MD

AACRAO’s Annual Meeting is our largest convening of higher education professionals from around the world. Join more than 2,000 administrators in person or online as we work to address the issues facing today’s campuses, share goals and guidelines for meeting those challenges, and provide a forum for learning and sharing experiences.

Explore the Annual Meeting