The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF)

The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) is a system of seventeen national qualifications in 3 sectors:

  • Schools,

  • Vocational Education and Training (TAFE and private providers),

  • Higher Education (mainly universities).

  • The qualifications shown below are grouped according to the educational sector in which they are most commonly issued.


Australia’s Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector offers a large variety of qualifications for students with a strong practical orientation.  According to AEI, in 2013 there were 98,792 international student enrolments in VET courses in Australia. The top three source countries were India, Korea and Thailand.

The Institutions

The Australian VET system is publicly and privately funded and is delivered by a wide variety of training institutions and enterprises.

TAFE – Technical and Further Education

More than 60 TAFE institutes deliver VET training across Australia. They are government funded, they provide post-school education and training, and they usually have a more practical focus than university courses.

TAFE colleges act independently of one another and have their own premises, courses, and academic and administrative staff.

TAFEs can be very large institutions and have more students enrolled than many Universities. For example, most city-based TAFEs have over 50,000 enrolments. The facilities available to students are similar to those in a University. Also, they operate across a number of campuses as well as in industry and community venues.

TAFE institutes contain some of the largest ELICOS centres in Australia. They are also sometimes part of a University. For example, every university in Victoria except one has a TAFE division.

TAFE courses are often used by international students as a pathway to undergraduate programs at university, especially via the Diploma route. Some TAFEs offer university degrees through affiliated universities, and some offer their own degrees.

Private Colleges

There are approximately 5000 other registered providers of VET courses. These range from small institutions that offer specialised courses in one particular area of study to large private colleges which are similar to larger TAFE institutes.

A wide variety of VET courses are offered through private colleges. The most popular courses for international students are those related to Business and Information Technology.

Like TAFE, private colleges are popular with international students as pathway institutions, since they can provide entry to university studies after completing a VET qualification. Also, some private institutions offer university programs through affiliated universities, and others offer their own degrees.


There are 41 Australian universities, of which 3 are private (Bond, Torrens and Notre Dame). In addition, Carnegie Mellon and University College London have campuses in Adelaide, South Australia. As the main campuses and administrations of these university are established in Pennsylvania, USA and London UK respectively; we consider them as non-Australian universities. 

Many Australian universities have overseas branch campuses, twinning arrangements and exchange programs for students and teaching staff worldwide. Australian universities have around 7000 agreements with universities (and similar institutions around the world).

Australian Universities have three primary roles:

  • Storing knowledge;

  • Transferring knowledge to others;

  • Creating knowledge.

In addition to this, Australian Universities provide consultancy services to business and industry, and are a source of advice for Government and the community in general on a large number of issues and topics. They are closely involved with their local and wider communities.

Diversity and autonomy are central features of Australian universities. Each institution has the freedom to specify its own mission and purpose, modes of teaching and research, the makeup of their student body, and the range and content of their educational programs. This variety is reflected in the range of goals and objectives, staff profiles and the emphasis placed on particular courses at different universities.

As an agent, you need to be aware of the particular goals of the universities that you promote.

Higher education in Australia enjoys a high international reputation. Australian universities are part of a clearly recognized international community of scholarship, with academic staff recruited internationally, and students also increasingly coming from overseas as well as from across Australia. At the same time there are increasing numbers of Australian students and staff on study and work exchanges overseas.