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Note: In Australia 'Colleges' are primarily vocational education institutions. They are not universities:
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The Australian college system is based on vocational education programs that can be used for employment or as the basis for further academic study. A very small number of colleges in Australia can award degrees. These include tertiary institutions that use the name 'College' such as some medical schools and art schools. Along with this the name 'College' is also used by some secondary schools (Years 7 to Year 12 - for students from about 12 years old up until about 18 years old).

Otherwise colleges refers to post-secondary institutions that offer non-degree based qualifications. The programs offered by these colleges can be used as employment-based training and qualifications or to enter one of the universities and in that way achieve a degree-level qualification.

Most of the publicly funded colleges come under the control of the various state governments which administer the TAFE sector of higher education. TAFE, or Technical and Further Education, has grown rapidly over recent years as students seek a combination of vocational education and a stepping stone into degree-level studies at university. Many TAFE colleges use the name 'Institute' rather than 'College' to differentiate themselves from secondary-level colleges.

An idea about how the college system works can be seen in the following qualifications framework:

Qualification Duration Career Path
Certificate I 4-6 months competent operator
Certificate II 6-8 months advanced operator
Certificate III about 12 months qualified tradesperson or technician
Certificate IV 12-18 months supervisor
Diploma 18-24 months para-professional
Advanced Diploma 24-36 months junior manager
(Source: DEST 2004)

After the diploma and advanced diploma levels a student may be eligible for entry into a university and may also be eligible for credit, in some cases full credit for work already completed.

Australian Colleges are therefore an excellent choice for students who want to get real experience in the vocation of their choice before they either commence employment or pursue further university-level studies

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