Australia has a wide range of higher education institutions for prospective international students, offering educational courses across most subjects at a number of different levels to suit all applicants.

Some of the most popular courses in Australia are; Business and Management, Dentistry, Medicine, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, Veterinary Science, Law & Criminal Justice, Environmental Science, Engineering & Education.

This article will guide you through the different types of educational institutions in Australia, as well as the steps that you will need to complete to apply to study in Australia as an international student. 

Applying to study in Australia - A guide to institution types


Griffith University, Gold Coast, Queensland


There are around 40 universities in Australia. Most are public, but there are some also private institutions. The most popular programmes offered by Australian universities are bachelor degrees or bachelor degrees with honours. The duration of a bachelor degree can be three or four years.

Australian universities also offer the following awards:

  • Associate degrees: duration of two years
  • Advanced diplomas: duration of 24-36 months
  • Diplomas: duration of 18-24 months

University courses usually begin in March and end in late November, though some mid-year courses are also available on selected courses. 

The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) assures the quality of all awards offered by Australian universities. Institutions which self-accredit courses are not permitted to use the title of 'university'. Visit Australian Qualifications Framework, for more information.

Postgraduate courses

After obtaining a bachelor's degree, postgraduates can enrol on the following courses:

  • The Graduate Certificate (six months minimum) and diploma (twelve months minimum), which are designed with an occupational focus to broaden skills obtained in the bachelor degree.
  • The master's degree, which entails one/two years gaining an advanced overview of a particular field.
  • The doctoral degree, which requires a considerable contribution to a particular area of study.

Institutes of Technical and Further Education (TAFE) and Vocational Education and Training (VET)


TAFE institutes offer vocational programmes for students. Vocational courses offer students practical experience and a more hands-on approach to learning. Australian vocational education and training institution courses are referred to as VET.

VET programmes of study can last between four and 36 months depending on the level of study you choose. VET courses are offered in a range of subjects and, depending on the course, students can sometimes be granted credits towards a degree programme. TAFE courses usually begin in February and end in December. Universities and private colleges may also offer vocational courses.

Browse TAFE courses on

Private colleges

There are a number of small private colleges that tend to offer diploma and certificate study programmes. They specialise in vocational areas like hospitality and tourism, business, journalism or design.

Foundation courses

If students do not meet the academic requirements of a university or TAFE institute, they can enrol on a foundation programme. Often referred to as bridging courses, foundation courses are one-year intensive study programmes offered by universities and VET institutes as well as high schools.

English language schools

The main types of English language courses include:

  • General English - development of communication, speaking and listening
  • Examination preparation - preparation for IELTS or TOEFL qualifications
  • ELICOS - English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students to allow students to progress onto further academic studies
  • English for Academic Purposes (EAP) - preparation for studies at an Australian vocational institute or university
  • English for specific purposes - preparation for studies in specific subjects such as English, business or tourism

KEEP READING: How To Apply To Study In Australia