City profile

Melbourne is Australia’s second largest city and has a population of over 4.2 million. It is the capital of the state of Victoria.

Education system

Education in Victoria has four main levels or stages: (1) early childhood education and care, including preschool, (2) primary education (primary schools), (3) secondary education (secondary schools or secondary colleges) and (4) tertiary education (Universities and Technical and Further Education Colleges).


Early childhood education and care (Age 0 to 5)

Early childhood education and care in Melbourne is delivered by a range of services, including long day care, family day care and preschools. Services are operated by a range of not-for-profit, local government and private providers. Families can access Australian Government subsidies for their child to attend approved education and care services, which are regulated against the National Quality Standard. The Victorian Government also funds kindergarten programs for 4-year-old children and many preschools offer programs for 3-year-olds as well. Although preschool attendance is not compulsory, all Australian governments have recently implemented a policy to provide access for every child to 15 hours a week of preschool in the year before they start school. All approved early childhood education and care services offer programs based on principles of play-based learning, as set out in state and national curriculum frameworks.

Primary school (Age 6 to 12)

Primary education consists of seven grades: a preparatory year (commonly called “Prep”) followed by Years 1 to 6. A child can enrol at the preparatory level if he or she is five years of age by 30 April of that year. All children are required by law to undertake primary education, which may be provided through state government, Catholic or independent schools, or through home schooling. All Melbourne primary schools are regulated and funded through a combination of state and national government processes. There are no standard examination requirements for progression through primary school and no formal qualifications are awarded. Students progress to secondary school on the basis of having completed the final year of primary school.

Secondary school (Age 13 to 18)

Secondary schools (also called high schools or secondary colleges) consist of Years 7 to 12. Secondary schools are usually separate institutions to primary schools, although in recent years, the number of combined primary and secondary schools has increased. Victorian children usually begin secondary school at around 12-13 years of age. It is a legal requirement that students attend school until they complete Year 10. After Year 10 and up to age 17 they must continue in approved education or be in full-time employment. The first four years of secondary school (Years 7-10) can vary, but generally comprise a general program undertaken by all students. Subjects usually include English, mathematics, science, society and environment, languages other than English (LOTE), technological and applied studies, creative arts, personal development, and health and physical education. In the third and fourth year of secondary school some subjects (e.g. mathematics) may be offered at several levels of depth and complexity. Some schools offer dedicated bilingual programs where students are taught some regular classes in a foreign language. In Years 11 and 12 (often referred to as senior secondary) several types of programs are available to prepare students for future study, employment and adult life. In Victoria, these include the Victorian Certificate of Education or International Baccalaureate, both of which support university entry, and the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning or School Based Apprenticeships, which offer more vocational alternatives for secondary school completion. Secondary schooling in Melbourne is provided by a combination of government, Catholic and independent schools, with non-government schools educating a greater proportion of students at secondary level than they do in the primary years of schooling.

Tertiary education

Tertiary education includes both higher education (including universities) and Vocational Education and Training (VET). The Australian Qualifications Framework sets out a system for tertiary qualifications, beginning at Certificate-level and Diploma qualifications offered through VET providers, progressing to degree qualifications typically offered through universities. In many disciplines, it is possible to progress (“articulate”) through the qualifications levels, offering a wide variety of post-school and lifelong learning pathways.

Higher education

The higher education system consists of independent, self-governing public and private universities and higher education institutions that award higher education qualifications. Nationally recognised higher education qualifications include degrees at Bachelor, Master and Doctorate levels. Higher education qualifications also include Diplomas, Advanced Diplomas and Graduate Diplomas. Admission to higher education programs is usually based on successful completion of a total of 13 years of school education, although some institutions use interviews, portfolios or demonstrated aptitude and most provide alternative pathways for mature-age (non-school leaver) students. As a general rule, all students who attend Australian tertiary education institutions are charged higher education fees. However, many students are Commonwealth Supported and only required to pay a part of the cost of tuition, called the “student contribution”, while the Australian Government pays the balance. Some Commonwealth Supported students are also able to defer payment of their contribution under an income-contingent repayment scheme once students gain an income above a certain level. Other domestic students are full fee-paying (non-Commonwealth supported) and receive no other direct government contribution to the cost of their education. Until 2012, the number of Commonwealth Supported places was capped by the Australian Government. Currently, a demand-driven system allows public universities to decide how many Commonwealth Supported places they will offer and the specialisations in which they will offer.

Vocational Education and Training (VET)

The Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector comprises Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutes, privately operated Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) as well as Adult and Community Education (ACE) providers. VET providers offer a wide range of predominantly vocational tertiary education courses. Fields include hospitality, tourism, construction, engineering, secretarial skills, visual arts, computer programming and community work. Vocational Education and Training (VET) programs are based on nationally registered qualifications, which are regularly reviewed and updated. TAFE institutes generally offer short courses, Certificates I-IV, Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas in a wide range of vocational areas. Certificates I to IV can be gained through a number of pathways including apprenticeships, traineeships, RTO-based training and Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). Most Apprenticeships lead to a Certificate III. Apprenticeships generally involve an indenture or contractual agreement with an employer where the apprentice is expected to undertake a period of formal training in a classroom setting as well as on-the-job experience. The formal training is generally provided by TAFE institutes, RTOs or group training schemes. Traditionally, apprenticeships involve a four-year indenture in a traditional craft or trade such as electrical traders, plumbing, carpentry or automotive trades. Traineeships provide training in a range of fields including white collar occupations such as business and retail. Traineeships are usually for 12 months rather than four years. Diploma graduates may continue to an Advanced Diploma program, and holders of Advanced Diplomas can receive between one and two years of credit towards a related bachelor degree.

'Melbourne from the Rialto Tower’ by Gordon Wrigley available at under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. Full terms at