Education in Australia

Population: 21 million people
- Sydney 4.2m
- Melbourne 3.4m
- Brisbane 1.5m
- Perth 1.4m
- Adelaide 1.1m

Literacy Rate: 99.9%

GNP: USD36,100 per capita

Human Development Index: 0.957

Australia Academic Year starts from end-January to end in mid-December.

  • Term 1: Starts late January or early February in some places and ends on the Thursday before Easter, some schools end on 30th March
  • Term 2: Starts 2 weeks after Easter (1 week in some places) and ends in late June.
  • Term 3: Starts mid July and ends mid-September.
  • Term 4: Starts early October and ends mid December.

Education in Australia is primarily regulated by the individual state governments. Generally education in Australia follows the three-tier model which includes Primary education (Primary Schools), followed by Secondary education (Secondary Schools / High Schools) and Tertiary education (Universities and TAFE Technical and Futher Education Colleges).

Education is compulsory up to an age specified by legislation; this age varies from state to state but is generally 15-17, that is prior to completing secondary education. Post-compulsory education is regulated within the Australian Qualifications Framework, a unified system of national qualifications in schools, vocational education and training (TAFE) and the higher education sector (University). The academic year in Australia varies between states and institutions, but generally runs from late January until mid-December for primary and secondary schools and TAFE colleges, and from late February until mid-November for universities.

School is compulsory in Australia between the ages of six and sixteen, (fifteen in Tasmania), with, in recent years, over three-quarters of students staying on until they are eighteen. Government schools educate about two-thirds of Australian students, with the other third in independent schools, a proportion which is rising in many parts of Australia. Government schools are free, while independent schools, both religious and secular, charge fees. Regardless of whether a school is government or independent, they are required to adhere to the same curriculum frameworks. Most school students, be they in government or independent school, usually wear uniforms, although there are varying expectations.


* Kindergarten: 4-5 year olds
* Prep / Reception / kindergarten (QLD, NSW,VIC and ACT): 5-6 year olds
* Year 1: 6-7 year olds
* Year 2: 7-8 year olds
* Year 3: 8-9 year olds
* Year 4: 9-10 year olds
* Year 5: 10-11 year olds
* Year 6: 11-12 year olds
* Year 7: 12-13 year olds (WA, SA, QLD)


* Year 7: 12-13 year olds (ACT, NSW, TAS, and VIC,) Middle School NT
* Year 8: 13-14 year olds
* Year 9: 14-15 year olds
* Year 10: 15-16 year olds
* Year 11: 16-17 year olds
* Year 12: 17-18 year olds

In some states students may be slightly younger, it varies between states. Some Independent schools also vary in whether grade 7 is secondary or primary as well as the existence of middle school.


Classification of tertiary qualifications

In Australia, the classification of tertiary qualifications is governed in part by the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), which attempts to integrate into a single classification all levels of tertiary education (both vocational and higher education), from trade certificates to higher doctorates.

However, as Universities in Australia (and a few similar higher education institutions) largely regulate their own courses, the primary usage of AQF is for vocational education. However in recent years there have been some informal moves towards standardization between higher education institutions.

In Australia, higher education awards are classified as follows:

* Certificate, Diploma and Associate Degrees, which take 1-2 years to complete, and consist primarily of coursework. These are primarily offered by TAFEs and other institutions as vocational training. Universities tend mainly to award Certificates and Diplomas as adjuncts to another degree, e.g. many Australian school teachers have completed a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science with a Diploma of Education (DipEd). They are also awarded at the graduate level, in which case they are called Graduate Certificate or Graduate Diploma (or sometimes Postgraduate Certificate and Postgraduate Diploma), and consist of similar material to a Masters by Coursework, but do not go for as long. The distinction between Graduate and Postgraduate Certificates and Diplomas is somewhat arbitrary and dependent on the institution offering them.

* Bachelors degrees, generally the first university degree undertaken, which take 3-4 years to complete, and consist primarily of coursework. Bachelors degrees are sometimes awarded with honours to the best performing students.

In some courses, honours is awarded on the basis of performance throughout the course (usually in 4yr+ courses), but normally honours consists of undertaking a year of research (like a short thesis or Masters by Research). If honours is undertaken as an extra year it is known as an honours degree rather than a degree with honours.

