The Education System in Australia
Figure A-2. Levels of education in Australia, by age and year of schooling: 2013
NOTE: Education levels are defined according to the 1997 International Standard
Classification of Education (ISCED97). Ages represent the typical age at the beginning
of the school year.
Numbers in bold print indicate ages of universal enrollment (i.e., an enrollment
rate of over 90 percent). Numbers highlighted represent the age at which compulsory
enrollment begins through the age at which compulsory enrollment ends. No meaning
should be inferred from width of subdivisions. Duration of first university degree
program is generally 3 or 4 years in Australia. A striped box indicates that at
the corresponding age or grade level, a student may be in a school classified in
either of the boundary ISCED levels.
SOURCE: Former Australian Government Department of Education, Employment, and Workplace
Relations, Retrieved March 27, 2013, from
Government, Australian Education International, Country Education Profiles,
Retrieved March 27, 2013 from
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2013). Education at a Glance:
OECD Indicators. Paris: Author.
NOTE: There are regional differences within the education system of Australia because
responsibilities and oversight for education take place at the state or territory
level. However, the purpose of this document is to present a brief, general summary
of education in Australia. The sources cited at the end of this section provide
more specific details
- Common name: Preschool, kindergarten
- Ages of attendance: As early as age 3 through age 5
- Number of years: 1 to 3
- Start of universal enrollment: Age 5
- Compulsory: No
NOTE: Programs are part time and consist of several half-day sessions (or the equivalent
in full days) and combine structured learning and creative individual activities.
- Common name: Primary school
- Ages of attendance: As early as age 5 through age 10 or 11
- Number of years: 7 to 8
- Start of universal enrollment: Age 5
- Universal enrollment: Yes
- Compulsory: Yes, begins at age 6
NOTE: Primary school begins with a preparatory year—known as kindergarten,
reception, preprimary, or transition—and continues until year 6 or 7. The
preparatory year is not compulsory, but almost all children attend.
- Common name: Secondary school
- Ages of attendance: 11 or 12 through 14
- Number of years: 3 to 4
- Universal enrollment: Yes
- Compulsory: Yes
- Entrance/exit criteria: There are no standard examination requirements for progression
into secondary school, and no formal qualifications are awarded.
NOTE: Secondary school includes either years 7 to 10 or years 8 to 10. In the Australian
Capital Territory (ACT), only students awarded an ACT Year 10 School Certificate
(based on academic performance, attendance, and conduct) are eligible to continue
to senior secondary school.
- Common name: Senior secondary school
- Ages of attendance: 15 to 17
- Number of years: 2
- Universal enrollment: Through age 16
- Compulsory: Through age 16
- Entrance/exit criteria: Senior secondary school includes years 11 and 12. The final
school-leaving qualification is known generally as the Senior Secondary Certificate
of Education (Year 12 award), which is an Australian Qualifications Frame-work (AQF)
qualification. However, different names are used for the certificate in each state
and territory. There are also senior secondary awards outside the state and territory
school systems, such as the International Baccalaureate.
NOTE: Upper secondary programs in Australia are specialized to ensure that graduates
of senior secondary school can enter directly into tertiary education without the
need for general education subjects. Vocational education and training (VET) is
offered to both secondary and senior secondary students.
Postsecondary and tertiary:
- Common name: Higher education, university
- Ages of attendance: Varies
- Number of years: Varies according to degree program
- Universal enrollment: No
- Entrance criteria: The Senior Secondary Certificate of Education gives access to
tertiary education in the higher education and VET sectors. Undergraduate admission
(for the diploma, advanced diploma, associate's degree, and bachelor's degree) is
usually based on the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), which is calculated
by a state or territory Tertiary Admission Center (TAC) based on the Senior Secondary
Certificate of Education. An ATAR indicates a student's ranking relative to other
students and is used in all states and territories except Queensland. Other undergraduate
admission pathways include a VET qualification; an interview, portfolio or work,
or prerequisite courses; mature-age entry for students over age 25 based on related
work experience; or a demonstrated aptitude for study. Entry into a bachelor honors
degree program is usually based on academic achievement in a related bachelor's
degree program. Entry into a graduate certificate, graduate diploma, or master's
degree program is usually based on a bachelor's degree. Entry into a doctoral program
is based on a research-based master's degree or a bachelor honors degree.
NOTE: Tertiary education includes higher education and vocational education and
training. Higher education in Australia refers to university and nonuniversity institutions
that award AQF level 5 to 10 qualifications. Programs can be either full or part
time, and distance and online education are common. Australia does not have a national
credit system; instead, the AQF defines qualifications and indicates the typical
volume of learning required in terms of years of full-time study. Each institution
has its own credit system, and the credits earned in these various systems cannot
be converted into study hours or credit hours.
Common degree programs:
- Diploma: 1- to 2-year programs that prepare graduates for paraprofessional
work or further learning based on an applied academic course. Diploma graduates
may continue to employment or further education in the higher education sector (usually
up to 1 year of credit in a related bachelor's degree program). The diploma is also
offered as a VET qualification.
- Advanced diploma: 18-month to 2-year programs that prepare graduates
for paraprofessional or advanced skilled work or further learning. Advanced diploma
graduates may continue to employment or further education in the higher education
sector (usually with 1 to 2 years of credit in a related bachelor's degree program).
The advanced diploma is also offered as a VET qualification.
- Associate's degree: 2-year programs that prepare graduates for
paraprofessional work or further learning. Associate's degree graduates may continue
to employment or further education in the higher education sector (usually with
1 ½ to 2 years of credit in a related bachelor's degree program). The associate's
degree and the advanced diploma are at the same level on the AQF; the difference
is in the focus of the programs. Associate's degrees are more academically oriented,
whereas advanced diplomas emphasize vocational or professional studies.
- Bachelor's degree: Bachelor's degrees include 3-year, 4-year, professional,
and combined degrees. Bachelor's degree programs in professional fields usually
require 4 or more years of full-time study, with additional time required for professional
preparation. Some institutions offer bachelor's degree programs that cannot be entered
directly from senior secondary school. Most of these programs are in professional
specializations and are known as graduate-entry bachelor's degrees.
- Bachelor honors degree: Requires an additional year of study after
a bachelor's degree or may be undertaken as a 4-year integrated program. A significant
research thesis or project is required.
- Graduate certificate: Graduate certificate programs require one
semester of full-time study. A graduate certificate extends the knowledge and skills
gained in a preceding bachelor's degree or other qualification
- Graduate diploma: Graduate diploma programs require 1 year of full-time
study. A graduate diploma, which extends the knowledge and skills gained in a preceding
bachelor's degree or other qualification, may be awarded if a student completes
postgraduate preparatory work (such as the first stages of a master's degree) but
does not continue to the degree course.
- Master's degree: Requires 18 months to 2 years of full-time study
after a 3-year bachelor's degree or 1 year of full-time study after a 4-year (or
longer) bachelor's degree or bachelor honors degree. There are three types of programs:
coursework, research, and extended.
- Doctoral degree: Doctoral degree programs usually require 3 to
4 years of full-time study and require the completion of a thesis, dissertation,
or exegesis. There are two types of programs: research and professional.
Australian Government, Department of Education, Employment, and Workplace Relations.
School Education. Retrieved March 27, 2013, from http://deewr.gov.au/school-education.
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2013a). Education at a Glance
2013: OECD Indicators. Paris: Author.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, International
Bureau of Education. (2010). World Data on Education, 2010/11 (7th edition).
Profile on Australia. Paris: Author. Retrieved March 30, 2015 from: