An Introduction to Australian Education and Your Study Options

In this guide, we introduce you to the Australian education system and the range of study options for international students in Australia.

4 April 2023

Two international students are looking through a book at a university library

Are you planning to study in Australia?  

You probably already know that international students in Australia have access to a world-class education, amazing student cities, diverse and vibrant communities, work rights and protections, and so much more.  

But perhaps you’d like to know more about the Australian education system and the range study pathways available? 

We’re here to help.  

Why study in Australia? 

Australia is one of the most popular destinations for international students in the world – with good reason.  

Global rankings like Times Higher Education, QS and Shanghai Rankings consistently list Australian education providers in the top 100 in the world for their quality of teaching, modern facilities, and world-class research and innovation. Australia’s providers also rank among the world’s best in a wide range of individual subject areas and for impact against the UN Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs).  

Australia’s education system and its students are protected by rigorous quality assurance systems. Australia has incredibly high standards and protections, which means that whatever and wherever you decide to study, your learning will be supported by strong protections and specialised services for international students. 

Study options in Australia 

There are a range of study options in Australia available to international students. 

1.     Higher education  

Universities and non-university higher education providers (including TAFEs) offer undergraduate and postgraduate programs, including bachelor degrees, coursework and research master degrees, and doctoral degrees.  

Many higher education providers will also offer graduate diploma and graduate certificate programs, and even associate degrees leading to full bachelor qualifications. 

Some universities are very large and offer a wide range of study areas, while others specialise in certain fields of study. With 43 universities across the country, you’re sure to find the right fit for you. 

2.     TAFEs and private VET colleges (RTOs) 

TAFE stands for Technical and Further Education, and refers to Government-owned (public) institutions providing vocational education training (VET) and some higher education programs.  

Private colleges (registered training organisations) also offer VET programs, higher education programs, or both. These colleges are usually much smaller than universities and many focus on a particular field of study.  

Most courses in VET offer hands-on, practical, workplace-based and job-ready learning. These programs are designed by industry experts to meet employer and industry needs.  

A wide range of VET study areas are available at Certificate II, Certificate III, Certificate IV, Diploma and Advanced Diploma levels, as well as some higher education degrees.  

3.     Pathway and Foundation colleges 

Education pathways can include English language preparation, VET courses and Foundation studies. Some higher education providers have a formal arrangement with a pathway provider to support your progression from preparation to higher studies.   

If you don’t quite meet the academic requirements for direct entry to an Australian university, Foundation studies can provide you with the skills you need to begin an undergraduate higher education program.  

Foundation courses are usually divided into subject-related streams (such as business or science) and they offer both compulsory and elective subjects. 

4. English language colleges 

ELICOS stands for English language intensive courses for overseas students. These courses adhere to mandatory national standards and a comprehensive, industry-led quality assurance framework

You may wish to improve your English for:   

  • work or career purposes, 
  • personal reasons such as travel, or  
  • as a pathway to a tertiary education provider (as per the above section).  

Whatever your reason or wanting to learn English in Australia, there is a course to suit your goal.  

5. Schools 

Australia is host to international students from around five years of age, including children of international students who are studying at a tertiary level.  

The Australian school system is broadly structured as follows:  

  • Pre-school and kindergarten: a duration of two years, run part-time for children three and four years of age. 
  • Primary school: a duration of seven to eight years (from a ‘kinder’ or preparatory year though to year 6). 
  • Secondary school: a duration of six years from year 7 to year 12, including two years of ‘senior secondary school’ in years 11 and 12. 

Australian schools are among the finest in the world with a choice of either government or private schools. Fees and requirements for enrolling students vary across Australian states and territories, and across schools.  

Start your search  

With so many study options available, there are opportunities for everyone to study in Australia.  

Head to our Course Search tool and start searching for a course that suits you today.