The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF)

The Australian Qualifications Framework is a unified system of twelve national qualifications in Australian schools, vocational education and training (private providers and TAFE) and the higher education sector (primarily universities). The AQF is a national system endorsed by the Australian Government and an AQF qualification is recognised worldwide.

Australian Qualifications Framework Courses:

School Courses

There are two categories of schools in Australia - public (government funded) and private schools. Schooling in Australia begins with a preparatory year followed by 12 years of primary and secondary school.

Qualification: Secondary School Certificate of Education (SSCE)
Length of study: 2 years full time, after year 10 of secondary school (age 16-18 years old)

These courses are essentially a stepping-stone for candidates aspiring to enter universities and Vocational Education and Training (VET) institutes, as well as a pathway for direct entry into jobs which do not require any further education.

Vocational Education and Training (VET) Courses

Vocational institutions (technical colleges) are closely linked with industry which means the courses are very practical and skill based. This training is provided at Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutes, which are government owned, or at privately operated institutions.

Qualification: Certificates I, II, III, IV
Length of study: 6 months - 1 year, full time
Entrance requirements:
  • Secondary School - minimum completion of year 10; or
  • Relevant work experience.

Certificates I and II are qualifications which recognise the students' basic vocational skills and knowledge while Certificates III and IV are the equivalent of trade certificates in various vocations. These prepare students for both employment and further education and training in their chosen field.

Qualification: Diploma/Advanced Diploma
Length of study: 1 - 3 years, full time
Entrance requirements:
  • Secondary School Certificate of Education or equivalent from your own country; and/or
  • Relevant employment experience.

These Diplomas prepare students for applying their skills and knowledge based on fundamental principles and complex techniques. These qualifications recognise capacity for initiative and judgment across a broad range of technical and management functions. The Advanced Diploma is a more specialised qualification that signifies skill and knowledge of a greater complexity and a higher level of personal accountability.

Higher Education Courses (University)

There are 38 public (government funded) universities and 2 private universities in Australia.

Qualification: Bachelor Degree
Length of study: 3 - 4 years, full time
Entrance requirements:
  • Secondary School Certificate of Education or equivalent from your own country;
  • Bridging/Foundation courses; or
  • Diploma/Advanced Diploma.

The Bachelor Degree prepares students for professional careers and postgraduate study. There are many other options within the degree program which could require more or fewer years of study, depending on the student's academic and professional goals. Here are some examples:

  • A Professional Degree course can extend to four years and equips candidates with practical skills and techniques that will be applied in the professional domain.
  • A Combined or Double Degree program allows students combinations of subjects from two degrees, enabling them to graduate with both degrees in a shorter time than would be required to complete two degrees independently.
  • The two-year Graduate Entry Degree in a specified discipline is often meant to be a shorter alternative to the standard three year (or longer) degree for initial professional preparation.
  • The Bachelor (Honours) Degree can be undertaken by students who demonstrate a high level of achievement at an earlier stage in the undergraduate degree program, and involves some research preparation.*

* Bachelor Honours Degree requires the completion of an additional year, or its equivalent, and is awarded on the basis of the level of performance in the degree as a whole.

Qualification: Graduate Certificate/Graduate Diploma
Length of study: 6 months/1 year, full time
Entrance requirements:
  • Bachelor Degree; or
  • Advanced Diploma; and/or
  • Relevant employment experience

Graduate Certificates and Graduate Diplomas are generally designed for specific vocational purposes, either for broadening of skills and knowledge already gained in an undergraduate program, or for vocational skills and knowledge in a new professional area.

Masters & Doctoral Courses (University)

Qualification: Master Degree
Length of study: 1 - 2 years, full time
Entrance requirements:
  • 3 year Bachelor Degree; or
  • Combined Bachelor Degree; or
  • Bachelor Degree with Honours; or
  • Graduate Diploma; and/or
  • Relevant employment experience

The Master Degree involves the enhancement of specific skills and provides a mastery of a relevant field of study or area of professional prcatice.

Various options for a Master Degree include:

  • the course work Master Degree program, which comprises of course work, project work and research in varying combinations, with entry from Bachelor or Bachelor Honours Degree or a Graduate Diploma.
  • the research based Master Degree program, which comprises of at least two-thirds research with a substantial, often externally assessed thesis outcome. Minimum admission requirement is a Bachelor Honours Degree or Masters preliminary year, a research-based Graduate Diploma or equivalent research experience.
  • the professional Master Degree program involves a work-based project, with entry from a relevant qualification and professional experience, or extensive relevant professional experience.
Qualification: Doctoral Degree
Length of study: 3 - 4 years, full time
Entrance requirements:
  • Master Degree; and/or
  • Relevant employment experience in field of study

The PhD, or Doctoral Degree is the highest award offered by Australian universities. It recognises a substantial original contribution to knowledge in the form of new knowledge or significant and original adaptation, application and interpretation of existing knowledge.

There is a choice of either a Research Doctorate, which is primarily achieved through supervised research, with entry from a research or part-research Masters Degree, or a Bachelor Honours Degree (First or Second Class, upper division), or a Professional Doctorate, which may be undertaken through varying combinations of course work and research. The latter requires significant professional practice, either prior to, or during the program.

Non-AQF Courses:

There are a number of courses that are not covered by the AQF, but are registered with the Australian government.

Essentially, these courses support students to meet the entry requirements for additional study and/or may lead to further study resulting in an AQF qualification.

English Language Skills Courses

Length of study: Varies, depending on English competency level
Entrance requirements: No entrance requirements

International students who need to improve their English language skills - speaking, writing, and reading in order to meet the English language proficiency requirements of their desired course of study, may undertake an English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS). These short courses are offered at a range of universities, Vocational Education and Training (VET) institutes and private English language centres throughout Australia.

Non-Award Foundation Courses

Length of study: Up to one year
Entrance requirements:
  • Completed/near completed Secondary School Certificate of Education from your own country; and
  • Appropriate standard of written and spoken English

The Non-Award Foundation course prepares international students whose academic background does not meet the minimum academic requirements for entry into a university undergraduate course.

Apply for a Student Visa Online

The appropriate form to use in these circumstances is:
Form 157E - Electronic Application for a Student (Temporary) Visa.

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Apply for a Student Visa Offline

The appropriate form to use in these circumstances is:
Form 157A - Application for a Student (Temporary) Visa.

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