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By Barry Phillips, Nikki Cortoos, Tom Levec and several other authors

For entities in Australia see Category:Australia

Experts situated in Australia

Please check the International Advisory Committee list for members in Australia

Australia in a nutshell

Australia is a country occupying a whole continent in the southern hemisphere with neighbouring countries including Indonesia, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea to the north, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia to the north-east, and New Zealand to the south-east.

For around 40,000 years before European settlement commenced in the late 18th century, the Australian mainland and Tasmania were inhabited by around 250 individual nations of indigenous Australians. After sporadic visits by fishermen from the immediate north, and European discovery by Dutch explorers in 1606, the eastern half of Australia was claimed by the British in 1770 and initially settled through penal transportation to the colony of New South Wales, founded on 26 January 1788. The population grew steadily in the following years; the continent was explored, and during the 19th century another five largely self-governing Crown Colonies were established.

In 1901, the Commonwealth of Australia was born when the colonies became a federation.

Australia is comprised of six states, plus two major mainland territories and several minor territories including islands. The states are New South Wales (NSW), Queensland, South Australia (SA), Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia (WA). The two major mainland territories are the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The national’s capital city is Canberra located in the ACT which is between NSW and Victoria.

Australia is a constitutional democracy based on a federal division of power – that is the states have control over some portfolio matters. The form of government in Australia is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of the country and is represented by the Governor-General at federal level and by the Governors at state level.

There are three levels of Australian government: Australian (Federal), state and territory and local.

Australia has a population of about 22,015,576 (July 2012 estimate according to the CIA World Factbook. The largest population is concentrated around the mainland cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

Australia is a multicultural country with its residents coming from every part of the world. Australia is a federation of states/territories and so contains similar political and organisational challenges to many regios which are federations of states/territories or countries.

It could be argued that the relevance of Australia is mainly to the larger nations of the European Union, yet since it has a states structure as well the relevance is wider, in fact to all nations large and small. It should also be noticed that most Australians now see themseleves as being in the Asia-Pacific region. This regional relationship is very important now in Australia.

Education in Australia

Education in Australia is primarily the responsibility of states and territories. However the administration and financing of education in Australia is shared between the Australian Government and the Australian states and territories. The nature of the arrangements depends on the educational sector and legislative responsibilities.

Consultation between the Australian Government and the states and territories takes places through the [[Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs| Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs (MCEECDYA)].

The Australian Government’s education policy focuses on:

  • Improving learning outcomes
  • Implementing a national school curriculum
  • Increasing school retention rates
  • Providing more funding for education and research.

The policy was released in 2007 when the Australian Labor Party (ALP) was still in opposition prior to forming government in late 2007.

For further information see:

The ALP was succesful in obtaining power in November 2007. The government's productivity agenda includes education, training, skills and early childhood as key elements. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) have agreed to a new model of cooperation on a number of matters of which productivity is one.

The states and territories are primarily responsible for policy and administration of school education. The Australian Government provides funding and co-ordination. Support is provided through:

  • general recurrent, capital and targeted programs
  • policy development
  • research and analysis of nationally significant education issues.

A key priority of the current Australian Government is to provide a national consistent school system. That is agree on a common starting age, common national testing in key subject areas, consistency in curriculum outcomes, and a common information system for the transfer of student data when students move interstate.

The states and territories are responsible for:

  • organisation, funding and delivery of school education
  • non-government schools registration, inspection and supplementary funding
  • determines its own policies and practices on organisation of schooling, curriculum, course accreditation, student assessment and certification.

Each state and territory has its own education department and agencies which are responsible for publicly-funded education.

Curriculum and assessment is underpinned by the National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty-first Century which focuses on the learning outcomes for students and provides a framework for national reporting on student achievement. The National Goals for Schooling have been agreed by all education ministers.


Generally, education in Australia follows the three-tier model which includes primary education (primary schools), followed by secondary education (secondary schools/high schools) and tertiary education (universities and/or TAFE (Technical and Further Education Colleges)).

Education is compulsory up to an age specified by legislation; this age varies from state to state but is generally 15-17, that is prior to completing secondary education. Post-compulsory education is regulated within the Australian Qualifications Framework, a unified system of national qualifications in schools, vocational education and training (TAFE) and the higher education sector (university).

The academic year in Australia varies between states and institutions, but generally runs from late January until mid-December for primary and secondary schools and TAFE colleges, and from late February until mid-November for universities.

Schools in Australia

For a list of all schools in Australia including their location and websites, visit the following link:

There are three levels of school education, primary, secondary and senior secondary.