Honours may be divided into First Class, Second Class (normally divided into Division I and Division II) and Third Class. This is roughly equivalent to the American classification of , summa cum laude, magna cum laude, and cum laude. Individuals who do not attempt honours or who fail their honours course are awarded a degree with a grade of Pass.

* Masters degrees, which are undertaken after the completion of one or more Bachelors degrees. Masters degrees deal with a subject at a more advanced level than Bachelors degrees, and can consist either of research, coursework, or a mixture of the two.

* Doctorates, most famously Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), which are undertaken after a Honours Bachelors or Masters degree, by an original research project resulting in a thesis or dissertation. Admission to candidature for a PhD generally requires either a Bachelor's degree with good honours (First Class or Second Class Division I), or a Masters degree with a research component.

In many cases a student with only a Pass Bachelor's degree can enroll in a Masters program and then transfer to a PhD. Australian PhDs do not tend to take as long as American or British ones, and consist of less coursework than most American PhDs. There are also professional doctorates which consist of advanced coursework and a substantial project in an area such as education (DEd). There is no concept of a "first-professional doctorate" like those awarded in the United States.

* Higher Doctorates, such as Doctor of Science (DSc) or Doctor of Letters (DLitt), which are awarded on the basis of a record of original research or of publications, over many years (often at least 10).

Australian Universities tend to award more named degrees than institutions in some other countries. Most Australian universities offer several different named degrees per a faculty. This is primarily for marketing purposes. Universities often try to outdo each other by offering the only degree titled with a popular major.

By contrast, at an undergraduate level at Oxford University, almost all students complete a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), even if they are studying areas such as Chemistry or Economics, whereas at most Australian institutions only students choosing to concentrate in the humanities would be awarded a B.A. However, although there is a large proliferation at the level of Bachelors and Masters, at the Doctorate and Higher Doctorate level most institutions only have four or five degrees in all, and almost all Doctorates are PhDs.

Unlike American institutions, where most medical doctors or lawyers (known as solicitors in Australia) will graduate with an M.D. or J.D., medical doctors and solicitors in Australia generally only graduate with Bachelor's degrees. In Australia, a degree of Doctor is only awarded after original research or honoris causa, although by custom medical doctors are permitted to assume that title without having completed a doctorate.

In the case of medical doctors, the most common award is M.B.B.S., the double degree of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (this is similar to the case in Britain). The most common award for lawyers is LL.B. or BLaws (which are both abbreviations, one Latin and the other English, for Bachelor of Laws).

Traditionally in Australia, medical degrees were commenced immediately after secondary education, unlike in the United States where student generally complete an undergraduate degree first before going to medical school. However, some universities have introduced graduate entry only degrees in medicine, but these are still classified as Bachelors degrees.

Law is commonly studied as a combined degree, such as with Arts or Science (BA/LLB, BSc/LLB), with only a small number of places available for a 'straight' law degree. The large number of combined courses enable students to develop skills in a diverse range of areas. Another common combination is Commerce and Law, which opens up many positions in business, commerce and industry. The Law degree in Australia is seeing fewer graduates going on to become practicing solicitors; instead many graduates take work in private industry or government sectors.

Australian Bachelors degrees are commonly only 3 years in duration, unlike the 4 year degrees found in the United States, although some institutions offer 4 year degrees as well. The length of the degree usually depends on the field of study; for example engineering usually takes four years while medicine takes six. Combined degrees are also available and usually add an extra year of study. Australian universities tend to have less of an emphasis on a liberal education than many universities in the US, which is reflected in the shorter length of Australian degrees.

Associate Degrees have recently been introduced. These generally take two years to complete and can be seen as equivalent to the Associate's Degree in the US and the Foundation Degree in the UK. They are also equivalent to the older Australian qualifications the Diploma and the Advanced Diploma.

Prior to the 1980s health science disciplines were being established by Colleges of Advanced Education, who were forbidden to award "degrees". Courses were conducted and classified as a "Diploma of Applied Science in (discipline)". These courses had considerable content requirements, some having over 32 contact hours per week over a three year period. These "diplomas" have been somewhat devalued by the newer naming conventions, as some diploma courses conducted nowadays may only consist of attending 12 training days for a total of less than 72 contact hours. However, many former "diplomates" have either converted or upgraded their DipAppScis to the corresponding Bachelor degree, or have undertaken further post graduate study.

Updated On: 17.01.03