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Australian Qualifications Framework

In Australia, you experience a unique kind of education a learning style that encourages innovative, creative, independent thinking. You build skills to give you an advantage Academically, Personally, Creatively and Professionally.

The Australian education system is distinguished from many other countries by the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF).

The AQF is a national system established by the Australian Government that links courses and qualifications. It covers University, Vocational Education and Training, and School education.

The AQF allows you to move easily from one level of study to the next and from one institution to another as long as you satisfy student visa requirements. It gives you flexibility in career planning and encourages you to continue learning to help you through any career and lifestyle changes you make in your life.

The AQF provides guidelines for assessment and accreditation of qualifications such as Diplomas and Degrees. For example, you can seek credit towards a qualification for the knowledge and skills you gained through previous study, training, work and life experience. Once you establish the status of your existing qualifications, you can choose from appropriate level courses anywhere in Australia. Even if you partially complete an AQF qualification you are issued  a Statement of Attainment.

The AQF comprises thirteen national qualifications issued in:
  • Secondary schools
  • Vocational education and training institutions.
  • Higher education institutions (mainly universities).
The diagram below groups the AQF qualifications according to the schools, vocational or higher education institutions that commonly issue the qualifications. The diagram also shows typical learning pathways and links to more information you can reach this by clicking on each qualification.



Some AQF qualifications are offered by more than one type of institution. For example:
  • Both universities and vocational education and training institutions offer Diplomas, Advanced Diplomas, and Bachelors Degree.
  • Vocational education and training institutions, usually in association with universities, may offer degrees, Graduate Certificates and Graduate Diplomas.
  • Study for AQF qualifications may help a student in achieving articulation into internationally-recognised certifications or accreditations. These certifications or accreditations are usually industry specific.
Foundation Studies or Bridging courses
Foundation Studies or Bridging courses help students meet entry requirements for further study or may lead to further study that will result in an AQF qualification.
English language training courses
There are also wide ranges of English language training courses, which help students improve their English proficiency, meet the standard for further study.
School qualifications
Senior Secondary Certificate of Education Final two years of school

Vocational education and training qualifications
The qualifications offered at vocational education and training institutions are Certificates I-IV, Diploma and Advanced Diploma. They meet national industry standards and will prepare you for employment in a host of occupations or for further studies.
Certificate IV 12 to 18 months
You will acquire a breadth, depth and complexity of knowledge and competencies that cover a broad range of varied activities, in a variety of contexts that are usually complex and non-routine. You are expected to be able to demonstrate leadership and guidance of yourself and others, as well as contributing to technical solutions of a non-routine or contingency nature.

You will have to demonstrate performance in a broad range of skilled applications including evaluating and analysing current practices, develop new criteria and procedures for performing current practices. In addition to showing leadership and guiding others, you are expected to accept responsibility for others and demonstrate limited organisational skills.
Diploma 18 to 24 months
Diploma study involves breadth, depth and complexity covering planning and initiation of alternative approaches to skills or knowledge applications across a broad range of technical and/or management requirements, evaluation and co-ordination. Diploma holders will be capable of self-directed application of knowledge and skills, with substantial depth in some areas where judgement is required in planning and selecting appropriate equipment, services and techniques. A diploma student will participate in the development of strategic initiatives and take personal responsibility and autonomy in performing complex technical operations or organising others. Participation in teams both in routine work and undertaking planning and evaluation tasks is expected. Group or team coordination may be involved.
Some Diplomas are also offered by universities.
Advanced Diploma 2 to 3 years
This study involves breadth, depth and complexity involving analysis, diagnosis, design, planning, execution and evaluation across a broad range of technical and/or management functions. Skills include developing new criteria or application or knowledge or procedures. You will learn to apply a significant range of fundamental principles and complex techniques across a wide and often unpredictable variety of contexts in relation to either varied or highly specific functions. Also involved is contributing to the development of a broad plan, budget or strategy. You will learn to be accountable and take responsibility for yourself and others in achieving outcomes.
Some Advanced Diplomas are also offered by universities.

University qualifications

The following qualifications are available at Australian universities and approved higher education providers.
Associate Degree 2 years
An Associate Degree is a two year qualification following year 12 or equivalent, or Certificate III or IV. It is a shorter higher education qualification offering an exit point at the sub-degree level, or a fully articulated pathway into the Bachelor Degree for further in-depth study and professional preparation, or articulation into an Advanced Diploma for specialist industry competencies.

This study emphasises the foundational, research-based knowledge of an academic discipline, is broad-based in conceptual and theoretical content, often multi-disciplinary and develops generic employment-related skills within these discipline(s).

The Associate Degree qualification is offered by universities and other self-accrediting higher education providers, and other providers including TAFEs and private VET providers, that meet specific requirements.
Bachelor Degree Minimum 3 years
Bachelor Degree (Honours) 4 years
The Bachelor degree is the fundamental university qualification and is the basic qualification for entry to the professions. Some professions may require additional vocational qualifications as a condition of entry.

This study involves acquiring a systematic and coherent body of knowledge, its underlying principles and concepts, and associated problem-solving techniques. You will develop the academic skills and attitudes to comprehend and evaluate new information, concepts and evidence from a wide range of sources. You will also develop the ability to review, consolidate, extend and apply the knowledge and techniques learnt.

This study usually involves major studies in an area where significant literature is available. Course content is to a significant depth and progressively developed to a high level, preparing students for further post-graduate study if desired.

A Bachelor Degree with honours takes an additional year after a Bachelor Degree. Honours may also be granted where outstanding achievement is recorded in a Bachelor Degree course of four or more years.
Graduate Diplomas 12 months
The Graduate Diploma either broadens individual skills obtained in an undergraduate program or develops vocational knowledge and skills in a new professional area. This qualification can also be described as further specialisation within a systematic and coherent body of knowledge.
Masters Degree 1 to 2 years
The Masters Degree involves enhancing specific professional or vocational skills. The Masters Degree is typically gained by research or coursework or a combination. Study involves acquiring in-depth understanding of a specific area of knowledge usually by independent research.

A Masters Degree takes either one year after a Bachelor Degree with honours or two years after a Bachelor Degree.
Doctoral Degree Typically 3 years
The Doctoral Degree is the highest award offered by Australian universities. Although it is a research degree, some programs may have a course work component. There are three components to a Doctoral Degree:

a searching review of the literature, experimentation or other systemic approach to a body of knowledge;

an original research project resulting in a significant contribution to knowledge and understanding and/or the application of knowledge within a discipline or field of study; and

a substantial and well-ordered thesis, demonstrating the relationship of the research to the broader framework of the discipline or field of study.
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