Pre-school and Primary School

Primary school is from year 1 to year 6 or 7, with the emphasis being on developing English language and literacy skills, numeracy and basic mathematics as well as health and creative activities. There are no formal examination requirements and students progress to secondary education, on the recommendation of the teacher in consultation with the parents, at the completion of primary schooling.

Pre-school in Australia is relatively unregulated, and is not compulsory. The first exposure many Australian children have to learn with others outside of traditional parenting is day care or a local government run playgroup. This type of activity is not generally considered schooling. Pre-school education is separate from primary school in all states and territories except Western Australia and Queensland, where pre-school education is taught as part of the primary school system.

Pre-schools are usually run by local councils, community groups or private organizations except for the Northern Territory and Queensland where they are run by the Territory and State Governments respectively. Pre-school is offered to three- to five-year-olds, although attendance numbers vary widely (from 50% in New South Wales to 93% in Victoria). The year before a child is due to attend primary school is the main year for pre-school education. This year is far more commonly attended, and usually takes the form of a few hours of activity five days a week.

Secondary, Senior Secondary/High Schools and Colleges

Secondary education is from year 7 or 8 to year 10. Core subjects are taught for the first two years and a selection of electives are introduced thereafter.

Senior secondary covers year 11 and 12 and a range of programs are offered aimed at preparing students for future study and work life. The Senior Secondary Certificate of Education is awarded to students who have successfully completed year 12.

However, the years for both secondary and senior secondary schools in Australia do in fact vary from state to state. In territories such as Tasmania and the Astralian Capital Territory, the term High School is used to refer from years 7-10 while it is substituted by the term College from years 11-12. Following reforms of the Labor Government in the late 1980's and the early 1990's, the term secondary college has largely replaced the term high school in the territory of Victoria. Some schools in Victoria such as Melbourne High School have retained the term high school. Others have dropped the word 'secondary' and are simply referred to as 'colleges'.

In New South Wales, the last year of high school, year 12, is known as the Higher School Certificate (HSC) while years 11 and 12 in Victoria are known as the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE). There are various other similar names in other states.

The first examination mark for a student in New South Wales and a combination of examination marks and coursework in other states, excluding Queensland, are indexed into the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR). This index is usually the sole factor considered when applying for university courses. The ATAR was only introduced in 2009 in New South Wales, and previously each state calculated its own final high school rank, such as the Universities Admission Index (UAI) in New South Wales and Equivalent National Tertiary Entrance Rank (ENTER) in Victoria.

Victorian students also have an opportunity to complete a high school qualification under the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning which gives students practical experience in a trade or workplace. This qualification generally leads students into a trade.

Generally, lower secondary education (Years 8 – 10) maintains continuity of learning in the learning areas and enables students to concentrate on the development of knowledge and skills in accordance with their personal learning goals and needs. Students are provided with opportunities to participate in enquiry based learning, innovative thinking, problem solving and decision making.

Senior secondary education (Years 11 and 12) provides students with a wide range of programs to ensure they are well placed to qualify for secondary graduation and to gain University or TAFE entrance or employment. The students undertake the Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) and have the opportunity to pursue subjects of their choice in greater depth.

Teachers design educational programs to suit the learning needs of their students. Educational standards are maintained with state and nation wide testing.

The school year consists of two semesters divided into two terms each. The school day commences at approximately 9.00am and concludes between 3.00 and 3.30 pm

Government schools welcome students from other countries. They strive to ensure their learning experiences are both stimulating and educationally rewarding and the students enjoy their life in a different cultural environment.

Schools in Australia can be classified according to sources of funding and administrative structures. There are three such categories in Australia: Public Schools (also known as 'Government' schools or 'State' schools), Independent Schools (informally known as 'private' schools) and Catholic schools.

School is compulsory in Australia between the ages of six and fifteen, depending on the state and date of birth, with, in recent years, over three quarters of students staying on until they are eighteen. Government schools educate about two thirds of Australian students, with the other third in independent schools, a proportion which is rising in many parts of Australia.

Government schools are free, while independent schools, both religious and secular, charge fees. Regardless of whether a school is government or independent, they are required to adhere to the same curriculum frameworks. Most school students, be they in government or independent school, usually wear uniforms, although there are varying expectations and some Australian schools do not require uniforms.

Government (or state) schools

Government or state schools are run by the local state or territory government. They do not charge compulsory fees, with the majority of their costs being met by the relevant government, and the rest by voluntary levies and fund raising activities.

Government schools are of two types: open and selective. Open schools accept all students from their government defined catchment areas. Selective government schools mostly cater for academically gifted students (the top 5 percent), although there are performing arts and sports schools. Almost all selective schools are in New South Wales, though a few exist in other areas. For example Victoria has 2 selective entry high schools for students in year 9 -12.

