Different types of education providers in Australia

Australia offers a wide variety of education--whether you want to become a doctor of medicine or a mechanic, there are educational institutions that will fit your needs. Each type of institution specialises in different types of education. They vary enormously in price and quality. The top-tier universities tend to be the most expensive, and offer the highest academic standards. But that doesn’t mean that cheaper institutions offering non-academic courses can’t also offer good quality education.

It’s important that you ‘shop around’ for the institution that best meets your needs. Here are some basic things you need to know about the different types of higher education providers in Australia. 

‘Group of 8’ universities

The so-called ‘Group of 8’ (Go8) universities are generally considered to be the best research universities in Australia. They are spread around the country, but are concentrated in the major cities. These universities are very prestigious, so are therefore quite difficult to get into. The quality of education is very high, and are best suited to students who are academically strong and wanting to go into professional fields, or do extensive postgraduate study.

The Go8 universities are:

  • The University of Melbourne
  • The Australian National University, Canberra
  • The University of Sydney
  • The University of Queensland, Brisbane
  • The University of Western Australia, Perth
  • The University of Adelaide
  • Monash University, Melbourne
  • UNSW Australia, Sydney


Public universities 

The vast majority of universities in Australia are public, which means they are funded by the government. Public universities may not be as prestigious as the Go8 universities (which themselves are also public), but the quality of education they provide is still generally very high. Public universities include a wide range of institutions, from research-intensive universities to a network of regional universities.

While the Go8 universities are located in the major cities, the state/public universities also have branches in smaller towns (or ‘regional areas’, as they are called in Australia). This means that they are more accessible to local students around Australia, and can be a cheaper alternative to living in the major cities.

Notable examples of this type of institution:

  • Charles Darwin University, Northern Territory
  • University of Newcastle, New South Wales
  • Flinders University, Adelaide
  • Southern Cross University, New South Wales


Private universities

There aren’t many private universities in Australia--only three! This contrasts markedly with places such as the USA. These cater to specific needs, such as faith-based education, or giving students the ability to complete their degree in a shorter period.

These three institutions are:

  • Bond University, Gold Coast, Queensland
  • The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle, Western Australia
  • Torrens University Australia, Adelaide


Institutes of Technology/ Australian Technology Network 

Institutions that fall under the Australian Technology Network are actually universities, although they were not always so. Institutions such as RMIT University (Melbourne) and the Queensland University of Technology (Brisbane) were once called Institutes of Technology. Many Institutes of Technology remain throughout Australia, such as the Canberra Institute of Technology or the Charles Institute of Technology (Chatswood, NSW). All have a focus on technological and practical education--such as nursing, sports science, design--although many may offer some more academic subjects, too. Many Institutes of Technology are also TAFE institutions (see below).


TAFE: Technical and Further Education

TAFE (Technical and Further Education) institutions provide mainly vocational type courses, and courses that include apprenticeships and work experience. They also often provide a more flexible study schedule, allowing students to study part-time and fit their education around their work. TAFE are owned and run by individual state/territory governments. Some TAFE institutions can award bachelor’s degrees and postgraduate degrees in certain areas, but they award far more certificates and diplomas. These can sometimes be used as credit towards degrees at a different institution.

TAFE institutions don’t always have ‘TAFE’ in the name. Some examples of TAFE institutions include:

  • Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, Northern Territory
  • Institute of TAFE Tasmania
  • Melbourne Polytechnic
  • Australian Maritime College TAFE, Tasmania


Private colleges 

Although there are very few private universities in Australia, there are many private colleges. These vary enormously in terms of services offered and quality, and require thorough research before signing up at one. Some offer high quality education, but many do not. Private colleges have been shut down by the government in recent times for providing sub-standard education to students who are paying high fees. In many cases, if you are looking for vocational training, it is more reliable to look into government-run institutions, such as TAFE and universities.

Whatever type of educational experience you are looking for, you will be able to find it in Australia. The choices may seem overwhelming at first, but once you identify which type of institution will best suit your needs, you will be better able to make an informed decision about where to apply.