Description of the Australian Higher Education System


The Australian higher education system consists of self-governing public and private universities and higher education institutions that award higher education qualifications.

The Australian Qualifications Framework

The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) is a single national, comprehensive system of qualifications offered by higher education institutions (including universities), vocational education and training institutions and secondary schools.

The AQF has 10 levels, each with defined criteria based on a taxonomy of learning outcomes. Higher education qualifications are placed between level 5 (the Diploma) and level 10 (the Doctoral Degree). The Bachelor Degree is at level 7.  Each AQF qualification has a set of descriptors which define the type and complexity of knowledge, skills and application of the knowledge and skills that a graduate who has been awarded that qualification has attained, and the typical volume of learning associated with that qualification type. The full set of levels criteria and qualification type descriptors can be found by visiting .

The main AQF qualifications awarded by higher education institutions are Bachelor Degrees, Masters Degrees and Doctoral Degrees.  There are also three qualifications at the sub-degree level: the Diploma, the Advanced Diploma and the Associate Degree.  At the graduate level but below the Masters Degree are the Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma.


Requirements for admission to particular awards are set by higher education institutions and provide a range of routes for entry and only admit those students considered to have potential to complete an award successfully.  Admission of school leavers to undergraduate awards is typically on the basis of the level of achievement in Year 12 secondary education, although some institutions and awards also use interviews, portfolios or demonstrated interest or aptitude. Most institutions also provide alternative entry provisions via bridging or foundation programs for mature age students or other special provisions, such as recognition of prior learning from previous study. Admission to post-graduate awards is generally based on the level of achievement in previous higher education studies and in most cases, admission to PhD awards is based on high achievement in a research Masters Degree or in a Bachelor Degree with first class honours or second class honours division A.


Quality assurance and stringent approval requirements for higher education institutions ensure that Australia has an international reputation for high quality education.

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) was established on 30 July 2011 as a new national regulator and quality assurance agency for higher education. TEQSA is an independent body with the powers to regulate university and non-university higher education providers and monitor quality against standards.

From 29 January 2012 TEQSA assumed responsibility for registering and re-registering providers and accrediting and re-accrediting awards for higher education providers that do not have authority to accredit their own awards.  At the time of registration, re-registration, accreditation and/or re-accreditation, TEQSA evaluates the performance of a higher education provider against the Higher Education Standards Framework. The Standards Framework comprises: Provider Registration, Category and Course Accreditation Standards and Qualification Standards (based on the AQF). The Higher Education Standards Panel, which is independent from TEQSA, is responsible for developing and monitoring the Standards Framework.

TEQSA also undertakes quality assessments of individual providers or reviews issues within the sector across a cohort (thematic reviews). These reviews help to identify sectoral good practice, guide sectoral quality enhancement and inform policy and research.

TEQSA’s primary aim is to ensure that students receive a high quality education at any of Australia’s higher education institutions.

All higher education institutions receiving Australian Government financial support must meet quality and accountability requirements that are set out in the Higher Education Support Act 2003. The Australian Government also uses a range of tools to measure and monitor the quality of outcomes, while the interests of international students are protected by the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 and the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS), providing tuition assurance and ensuring that institutions listed on CRICOS meet defined minimum standards.

(Information provided by the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education DIISRTE)