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The Australian Qualifications Framework

What is the AQF?

The Australian Government designed the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) to ensure that qualification titles across the country are consistent and represent the same high standards of education.

The AQF regulates all Australian qualifications and provides clear rules about the level of education each qualification title represents. Each qualification generally leads into the next qualification down the list (see below) in the education framework. Having a nationally standardised system means there is a clear pathway to follow, making it easier for students to pursue their education. It also makes transferring between different education providers much easier, as there is no confusion caused by differing qualification titles and education levels. In addition to these qualifications, the AQF issues a Statement of Attainment when a student completes only part of a qualification.

The ten AQF levels

AQF level Qualification type
Level 1 Certificate I
Level 2 Certificate II
Level 3 Certificate III
Level 4 Certificate IV
Level 5 Diploma
Level 6 Advanced diploma
Associate degree
Level 7 Bachelor degree
Level 8 Bachelor honours degree
Vocational graduate certificate
Vocational graduate diploma
Graduate certificate
Graduate diploma
Level 9 Masters degree
Level 10 Doctoral degree

AQF qualifications by education sector

Schools sector Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector Higher education sector
Senior Secondary Certificate of Education (2 years) Vocational graduate diploma (1–2 years) Doctoral degree (3–4 years)
  Vocational graduate certificate (0.5–1 year) Masters degree (1–2 years)
  Advanced diploma (1.5–2 years) Graduate diploma (1–2 years)
  Diploma (1–2 years) Graduate certificate (0.5–1 year)
  Certificate IV (0.5–2 years) Bachelor degree (honours) (1 year)
  Certificate III (1–2 years) Bachelor degree (3–4 years)
  Certificate II (0.5–1 year) Associate degree (1.5–2 years)
  Certificate I (0.5–1 year) Diploma (1–2 years)

International students and the AQF

The AQF has advantages for international students. It makes course searches much easier, as the qualification titles are the same throughout Australia. This means that you can focus on finding the best course and institution for your needs without also having to spend time looking into what each qualification title means. International students who complete a qualification within the AQF are also able to understand the entry requirements for higher qualifications — if they want to progress from undergraduate to postgraduate study, for example.

The AQF also contributes to the worldwide recognition of Australian qualifications, making it easy for other countries to understand what level of education each Australian qualification represents. There are a limited number of courses that are not part of the AQF that are also available to international students, such as foundation and bridging courses. These courses are designed to help students meet course entry requirements or gain entry to further study that results in an AQF qualification. 

Comparisons between overseas qualifications and AQF qualifications

To find out whether your home country qualification satisfies entry requirements for an Australian course, you will need to ask your education provider. You can find more information on international qualification recognition on the Australian Education International website.

Quality assurance

A number of regulations and laws are in place to ensure the quality and consistency of Australia’s international education sector. The Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000 requires institutions that offer courses to international students to meet nationally consistent standards in education quality, facilities and services. The Act ensures that international students receive the same standard of education as Australian students.

The Education Services for Overseas Students Legislation Amendment Act 2011 introduced a more thorough system of scrutinisation for education providers, limiting CRICOS registration to a specific period of time. These changes were introduced to further strengthen Australia’s international education sector and prevent high-risk providers from entering the sector. The introduction of the Tuition Protection Service (TPS) in 2012 provides additional security for international students in Australia.

In addition, institutions that wish to offer education to international students must register with the Australian Government under the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS). Registration with CRICOS requires institutions to demonstrate that their qualifications meet Australian standards.

International students should carefully check the CRICOS website to make sure that the course they want to study is registered.