Education in Australia is the duty of the state governments. Education is divided into three tiers: primary, secondary, and post-secondary/tertiary. Up to the age of around 15 or 16, education is compulsory; this age is determined by each state. The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), a unified system of national qualifications of schools, vocational training and education, regulates post-compulsory education and the higher education sector.
Primary school and secondary school take up to 12 years, with years 1–6/7 for primary schooling and years 7/8–12 for secondary. While school education is compulsory up to age 15 or 16 (year 9 or 10), most students continue and finish in year 12 so they can study for the government-endorsed Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. This certificate is recognised for entry into all Australian universities, vocational education and training institutions, and many international universities.
Post-secondary education comprises two sectors: vocational/technical education and higher education. Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) sector must meet the nationally agreed standards of the Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF). In 2007, nearly 108,000 international students were enrolled in VET courses in Australia.Higher education programmes lead to the following qualifications:
Certificates, diplomas, advanced diplomas and associate degrees, which take one to two years to complete. Bachelor’s degrees generally take three or four years to complete; they are generally the first university degree students undertake. Master’s degrees are undertaken after the completion of at least one bachelor’s degree, and often deal with a subject at a more advanced level. Doctoral degrees are undertaken after an honours bachelor’s or a master’s degree, and require a significant original research project resulting in a thesis or dissertation.
There are 39 Australian universities, and many other recognised higher education institutions, located in capital cities and many regional centres. Australian courses are of very high quality and recognised worldwide by employers and other institutions.