Selective schools are more prestigious than open government schools, and generally achieve better results in the school-leaving exams than independent or open government schools. Entry to selective schools is often highly competitive these schools cater to a large geographical area.

Independent and Catholic schools

Most Catholic schools are either run by their local parish and/or by each state's Catholic Education Commission.

Independent schools enroll about 14% of students. These include schools operated by religious groups and secular educational philosophies such as Montessori.

All independent schools charge tuition fees. Government funding for independent schools often comes under criticism from the Australian Education Union and the general public.

Private schools have better infrastructures, facilities, higher paid teachers, prestige and social status as well as a better educational environment. They focus on extra-curricular activities such games and sports, other activities alongside better education. Private schools are considered a very important part of the Australian school system because of their quality. They get funded by the government and students still have to pay a very high tuition, making them more expensive than the government schools.

Some of the best private schools in Australia include Anglican Grammar School, Canberra Grammar School, Saint Hilda’s School, etc. Other good private schools are mostly found in major cities such as Canberra, Adelaide, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Usually, there is tough competition enrolling in private schools and both parents and students have to meet specific eligibility requirements before applying, which normally vary from school to school and from class to class. Besides educational requirements, the students may also have to appear for a written test.

Amongst other subjects, main courses offered in Australian private schools include English, the language other than English, Math, Science, Art, Social & Environmental Studies, Technology, Personal Development, Health and Physical Education. Some private schools at the senior secondary level offer specialization in particular areas. For a list of all the private schools in Australia, visit

Further and Higher education

The Australian Government has significant financial and policy responsibility for higher education, while state and territory governments retain major legislative responsibility. At the national level higher education policies and programs are administered by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations – DEEWR . The provision of government funding is outlined in the Higher Education Support Act 2003.


The Australian Government also provides substantial funding to the higher education sector in support of research through various grants and programs:

  • Institutional Grants Scheme
  • Research Infrastructure Block Grants
  • Australian Postgraduate Awards
  • Research projects administered by the Australian Research Council (ARC)
  • National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Vocational education and training

The Australian Government contributes about one-third of government funding for vocational education and training, with the other two-thirds coming from state and territory governments.

Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) system is built on a partnership between governments and industry. Industry representatives and employers play a key role in determining training policies and priorities, and in developing training qualifications that can deliver the skills employers need for the workforce.

Australian’s training system is based on competencies, nationally consistent and quality-assured.

The [Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF)] was established in 1995. The Framework links qualifications from school, vocational education and training and higher education sectors. The AQF recognises prior learning or current competence, and makes credit transfer and flexible learning pathways easier. AQF VET qualifications are outcomes based, and focus on the skills and competencies gained rather than on the length or type of course studied.

State and territory governments have constitutional responsibility for the management and administration of vocational education and training within their jurisdictions. That is they are responsible for state-level planning, regulation of training providers, allocation of funds to public and private training providers, setting student fees and charges and managing Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutes.

The Australian Government takes a strategic leadership role in vocational education and training by working collaboratively with states and territories and industry as part of its responsibility to ensure national prosperity and economic development.

Under the 2005-2008 funding agreement, the Australian Government committed to providing almost $5 billion to states and territories to support their training systems. The Australian Government also directly funds a number of programs to support the vocational education and training system. These include:

  • Australian Apprenticeships (including support for employers and new apprentices)
  • Australian Technical Colleges
  • Workplace English Language and Literacy Program (provides existing workers with English language, literacy and numeracy skills.

The Digital Education Revolution

The Digital Education Revolution, a major part of the Australian Government's Education Revolution, is a vital step in creating a world-class education system for Australia.

The aim of the program is to contribute sustainable and meaningful change to teaching and learning in Australian schools that will prepare students for further education, training and to live and work in a digital world. Source :

Higher education

Tertiary or higher education in Australia is made up of universities and non-university higher education institutions (called higher education providers).

A higher education provider is an entity approved state and territory authorities to offer particular higher education courses. Australia has approximately 150 higher education institutions approved to offer particular higher education courses. Higher education providers have to be approved by the Australian Government Minister for Education in order to be eligible for government grants or for their students to be eligible to receive assistance from the Australian Government under the Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA). Providers are subject to quality and accountability requirements.

In 2007, the Australian higher education system consisted of:

  • 39 universities of which 37 are public institutions and 2 are private;
  • 1 Australian branch of an overseas university;
  • 4 other self-accrediting higher education institutions; and
  • non-self-accrediting higher education providers accredited by State and Territory authorities, numbering more than 150 as listed on State and Territory registers. These include several that are registered in more than one State and Territory.

The non-self-accrediting higher education providers form a very diverse group of specialised, mainly private, providers that range in size and include theological colleges and other providers that offer courses in areas such as business, information technology, natural therapies, hospitality, health, law and accounting.

