Important Budget information

See the Budget 2014 - Student Overview page to find out how the 2014-15 Budget Announcement affects the different qualifications.

The Australian higher education system is divided into three areas: Vocational education and training (VET); Undergraduate and Postgraduate study.

Vocational education and training (VET)

VET prepares students for specific trades, crafts and careers at various levels by delivering education and training that focuses on developing specific skills and knowledge required for specific industries. VET courses provide many options from short courses, introductory and advanced certificates to get you into certain industries, diplomas that demonstrate high levels of technical knowledge and graduate certificates for particular occupations.

VET qualifications include Certificates I –IV, Diplomas, Advanced diplomas, Vocational Graduate certificates and Vocational Graduate diplomas.

Undergraduate degree

An undergraduate degree is a student who is studying their first degree. Bachelor degrees are the most common qualification undertaken at university and typically take 3 years full-time study to complete. They introduce students to general fields of study rather than teaching specific skills needed for specific jobs. A Bachelor degree provides the principles and concepts relating to a field of study and general body of knowledge, this allows flexibility in your chosen field to build a career path without pinning it down to a specific occupation.

Undergraduate degrees are most commonly studied at university, although some private higher education providers and TAFES also deliver them.

Postgraduate study

Postgraduate study refers to the range of courses and research that are available to students who have already completed their first degree.

When you undertake postgraduate study, you can be awarded a Graduate certificate, Masters degree or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD or doctorate). There are two main types of postgraduate study – research and coursework:

  • Research: This means you undertake supervised research over a substantial period of time (two or more years), which leads to a thesis (a written theory) or some major work.
  • Coursework: You can also do postgraduate study through coursework. This means you attend lectures and classes. You can gain a Postgraduate certificate, Postgraduate diploma or Masters degree through coursework, and this can take between six months and three years, depending on the type of study.


Availability of HELP loans by qualification: This table is a guide only; it will help you determine what assistance may be available for your course.
Qualification CSP and
Doctoral Degree No
Also covered by the RTS (opens in a new window)
Masters Degree No
(or very limited, check with provider)
Also covered by the RTS (opens in a new window)
Bachelor Honours Degree Yes Yes No
Graduate Certificate Yes
(in some courses, check with provider)
Yes No
Graduate Diploma Yes
(in some courses, check with provider)
Yes No
Vocational Graduate Certificate No No Yes
Vocational Graduate Diploma No No Yes
Bachelor Degree
(Most common undergraduate award)
Yes Yes No
Associate Degree* Check with your provider to see if your course is eligible Yes No

Advanced Diploma*

Check with your provider to see if your course is eligible Yes Yes
Diploma* Check with your provider to see if your course is eligible Yes Yes
Vocational Education and Training/Industry Certificate qualifications
Certificate IV No No only in a few fields, more information
Certificate III No No No
Certificate II No No No
Certificate I No No No

*Universities and approved higher education providers need to apply to the Minister to receive funding for Commonwealth supported places (and HECS‑HELP) for these courses. These courses are not covered by the demand driven funding system.

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