Australia Country Profile - Education System

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System structure

Schooling in Australia is governed by the individual states. Generally, education is compulsory for children aged from around 5 to 15, although some states require a further two years through to the age of 17. The compulsory period is divided into primary and secondary school, then students may choose to move on to education in universities or vocational training facilities. Educational standards are maintained through the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF).

Academic year

The Australian academic year runs from January to December and is usually split into four terms. Government schools in each state have slightly different term dates, and private schools may also structure their academic year in a different way.

Higher education

Sometimes referred to as tertiary education, Australian universities offer a complete range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Overseen by the national regulator TEQSA, but operating as independent institutions, they have a hugely cosmopolitan feel, with staff and students travelling from all over the world to live, work and study in Australia. With the prestigious Group of Eight institutions regularly featuring among the top ranked in the world, Australian universities are showing increasing ambition to compete with the best internationally.


Universities in Australia charge tuition fees, although some students are supported by Commonwealth grants. In 2014, the government announced a plan to remove the cap on tuition fees and enable true competition between universities. To pay their way, students generally apply for a government loan through the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP), and repay it through deductions to their wages after graduation.


As in most countries, Australian universities offer a variety of bachelor, master and doctoral degrees (levels 7 to 10 of the AQF). However, it is quite common for students to enrol in a double or combined course at undergraduate level, leading to the award of two bachelor degrees. For information about the type of courses available, visit the MyUniversity website.


Research in Australia is currently the subject of a government push to raise standards. Led by the Australian Research Council (ARC), higher education will be expected to contribute to the development of a truly world class research environment. Significant budget has been set aside to attract and retain talented researchers from across Australia and worldwide to deliver on these ambitious goals.

Vocational education

As an alternative to university, young people can choose to take vocational qualifications when they finish school. These courses usually cover levels 1 to 6 of the AQF, although in some states it is possible to gain higher education qualifications through vocational training institutions. For more information about courses, visit the MySkills website.

Primary and secondary education

There are three main types of school available in Australia:

  • State open schools – open to all students within their catchment area on a first-come, first-served basis
  • State selective schools – open to a wider catchment subject to the completion of entry exams, although students on temporary resident visas may not attend
  • Private schools – generally consist of fee paying independent or religious institutions

Government schools usually follow the Australian Curriculum, and although private schools are not obliged to implement it, many do use the same scheme as a framework.

Preschool and childcare options

Australia has a good choice of care provision for children below school age. For more information on finding and funding childcare, visit the website.

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