Universities in Australia

For a list of all universities in Australia including their location and websites, visit the following link:

Both private and public universities can be found in Australia. As of 2006, there are 36 public, 2 Catholic and 1 Non-profit Private universities in Australia.

Universities Australia is the industry peak body representing the university sector. Currently, 38 universities are members of Universities Australia.

Most Australian universities developed substantial capability in distance learning in the 1980s and a significant number have now embraced e-learning. Perhaps the best known is the University of Southern Queensland.

There is a service provider called NextEd who operates globally and in particular supported the GUA.

For a list of university rankings in Australia by different agencies, organisations and international bodies, visit

Polytechnics in Australia

Colleges in Australia

Vocational Education and Training

The main providers of vocational education and training (VET) in Australia are the various state-administered institutes of Technical and Further Education (TAFE). TAFE institutions generally offer courses based on the Australian Qualifications Framework that is Certificates I, II, III, and IV, Diplomas, and Advanced Diplomas in a wide range of vocational areas. They also offer some higher education courses, especially in Victoria.

In addition, to TAFE Institutions, there are many Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) which are operated privately. In Victoria alone there are approximately 1100 RTOs. They include:

  • commercial training providers,
  • the training department of manufacturing or service enterprises,
  • the training function of employer or employee organisations in a particular industry,
  • Group Training Companies,
  • community learning centres and neighbourhood houses,
  • secondary schools/colleges providing VET programs.

In terms of size these RTOs vary from single-person operations delivering training and assessment in a narrow specialisation, to large organisations offering a wide range of programs. Many RTOs receive government funding to deliver programs to apprentices or trainees, to disadvantaged groups, or in government identified priority areas.

All course providers are required to comply with the Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF) and compliance is monitored by regular internal and external audits.

VET programs delivered by TAFE Institutions and private RTOs are based on nationally registered qualifications, derived from either endorsed sets of competency standards known as Training Packages, or from courses accredited by state/territory government authorities. These qualifications are regularly reviewed and updated. In specialised areas where no formal qualifications exist, RTOs may develop their own course and obtain endorsement for it as an accredited privately owned program which is then subjected to the same rules as the publicly owned programs.

All trainers and assessors delivering VET programs are required to hold a qualification known as the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAA40104) or demonstrate equivalent competency. Additionally, they are also required to have relevant vocational competencies, at least to the level being delivered or assessed.

Education reform



The Bologna Process and Australia

The Bologna Process represents a commitment by forty-five European countries to undertake a series of reforms in order to achieve greater consistency and portability across their higher education systems.

The Bologna process is likely to have a profound effect on the development of higher education globally. Australian education observers (as well as observers from other continents) are taking a close interest in the reform process and beginning to consider how their own system can be more closely aligned with ‘Bologna’ thinking.

A discussion paper developed in 2006, by the Department of Education, Science and Training, aimed to initiate discussion on the significance of Bologna for Australia and possible Australian responses. The Department of Education Science and Training’s initial assessment is that Australian higher education has much to gain by aligning with the key Bologna actions. Potential benefits identified are of two types:

  • Facilitation of interaction and recognition
  • Benefits to Australian students and employers (with the use of "The Diploma Supplement" and the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS))

The document also state that the institution choosing to maintain positions of Bologna ‘incompatibility’ take a risk.

What would Australian compatibility with Bologna involve? At a minimum, compatibility would entail:

  • a three cycle (Bachelor, Masters, Doctorate) degree structure;
  • promotion of the Diploma Supplement;
  • a credit accumulation/transfer system compatible with the ECTS; and
  • the existence of an accreditation/quality assurance framework meeting Bologna criteria.

Australian structures and processes which fit within the Bologna framework:

  • Australia has a three cycle (Bachelor, Masters, Doctorate) qualification structure.

There are some areas in which efforts would be required to achieve Bologna compatibility, for example repositioning of Australian Honours degrees, four-year and graduate entry Bachelor degrees and one-year Masters courses, to ensure alignment with Bologna structures and emerging trends.

  • The Diploma Supplement has been trialled in Australia, but institutions will need to make decisions about adoption.
  • The Australian quality assurance system generally fits within the broad guidelines established by the Bologna Process, but a documented audit of compatibility may be useful as a tool for marketing and dealing with future recognition issues in Europe. There is a question of whether AUQA should seek admission to the proposed, but yet to be developed, European Register of Quality Assurance Agencies, should its eventual guidelines be framed to include external countries.
  • Australia has the EFTSU system which provides a common measure of student workload applying across Australian universities. It may be possible to adapt this system so that it connects more effectively with the ECTS.

