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Australian Qualifications Framework

AQF level Qualification type
Level 1 Certificate I
Level 2 Certificate II
Level 3 Certificate III
Level 4 Certificate IV
Level 5 Diploma
Level 6 Advanced diploma
Associate degree
Level 7 Bachelor degree
Level 8 Bachelor honours degree
Vocational graduate certificate
Vocational graduate diploma
Graduate certificate
Graduate diploma
Level 9 Masters degree
Level 10 Doctoral degree

The Australian Government designed the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) to ensure that qualification titles across the country are consistent and represent the same high standards of education.

The AQF regulates all Australian qualifications and provides clear rules about the level of education each qualification title represents. Each qualification generally leads into the next qualification down the list (see below) in the education framework. Having a nationally standardised system means there is a clear pathway to follow, making it easier for students to pursue their education. It also makes transferring between different education providers much easier, as there is no confusion caused by differing qualification titles and education levels. In addition to these qualifications, the AQF issues a Statement of Attainment when a student completes only part of a qualification.

AQF qualifications by education sector

The following table outlines each level of qualification for the Schools, VET and Higher Education sectors. For each qualification, you will find the full-time study timeframe to complete each level of study. For further information on the AQF you can visit www.aqf.edu.au

Schools sector VET sector Higher education sector
Vocational graduate diploma (1–2 years) Senior Secondary Certificate of Education (2 years) Certificate I (0.5–1 year) Diploma (1–2 years)
Certificate II (0.5–1 year) Associate degree (1.5–2 years)
Certificate III (1–2 years) Bachelor degree (3–4 years)
Certificate IV (0.5–2 years) Bachelor degree (honours) (1 year)
Diploma (1–2 years) Graduate certificate (0.5–1 year)
Advanced diploma (1.5–2 years) Graduate diploma (1–2 years)
Vocational graduate certificate (0.5–1 year) Masters degree (1–2 years)
Vocational graduate diploma (1–2 years) Doctoral degree (3–4 years)

Quality Assurance

A number of regulations and laws are in place to ensure the quality and consistency of Australia’s international education sector. The Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000 requires institutions that offer courses to international students to meet nationally consistent standards in education quality, facilities and services. The Act ensures that international students receive the same standard of education as Australian students.

The Education Services for Overseas Students Legislation Amendment Act 2011 introduced a more thorough system of scrutinisation for education providers, limiting CRICOS registration to a specific period of time. These changes were introduced to further strengthen Australia’s international education sector and prevent high-risk providers from entering the sector. The introduction of the Tuition Protection Service (TPS) in 2012 provides additional security for international students in Australia.

In addition, institutions that wish to offer education to international students must register with the Australian Government under the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS). Registration with CRICOS requires institutions to demonstrate that their qualifications meet Australian standards.

International students should carefully check the CRICOS website to make sure that the course they want to study is registered.

Education Sectors

Schools

Australia’s secondary schools adhere to a national curriculum framework, which is being progressively developed and implemented in schools to set high national standards in English, mathematics, science, history, languages, geography, the arts, health and physical education, information and communication technology, civics and citizenship, economics and business. Read more 

ELICOS

ELICOS courses are offered by secondary schools, TAFE institutes, universities, private colleges and specialist English language centres. These courses are designed to help international students and visitors develop their English language skills so that they can fully participate in Australian life. Read more.

VET Courses

VET courses are also offered by private Registered Training Organisations (RTOs), typically known as private colleges, but many students choose to study VET courses through TAFE institutes because of the additional security they provide as government-owned education providers. Some Australian universities also operate a TAFE division and offer VET courses in addition to higher education courses.

Foundation Courses

Foundation courses help international students who may not initially meet entry requirements to gain entry to undergraduate study at Australian universities and colleges. They also help students adapt to the Australian academic environment and life in Australia. Some foundation courses promise a place at university after successful completion of the course. Read more

Higher Education – Undergraduate

The main types of undergraduate qualifications offered by most higher education institutions are as follows:

  • Bachelor degree: Bachelor degrees provide initial preparation for professional careers and postgraduate study and involve a minimum of three years of full-time study (some institutions offer a fast-track system, which allows students to complete a three-year degree in two years). Entry typically requires completion of an Australian secondary school certificate of education (Year 12) or the overseas equivalent, or a diploma or advanced diploma from the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector.
  • Bachelor degree (honours): Honours may require an optional additional year of study (usually research based) following a three-year degree or may be awarded for academic achievement in degrees of four or more years. Read more

Higher Education – Post Graduate

Postgraduate courses are offered by universities and private colleges. Some fields are only offered by universities, such as medicine and architecture. Entry into most higher education courses in Australia is highly competitive, and a high standard of English language is required for postgraduate study. Each education provider will have different entrance requirements, so it’s important to contact individual providers to check. Read more