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Australia has built a strong reputation for excellence and quality across its higher education programs.
The large numbers of international students who choose to pursue higher education in Australia reflect
this global reputation.
Who offers higher education?
Higher education courses are offered by
universities, private colleges and some TAFE
institutes. Some professional courses —
such as medicine, veterinary science, law
and architecture — are only offered by
Courses and qualifications
Australia has a national set of qualifications
endorsed by the Australian Government.
This means that there is national and
international recognition of each
qualification and the level of education it
represents. The main types of qualifications
offered by higher education institutions are
Bachelor degree: Bachelor degrees
provide initial preparation for professional
careers and postgraduate study and involve
a minimum of three years of full-time
study. Entry typically requires completion of
the Australian Senior Secondary Certificate
of Education (Year 12) or the overseas
equivalent, a certificate IV or diploma from
the Vocational Education and Training (VET)
sector, or a recognised foundation course.
See page 20 for more information.
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
Graduate certificate/diploma: These
qualifications are generally designed for
specific vocational purposes — either the
broadening of skills and knowledge already
gained in an undergraduate program or
the development of vocational skills and
knowledge in a new professional area.
The typical requirement is six months to
a year of full-time study for the graduate
certificate and one to two years of full-
time study for the graduate diploma.
Entry usually requires a bachelor degree or
Masters degree: Masters degrees provide
a mastery or high-order overview of a field
of study or area of professional practice.
They typically involve one to two years of
full-time study. The masters degree may be
offered in three formats:
• Masters degree (coursework): These
consist of coursework, project work and
research in varying combinations. Entry
typically requires prior completion of
a bachelor degree, a bachelor degree
(honours) or a graduate certificate or
• Masters degree (research): These are at
least two-thirds research and include a
substantial thesis or research project,
which is often externally assessed. Entry
normally requires a bachelor degree
(honours) or masters preliminary year.
• Masters degree (extended): These may
consist of a work-based project. Entry
requires a relevant qualification and
professional experience, or extensive
relevant professional experience.
Doctoral degree: Doctoral degrees
recognise a considerable original
contribution to a given field in the form
of new knowledge or the adaptation,
application and interpretation of existing
knowledge. They are usually completed
over three or four years of full-time study.
The doctoral degree may be offered in two
• Research doctorate (PhD): These consist
mainly of supervised research resulting
in the completion of a thesis. Entry
requires a masters degree by research or
a bachelor degree (honours).
• Professional doctorate: These
combine coursework and research for
professionals wanting to advance their
knowledge in their field without the
research commitment of a PhD. Entry
typically requires a masters degree by
research or a bachelor degree (honours).
In addition, considerable professional
experience is required either before or
during the course.
Entry into most higher education courses in
Australia is highly competitive. In addition
to the academic requirements specified for
each qualification level (see ‘Courses and
qualifications’), applicants must also meet
high-level English language requirements
for both undergraduate and postgraduate
study. Some higher education courses have
additional entry requirements, such as
prior knowledge in certain subjects; work
experience; or the successful completion
of an audition, portfolio, test or interview.
Each education provider will have different
entry requirements, so it’s important to
contact individual providers to check.
Starting dates vary widely depending on
the course. Higher education courses
generally run from late February to mid-
November. The academic year is typically
divided into two semesters, although some
institutions operate on a trimester system
or offer summer schools from December to
February, which can reduce the total course
length. Undergraduate and postgraduate
coursework students enrol for their courses
at the beginning of the year (usually in
January or February), but application
dates are typically towards the end of
the previous year. Some institutions also
have a mid-year intake (usually in July) for
certain courses. Students studying towards
a doctoral degree or other research degree
may be able to negotiate an alternative
starting date with their project supervisor.
Average tuition costs
• Bachelor degree: AUD$15,000 to
$33,000 per year
• Masters degree: AUD$20,000 to
$37,000 per year
• Doctoral degree: AUD$14,000 to
These figures were sourced from the
Australian Government’s Study in Australia
website in 2013 at
note that fees vary widely and should
always be sourced from the relevant
institutions. Some courses, such as
medicine and veterinary science, may
attract higher costs.
for in-depth information about courses,
institutions and scholarships.
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