Concluding remarks

There are some challenges posed by the Bologna reforms in relation to existing qualifications that Australian higher education institutions need to consider. A key issue is the position of Australian graduate entry and four-year bachelor level qualifications. It is likely that the European pathway for professional accreditation, in a range of professions, will become a bachelor degree followed by a two-year masters degree. The level of acceptance of graduate entry or four-year bachelor degrees is as yet unclear.

The recognition of Australian one-year masters courses will also need to be monitored because whilst there is scope for a one-year masters within the Bologna structure, it is likely that the two-year masters will become the norm in most countries. The one-year masters may become a course offered only to international students in Europe and questions may arise about the professional recognition, comparability and quality of such courses within Europe.

The use of Australian honours degrees as direct entry points to doctoral studies may also be problematic in Europe, since the pathway to doctoral studies within the Bologna Process will be through a masters qualification (3+2).

Australian's HE reforms

In 2002, the Commonwealth Government conducted a review of Australia’s higher education system. The Government’s response to the Review was announced on 13 May 2003 as part of the 2003/2004 Budget process. Announced by the previous Government in 2003, the "Our Universities: Backing Australia’s Future" package provided an additional $11 billion in funding over 10 years to enable higher education providers to deliver world-class higher education.

The Commonwealth Grant Scheme and Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) arose from these reforms. The reforms were structured around four key policy principles:

  • sustainability – improved governance, appropriate resourcing and greater pricing flexibility for universities
  • quality – incentives to improve performance and greater accountability
  • equity – increased number of student places, greater availability of income-contingent loans, increase in the repayment threshold and incentives to improve participation and outcomes for disadvantaged groups
  • diversity – incentive and performance-based funding for teaching and research, support for restructuring and collaboration and additional funding for regional institutions.

source :

The reforms focused on establishing a partially deregulated system of higher education, in which individual universities are enabled to capitalise on their particular strengths and determine the value of their course offerings in a competitive environment. There is renewed emphasis on learning and teaching outcomes, greater recognition of the role of regional campuses and institutions, and a framework for research in which all Commonwealth funding is either competitive or performance-based. New arrangements for student financing promote lifelong learning, and ensure equity of access to higher education - no eligible student will be required to pay up-front fees when enrolling at an eligible higher education institution. Greater access for disadvantaged groups is supported, and the market for private higher education is opened up, while still maintaining quality control. Diversity will be encouraged through the creation of performance-based incentives for institutions to differentiate their missions.

source :

Reforms to the State’s skills and workforce development system

South Australia’s Workforce Development Strategy, which was released in 2005, articulated the State Government’s vision for the future workforce as: South Australia has an efficient, highly skilled workforce that supports a globally competitive economy and a socially inclusive community. The three priority areas within the strategy are: a high skill economy, quality employment and better workforce planning. This approach represents an innovative way of integrating workforce planning, employment participation and demand considerations, and was the first such strategy in Australia. These three priorities continue to underpin the South Australian Government’s ongoing skills reform agenda. The workforce development approach which has been adopted in South Australia responds to the State’s dual social and economic priorities which are articulated in South Australia’s Strategic Plan.

Future direction of tertiary education

In March 2008, the Government initiated a Review of Higher Education to examine the future direction of the higher education sector, its fitness for purpose in meeting the needs of the Australian community and economy, and the options for ongoing reform. The Review of Australian Higher Education was undertaken by an independent expert panel, led by Emeritus Professor Denise Bradley AC.

An initial response to the review by the government indicates:

A student-centred, demand driven, higher education system:

  • future structural reforms which focus on a student-centred, demand driven system
  • from 2012 universities will be funded on the basis of student demand
  • the Government will establish a national regulatory and quality agency for higher education.

Tertiary education pathways for the future:

  • work with the states and territories to develop strong and cohesive national regulatory arrangements for VET alongside the proposed higher education regulator
  • commission the Australian Qualifications Framework Council to improve articulation and connectivity between the university and VET sectors
  • form a single tertiary education sector ministerial council, with representatives from the Commonwealth, states and territories.

Enhanced equity in tertiary education, with a focus on improving accessibility:

  • by 2020, 20% of higher education enrollments at undergraduate level should be from low socio-economic backgrounds
  • work closely with the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council (IHEAC) to improve higher education access and outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

Reform for Australian innovation and research - a new approach to research funding and measures to strengthen the contribution universities make to the national innovation system.

Administration and finance


The Country Areas Program (CAP) provides targeted government funding to non-government education authorities in each state and the Northern Territory to help their primary and secondary schools to improve geographically isolated student learning outcomes.


Government responsibility The Australian Government has significant financial and policy responsibility for higher education, while state and territory governments retain major legislative responsibility. At the national level higher education policies and programs are administered by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations – DEEWR . The provision of government funding is outlined in the Higher Education Support Act 2003.


