Whilst Australia might not be the first place you associate with education and study, in reality it attracts the third highest number of international students, behind the USA and the UK, of any country in the world.

Whilst a few of these will choose Australia because of its sun-kissed beaches, warm weather, and outdoor lifestyle, most of them choose to study in the country because of the quality of education on offer.

The Australian Education System

Australia has a highly regarded educational system, which is modelled on the British system with suitable local variations. It begins with pre-school education, which can start as young as three years old, although this is not compulsory.

Formal compulsory education starts at age five or six – the requirement differs between individual States – and continues, through primary and secondary school, until at least the age of 16. Those wanting to study further, and apply for university or vocational training, will go to senior secondary school for an additional two years.

Australia has a large number of public and private schools (the split across the country is 60/40), but all education providers must be licenced by the government, and are obliged to follow a national curriculum, which is intended to give all pupils a solid grounding in literacy, numeracy, communication and information technology.

In senior secondary school (Years 11 to 12) students study for their Senior Secondary Certificate of Education – this is a prerequisite for entry to most Australian universities, as well as vocational training and educational colleges. Many international universities also recognise the Certificate as an entry qualification.  

Australian Education Vs Other Countries

Australia’s education system is similar to both that of New Zealand and the UK, with students able to study for their Bachelors and Masters degrees, and Doctorates. In terms of the US, there are greater similarities than differences. However, one area where Australian schools trump their US counterpart is when it comes to student results, which are higher in all categories – a distinction attributed to a higher standard of teaching and subject matter.

Another difference is the academic year which, in the Northern Hemisphere starts in September but in Australia and New Zealand, begins in February.


Australian Universities offer a full gamut of courses, with thousands on offer, ranging from the humanities to science, law to management, engineering to medicine.

Types of Degree

There are three main types of degree programme which can be followed:

Bachelor’s Degree

It typically takes three years to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Australia – or four if studying for an honour’s degree. Unlike the UK though, the year is usually split into two terms, not three.

The minimum entry requirement for admission on a degree course is a high school leaving certificate or equivalent; evidence of English language proficiency might also be required. Some practical or vocational course might also require a portfolio, audition, or successful completion of work placement.

Master’s Degrees

A Master’s Degree normally takes one or two years to complete. Requirements vary between universities, but most require a successful completion of a Bachelor’s Degree first, with a 2.2 grade or higher.

Doctorates (PhDs)

A PhD usually takes three years to complete, and is only normally undertaken when somebody has acquired a Master’s Degree first. As in most other countries, a written thesis is required but, unlike other jurisdictions, there is no stipulation that work then needs to be orally defended. 

Language Requirements

All undergraduate and post-graduate courses in Australia are taught in English. In some cases, those whose first language is not English may need to prove their proficiency in the language, before they are accepted on a course, by taking a recognised language test.