Higher Education in Australia- Universities and Tertiary Education

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    Abhijeet Singh

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    Education system in Australia is recognized globally for its standards and quality. The higher standards are maintained by the regulatory bodies such as AQF, TESQA and ASQA looking into the quality of education imparted at all the levels of education in Australia. The overall education system in Australia has the following structure:

    • Primary: Schools
    • Secondary: Secondary High Schools
    • Tertiary: Universities/ Vocational Education

    To study in Australia, international students must apply to any institution registered under CRICOS (Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students). Foreign students wishing to pursue higher education in Australia have to apply for Student visa (subclass 500) to enter the country.

    Quality of Education in Australia

    Australia stands among the top 3 student destinations and the place is well earned by it. The standards of education in the country are globally acknowledged. The government of Australia ascertains that the quality of education is top-notch in the country. For this, the education sector in Australia has well established regulatory bodies- AQF, TEQSA and ASQA.

    Higher Education in Australia is regulated by the Australian Qualification Framework (AQF). The AQF is a national body that looks into standards of qualification and training system within the country.

    • AQF makes sure that the qualifications are aligned to the level of education.
    • Level 1 to Level 10 covers the education after secondary school completion.
    • Beginning from Certificate 1 in Tertiary Education to Level 10 with a doctorate degree in an Australian University.

    For Tertiary Education in Australia, TEQSA (Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency) assures quality of education and training services provided to international students.

    ASQA (Australian Skills Quality Authority) is the national regulator for Australia's vocational education and training sector. It ensures that nationally approved quality standards are met via training providers in Australia.

    Complying to its high standards of education, the Government of Australia came up with ESOS (Education Services for Overseas Students) Act. The act is in accordance to the rights of international students in Australia.

    Higher Education in Australia

    Types of Education Providers

    • Universities in Australia
    • TAFE Colleges and Registered Training Organizations for VET
    • ELICOS Providers for English Language Courses

    Types of Qualifications Offered

    By Universities:

    • Doctorate
    • Masters
    • Graduate Diploma
    • Graduate Certificates
    • Bachelors Degree

    By TAFE Colleges and Registered Training Organizations for VET:

    • Associate Degree
    • Advanced Diploma
    • Diploma
    • Certificate IV
    • Certificate III
    • Certificate II
    • Certificate I

    ELICOS or English Training Programs are of 6 types:

    • General English
    • English for Academic Purpose
    • Examination Preparation
    • English for Teaching
    • Study Tours

    Universities in Australia

    Australia is home to 45 universities located in 8 states. According to the QS World Rankings, 7 universities are ranked among the top 100 universities globally. The three main types of degrees provided by the universities in Australia are- Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral Degrees.

    Students can enrol in a double or combined Bachelor Degree program, therefore getting an award of two Bachelor Degrees. Combined degree is common in the fields of arts, commerce, law and science.

    University Degrees Australia- Duration of Bachelor, Masters and Doctoral Programs

    Bachelors Degree Duration

    Degree Type Duration
    Bachelor degree (general) 3 years
    Bachelor degree (professional) 4 years
    Bachelor degree + Honours 3 to 4 years + 1 additional year to enter the masters or research program

    Masters in Australia Duration

    Degree Type Duration
    Masters - Extended 3-4 years
    Masters by Coursework 1-2 years
    Masters by Research 1-2 years
    Doctoral Degree 3-5 years
    Doctoral Degree (Professional) 3-5 years

    Top Universities and Courses in Australia

    Rankings offered by QS World for 2019 suggest that the following universities rank in the list of top 100 universities.

    • Australian National University (ANU)- 24
    • University of Melbourne- 39
    • University of New South Wales (UNSW)- 42
    • University of Queensland (UQ)- 45
    • University of Sydney- 48
    • Monash University- 59
    • University of Western Australia (UWA)- 91

    Australian institutions offer a wide range of courses – from science to management and commerce, humanities to engineering, and law to health sciences. The most popular courses among international students are from Management, Engineering and IT. Here are a few popular courses among international students:

    • Accountancy
    • Actuarial science
    • Agricultural Sciences
    • Architecture
    • Biomedical engineering
    • Core engineering
    • Earth sciences and related
    • Computer sciences and information technology
    • Medicine
    • Tourism and hospitality management


    Admission requirements for different level of degrees vary. Also, the subject requirement may vary.