Australian Government funding support for higher education is provided largely through:

  • the Commonwealth Grant Scheme which provides for a specified number of Commonwealth Supported places each year
  • the Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) arrangements providing financial assistance to students
  • the Commonwealth Scholarships
  • a range of grants for specific purposes including quality, learning and teaching, research and research training programmes.

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) is the Australian Government Department with responsibility for administering funding, developing and administering higher education policy and programs.

Decision-making, regulation and governance for higher education are shared among the Australian Government, the State and Territory Governments and the individual institutions.

Universities' responsibility By definition within Australia, universities are self-accrediting institutions and each university has its own established legislation (generally State and Territory legislation).

As self-accrediting institutions, Australia’s universities have a reasonably high level of autonomy to operate within the legislative requirements associated with their Australian Government funding.

The Australian Catholic University is established under corporations law. It has establishment Acts in NSW and Victoria.

Many private providers are also established under corporations law.

States and Territories

Some aspects of higher education are the responsibility of States and Territories. In particular, most universities are established or recognised under State and Territory legislation.

States and Territories are also responsible for accrediting non-self-accrediting higher education providers.


Australian students can undertake higher education studies at an approved institution as either a Commonwealth support student or a a fee-paying student. Students have to pay for their tertiary education.

Commonwealth support places (formerly known as HECS) are made possible through the financial contribution to higher education providers by the Australian Government.

For more information on Commonwealth support places see:

VET sector

The Australian Government contributes about one-third of government funding for vocational education and training, with the other two-thirds coming from state and territory governments.

Employer contributions to training in Australia include:

  • training provision for employees (in the form of payment for courses)
  • paid time off
  • training materials, travel and subsidies

For more details see section under Australian education policy

Quality assurance

Quality assurance in Australia’s higher education system is based on a strong partnership between the Commonwealth (federal), State and Territory Governments and the higher education sector.


For the OECD Review on Evaluation and Assessment in Education for Australia, please also read here

Quality assurance in Australia’s higher education system


The Australian Government’s role includes:

  • Protection of the term ‘university’
  • Legislative protection of overseas students studying in Australia
  • Performance management tools
  • Learning and Teaching Performance Fund
  • Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC)
  • Institution Assessment Framework (IAF) [formerly Educational Profiles]

State and Territory Governments

Australia’s State and mainland Territory Governments are responsible for the legislation which protects the integrity of Australian universities and higher education awards in their jurisdiction. Their responsibilities include:

  • specifying arrangements to establish and recognise universities, as well as protecting the use of the term "university"
  • protecting higher education award titles and accrediting higher education courses to be offered by non-self-accrediting private providers
  • approving the operation of overseas providers of higher education
  • endorsing courses of study as suitable for overseas students.

These responsibilities are explained further in the National Protocols for Higher Education Approval Processes.



Australia’s universities are self accrediting bodies established by or under Commonwealth, State or Territory legislation. They are responsible for maintaining the quality of their own academic standards. This quality is independently verified every five years by the Australian Universities Quality Agency.

There are 43 self-accrediting higher education institutions in Australia and 39 of these are universities. In addition to these institutions there are over 100 private education providers accredited by State and Territory Governments offering higher education courses.

Universities assure the quality of their offerings in a number of ways including external academic and industry in-put into courses and peer review of new and ongoing courses. Usually universities formally review their courses on a five-yearly basis. Additionally, universities regularly evaluate student feedback.

Universities also voluntarily comply with various codes of practice and guidelines set by Universities Australia to maintain and ensure the quality of their offerings.

The Australian Qualification Framework

The Australian Qualifications Framework (commonly known as the AQF) is a unified system of national qualifications in schools, vocational education and training (TAFEs and private providers) and the higher education sector (mainly universities).

AQF lists universities and other self-accrediting higher education institutions.

AQF was established by the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs (MCEECDYA) in 1995 to provide for nationally recognised pathways between awards offered in Australia’s vocational education and training and higher education sectors. It brings together the qualifications issued by different sectors into a single comprehensive system of titles and standards.

AQF also maintains a public register of MCEECDYAendorsed post compulsory education providers and accreditation authorities. The register is a key element of the Australian higher education quality assurance framework.

Australian Universities Quality Agency

The Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA) is an independent, not-for-profit national agency to promote, audit, and report on quality assurance in Australian higher education. AUQA was formally established by the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs (MCEECDYA) in March 2000. It operates independently of governments and the higher education sector under the direction of a Board of Directors. AUQA is owned by and receives core, operational funding from the Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers for higher education who are members of MCEECDYA. The AUQA Constitution is available for download.

