About the AQF

The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) is pivotal to the worldwide recognition of Australian qualifications from entry-level Certificate 1 through to a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) university degree, the highest level of tertiary studies. How? It’s about accountability enshrined in-laws and regulations. It’s also about credit towards further studies.

Education and training regimes worldwide are characterised by complexity, ambiguity and jargon. In stark contrast, the AQF is:

a) easy to navigate digitally;

b) written in plain-English;

c) essentially a one-stop-shop for courses, content, assessment methods and authorised providers; and most importantly,

d) recognised and respected worldwide by governments, educational institutions (public and private), employers and students.

Introduced in 1995, the AQF provides the foundation for Australia’s national system of qualifications including tertiary studies, Vocational Education and Training (VET) – and everyday schools. While the AQF comes within the jurisdiction of the Australian Federal Government, the country’s six States and two Territories have an integral oversight role.

The AQF is a terrific example of how astute, integrated policymaking delivers respect, coherence and stability in equal portions with stakeholders being the beneficiaries. Sure, there are imperfections, but the AQF has stood the test of time for approaching three decades. Key features of the AQF include, but aren’t limited to:

  • plain-English learning outcomes for each of the ten levels and qualification types that are available in Australia’s education and training system
  • preconditions for issuing AQF qualifications
  • qualification linkages and student pathways
  • requirements for adding or removing qualification types
  • subject to ongoing review and revision
  • mechanisms to monitor international movements in qualifications and their implications for the AQF

Ten levels and related qualifications

Study programmes under the AQF provide a clearly defined 10-level pathway for people to grow within their chosen field over time if that’s what they want to do. Each qualification within the AQF generally leads to the next. Importantly, the AQF is sufficiently flexible to accommodate changing circumstances. What’s of interest to an individual in 2020, may not have the same level of interest in 2030. In this event, the ‘Recognition of Prior Learning’ (RPL) process may provide credit towards further studies. The table below provides a snapshot of the complexity and depth of each level within the AQF.

  AQF Level Summary
1 – Certificate I
  • basic skills and knowledge for entry into the workplace
  • foundation for further studies
  • facilitate community involvement
2 – Certificate II
  • perform routine tasks in a workplace
  • associated with entry level positions such as apprenticeships
  • pathway for further studies
3 – Certificate III
  • broad range of knowledge and skills for work
  • obtain a trade qualification, change careers
  • pathway for further studies
4 – Certificate IV
  • specialised knowledge and skills for work
  • supervisory or management positions, career advancement
  • pathway for further studies
5 – Diploma
  • broad knowledge and skills in a specific professional, technical or creative field
  • adept at planning, development and management
  • pathway for further studies
6 – Advanced Diploma
  • high-level practical and professional skills
  • career advancement, management roles
  • pathway for further studies
7 – Bachelors Degree
  • superior practical and professional skills
  • work independently, provide astute advice, adept at problem solving
  • pathway for further studies
8 – Graduate Diploma
  • apply high-level knowledge in a specific context
  • professional, highly skilled work
  • pathway to research and further learning
9 – Masters Degree
  • apply superior knowledge in a specific context
  • industry leadership
  • pathway to research and further learning
10 – Doctoral Degree
  • expertise in a specific field
  • specialist research, academic roles
  • development of ‘new knowledge’

Who can deliver an accredited course under the AQF?

Accredited courses within the AQF can only be delivered by what is known in Australia as a Registered Training Organisation (RTO). Achieving RTO status in Australia is necessarily rigorous. An applicant would typically engage a Vocational Education and Training (VET) expert for advice and guidance while navigating the RTO application process, which can take up to 12 months to complete.

RTOs offer approved courses that they own themselves or have permission from the owner (the licence holder) to deliver. Regardless of the ownership status of an accredited course, it must be listed on the RTOs scope of registration prior to being offered to students. Adding or removing a course to an RTOs scope involves engagement with the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), the regulator of the VET Industry in Australia. RTOs are permitted to deliver courses that lead to the following qualifications: Certificate I, Certificate II, Certificate III, Certificate IV, Diploma, Advanced Diploma and Graduate Diploma.

Let’s finish this page with some exciting news.

Australian Vocational Skills and Education (AVSE) has jumped through all of the necessary hoops and is a fully operational RTO in Australia. AVSE has permission from the regulator of the VET Industry in Australia, ASQA, to deliver courses offshore. The owners of AVSE have been delivering AQF accredited courses in Southeast Asia for the better part of a decade. AVSE has advanced plans to take AQF qualifications to other parts of the world. AVSE’s strategic direction, coupled with expertise in delivering AQF qualifications offshore, presents brilliant opportunities for your business.


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