    • For undergraduate programs candidates must successfully complete 13 years of school education.
    • Admission to postgraduate programs is based on the results of the bachelor’s degree obtained by the students.
    • Doctoral program requirements are based on high achievement in a Research Masters Degree or completion of a Bachelor Degree with First Class Honours or Second Class Honours Division A.

    Additionally, some institutions ask for portfolios, interviews or demonstrated aptitude for admission process. The alternative pathways for mature-age (non-school leaver) students are available as well.

    When and How to Apply?

    Admission for international students are open in two semesters. Application Deadlines for Australian Universities may vary however, Semester 1 beginning in March falls in December. For semester 2 beginning in July, registration ends in May.

    Application deadlines for postgraduate courses in Australia may vary as per the session availability. Some courses are offered once a year, while trimester and rolling admissions can be offered in some universities.

    To apply to Australian universities, students must perform the following steps:

    • Choose the preferred course and university in Australia
    • Check application dates and requirements
    • Obtain test scores for the exams to study in Australia
    • Check visa requirements and apply for the course
    • Wait for an acceptance letter, once obtained, apply for visa

    Average Tuition cost for Undergraduate, Masters and Doctoral Programs

    • Undergraduate Program- $28,000
    • Masters Program- $37,000
    • Doctorate Program- $37,000

    Tertiary Education in Australia- Vocational Education and Training Courses

    Vocational education and training sector in Australia is equally competent as are the universities in Australia. As per the statistics provided by Government of Australia go, around 150,000 international students from the total number of 500,000 opt for vocational education and training.

    International students opt for VET programs in Australia for the following reasons:

    • Pathway to entrance in a university via articulation agreement allowing 1-year credit to be transferred to the selected universities.
    • Career enhancement or career changes after pursuing a particular training or education in vocational studies in Australia.

    VET courses provide:

    • basic life skills, literacy and numeracy training in pre-vocational training and foundation studies
    • semi-professional vocational training mostly in business advertising, occupational health and safety
    • Practical focus on courses such as viticulture, music and hospitality.

    Duration of Vocational Courses in Australia

    Type of Degree Duration
    Certificate I 4-6 months
    Certificate II 1 year
    Certificate III 1 year
    Certificate IV 12-18 months
    Diploma 18- 24 months
    Advanced Diploma 24- 36 months
    • Certificate I – IV: Provides training in introductory skills
    • Diploma: Provides training and education for industry, enterprise and paraprofessional courses.

    Some TAFE and RTOs, provide graduate certificate, diplomas and English language courses as well. To check the complete list of Vocational Education and Training Providers in Australia, click here.

    Who can apply for Vocational Courses in Australia?

    To pursue VET in Australia, students must have completed education equivalent to the Australian Year 10, 11 or 12. However, some courses may require prerequisite subjects or work experience requirements.

    • To take up art and design courses, students have to submit a portfolio.
    • For additional requirements, students must contact their providers.

    How and When to Apply?

    Cost to Study Vocational Courses in Australia

    The course fee may vary as per the level and type of program opted. However, on average a VET course fee falls between $2800 to $15474 per year.

    English Language Courses in Australia

    The reputation and quality of English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) courses is commendable in Australia. International students around the globe can participate in the English language courses offered by the institutions in Australia. Just like TEQSA and ASQA, NEAS (National English Language Teaching Accreditation Scheme) maintains high standard of Australia's ELICOS courses.

    An English language course length ranges from four weeks to 48 weeks. ELICOS courses include:

    • General English
    • English for academic purposes
    • English for secondary school preparation
    • English for special purposes (English for Business, for example)
    • IELTS and TOEFL test preparation
    • Cambridge test preparation
    • study tour programs, which include other extracurricular activities.

    ELICOS courses are offered by secondary schools, TAFE Colleges, universities, private colleges and specialist English language centres. The average cost to study ELICOS course in Australia is $211.