AUQA website

Information society

The Australian Information and Communications Technology in Education Committee (AICTEC) is a national, cross-sectoral committee responsible for providing advice to all Australian Ministers of Education and Training on the economic and effective utilisation of information and communications technologies in Australian education and training and on implementation of the Digital Education Revolution.

A real ICT policy and organisational framework exists for the use of Information and Communication Technologies in Australian Education Training. A Joint Ministerial Statement on Information and Communications Technologies in Australian Education and Training: 2008-2011 was endorsed by MCEETYA and the Ministerial Council for Vocational and Technical Education (MCVTE) in June 2008.

Australian Flexible Learning Framework

The Australian Flexible Learning Framework (Framework0 provides the vocational education and training (VET) system with the essential e-learning infrastructure and expertise needed to respond to the challenges of a modern economy and the training needs of Australian businesses and workers.

  • The Framework was launched as a strategy in 2000, responding to information and communication technology (ICT) developments in workplaces and society. The Australian Government and all states and territories agreed to work together nationally to advance the use of e-learning in VET.
  • The first 2000-2004 Framework Strategy focused on raising awareness of the potential of e-learning, and starting to build capability. The second 2005-2007 Framework Strategy continued this work, and focused on engaging with key target groups.
  • The 2008-2011 Framework Strategy maximises and builds on the national investment to date in essential e-learning infrastructure. It will focus on embedding e-learning in registered training organisations (RTOs), business and industry. The 2008 Framework Business Plan provides the blueprint for the Framework in the first year of the new Strategy, detailing the Leadership and Innovation programs, and their related business activities.

Together these strategies have created a considerable infrastructure and a sound foundation on which to establish e-learning as an integral part of the national training system.

The national training system's e-learning strategy, the Australian Flexible Learning Framework (Framework), has received the go-ahead for its 2009 activities, opening up more than $7 million in funding opportunities for registered training organisations (RTOs), business and industry to embed e-learning in the vocational education and training (VET) system.

The announcement coincides with recent research showing that 36% of all VET activity in RTOs now formally involves e-learning, compared to just 3-4% in 2003-2004. Research also confirms that 91% of students and 88% of teachers and trainers now use e-learning as part of their VET experience.

More information about the Australian Flexible Learning Framework is available at :

For information about the initiatives and projects classified by states and territories, visit this page:

Information society strategy

In Australia 14% of students (95 000) are doing distance education.

  • The Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty-first Century - Preamble and Goals

source :

  • On 5 December 2008, State, Territory and Commonwealth Ministers of Education meeting as the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, released the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians which sets the direction for Australian schooling for the next 10 years. source :,25979.html

  • Digital Education Revolution. Not only a programme but also a kind of strategy / policy. See in programme below.

Benchmarking e-learning

Australia is one of the few countries where time and effort has been committed to benchmarking e-learning. Other countries include UK and New Zealand.

Interest in benchmarking in Australia can by attributed to:

  • a long strand of development and piloting of the [ Australian Council on Open, Distance and E-Learning (ACODE)] scheme
  • an impending pilot of eMM by around six institutions

Although the ACODE scheme is a distinct scheme, it has several similarities with the Pick&Mix style of benchmarking which has been used for analytic purposes in Re.ViCa - and in fact Paul Bacsich was the external advisor to the ACODE scheme. There are interesting differences, including a stronger focus in ACODE on IT.

ICT in education initiatives

Government entities

  • Northern Territory
  • South Australia
  • Tasmania
  • Victoria
  • Western Australia

  • is Australia's leading Information and Communications Technology (ICT) agency for educators and delivers a range of web services to clients in the higher education, schools education and vocational education and training sectors.
  • AICTEC - The Australian Information and Communications Technology in Education Committee (AICTEC) is a national, cross-sectoral committee responsible for providing advice to all Australian Ministers of Education and Training on the economic and effective utilisation of information and communications technologies in Australian education and training.
  • ACODE the Australasian Council on Open, Distance and E-Learning, the peak Australasian organisation for universities engaged or interested in open, distance, flexible and e-learning. ACODE's mission is to enhance policy and practice in open, distance, flexible and e-learning in Australasian higher education.

Government initiatives

  • In the State of Queensland, ‘the Learning Place’ is Department of Education, Training and Employment 's comprehensive eLearning environment providing secure access to an innovative range of digital tools, resources and eSpaces for teaching and learning, collaboration and networking.
  • Ultranet is the virtual learning environment developed for the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development to provide extensive services to students, parents and teachers in Victorian government schools, it was implemented in 2010 to connect 50,000 teachers, 500,000 students and one million parents.
  • 'Connections, a blended learning project by the NSW Department of Education and Communities Rural and Distance Education, which provides and co-ordinates video conferencing excursions for NSW public schools. Video conferencing excursions bring students and teachers face to face with experts across the globe. Their excursions are designed to enrich and supplement curriculum across all stages and key learning areas.
  • Video Conferencing Initiative in Victoria: thanks to this Victorian Coalition Government's $3.2 million initiative, students at rural and regional schools will be able to share their classes with students from other schools, including some of the state's smallest and most remote schools, increasing opportunities to study a breadth of subjects. The initiative builds on the Grampians Virtual School programme.

Source: Media release New Victorian Government video conference initiative creates virtual classrooms, the Minister for Education and the Minister for Higher Education and Skills, 24 June 2011, and, May 2012.

Interesting Programmes

  • The Le@rning Federation is an initiative of the state, territory and national governments of Australia and New Zealand. It is developing high-quality online curriculum content for years P-10 (preschool to year 10) in two formats: interactive, multimedia learning objects and digital resources. The materials are designed to engage students and support teachers and will be freely available to all schools in Australia and New Zealand.
  • Australian Flexible Learning Frameworkis the e-learning strategy for the vocational education and training (VET) sector. It provides the VET system with the essential e-learning infrastructure and expertise needed to respond to the challenges of a modern economy and the training needs of Australian businesses and workers. The Framework was launched as a strategy in 2000, responding to information and communication technology (ICT) developments in workplaces and society. The Australian Government and all states and territories agreed to work together nationally to advance the use of e-learning in VET.
  • Australian Scheme for Higher Education Repositories ASHER: program to assist eligible HEPs to establish and maintain digital repositories.
  • RUBRIC RUBRIC focuses on the needs of smaller and regional universities by providing a structured framework for partner institutions to evaluate, trial and implement an Institutional Repository solution; to collaborate on the development of better processes and tools; to act collectively and to develop the expertise that will be necessary to respond to emerging needs of the Research Quality and Accessibility Frameworks across universities.
  • MAMS - Meta Access Management System. This project allows for the integration of multiple solutions to managing authentication, authorisation and identities, together with common services for digital rights, search services and metadata management. The project provides an essential “middleware” component to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of Australia’s higher education research infrastructure.
  • Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) Initiative. The Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) initiative will be developed by the ARC. It will assess research quality within Australia's higher education institutions using a combination of indicators and expert review by committees comprising experienced, internationally-recognised experts.
  • Digital Education Revolution. The Digital Education Revolution, a major part of the Australian Government's Education Revolution, is a vital step in creating a world-class education system for Australia. The aim of the program is to contribute sustainable and meaningful change to teaching and learning in Australian schools that will prepare students for further education, training and to live and work in a digital world.

Virtual initiatives in schools

Elementary and Primary Schools

Secondary and High Schools

  • South Australia
    • Open Access College (OAC), public distance education provider located in the south which caters over 2,500 students from reception to year 12, including adult re-entry.

  • Tasmania
    • Tasmanian eSchool is the Tasmanian Department of Education online learning provider, offering educational programmes and online courses for students from Kindergarten to Year 10 (K-10) based on the Tasmanian/Australian Curriculum.

  • Victoria
    • Distance Education Centre Victoria (DECV) is a government school offering distance education from Preparatory phase through to Year 12.
    • Grampians Virtual School (GVS) provides virtual education in specific strands such as Physics, Psychology, Mathematical Methods, Chemistry and Physical Education, by connecting remote students to a face-to-face class in a school which they can follow through video conferencing.
    • NETschool Bendigo is an annexe of Bendigo Senior Secondary College. It is a community-based project with blended learning where personal interaction and mentorship are very important. One of its target learners is young mothers.

A few schools were included as cases in the OECD - CERI - Innovative Learning Environments: The Innovative Cases Strand.

There are some organisations participating in virtual initiatives and distance education in Australia:

Virtual initiatives in post-secondary education

Lessons learnt

General lessons

Notable practices


Associations and networks

  • EdNA (Education Network Australia): one of the world's largest education and training websites with more than 16,000 evaluated online resources and free online forums, chatrooms and discussion lists to support collaboration and communication in the education and training communities.
  • Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE) Relevant for higher education.

Repositories of OER

  • LORN currently has seven member repositories contributing more than 2500 learning objects for download. A wide range of industries and subject areas, including business, community services, electrotechnology, horticulture, tourism and hospitality, are represented. The number of Learning objects increases as repository owners build their collections.
    • Flexible Learning Toolboxes
    • TAFE Tasmania
    • Centre for Learning Innovation (CLI)
    • TAFE SA
    • TAFE VC
    • TVET
    • WestOne

A synthetic presentation is available here:,12,ARROW Discovery Service

Australian journals

Listed as an A journal by the Australian government


> Australia