What is the AQF?

The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) is the national policy for regulated qualifications in the Australian education and training system. It underpins the national system of qualifications in Australia encompassing higher education, vocational education and training (VET) and schools. The AQF is the agreed policy of Commonwealth, state and territory ministers.

The AQF comprises:

  • the learning outcomes for each AQF level and qualification type
  • the specifications for the application of the AQF in the accreditation and development of qualifications
  • the policy requirements for issuing AQF qualifications
  • the policy requirements for qualification linkages and student pathways
  • AQF qualifications and qualification pathways
  • the policy requirements for the addition or removal of qualification types in the AQF, and the definitions of the terminology used in the policy.

One of the key objectives of the Australian Qualifications Framework is to facilitate pathways to, and through, formal qualifications.

History and governance

The AQF, which replaced the Register of Australian Tertiary Education (RATE), was introduced on 1 January 1995 and was phased in over five years, with full implementation by 2000. It was developed in response to a decision by the then Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) that the overall system of qualifications needed to support the reforms in VET. The Australian Qualifications Framework Advisory Board (AQFAB) was established to protect the AQF qualifications guidelines, promote and monitor national implementation of the Framework, and advice MCEETYA on any required changes to the guidelines.

In May 2008, the Australian Qualifications Framework Council (AQFC) replaced AQFAB to provide education and training Ministers with strategic and authoritative advice on the AQF.

In September 2014, the AQFC was disbanded and the governance functions of the council were transferred to the Commonwealth Government Department of Education.

The current management of the AQF is delivered through the Australian Government Department of Education and Training in consultation with the states and territories. The department monitors and maintains the AQF, supports its users and promotes the AQF and its role in Australia's education system. Expert consultative bodies are convened as required to advise ministers on any AQF policy matters which arise.

In the 2017-18 budget, the Australian Government announced a review of the AQF to ensure it continues to meet the needs of students, employers, education providers and the wider community.

Objectives of the AQF

The objectives of the AQF are to provide a contemporary and flexible framework that:

  • accommodates the diversity of purposes of Australian education and training now and into the future
  • contributes to national economic performance by supporting contemporary, relevant and nationally consistent qualification outcomes which build confidence in qualifications
  • supports the development and maintenance of pathways which provide access to qualifications and assist people to move easily and readily between different education and training sectors and between those sectors and the labour market
  • supports individuals' lifelong learning goals by providing the basis for individuals to progress through education and training and gain recognition for their prior learning and experiences
  • complements national regulatory and quality assurance arrangements for education and training
  • enables the alignment of the AQF with international qualifications frameworks.

AQF Qualifications

AQF qualifications ensure national recognition and consistency as well as common understanding across Australia of what defines each qualification.

Qualification type refers to the broad discipline-free nomenclature used in the AQF to describe each category of AQF qualification:

  • Senior Secondary Certificate of Education
  • Level 1 - Certificate I 
  • Level 2 - Certificate II
  • Level 3 - Certificate III
  • Level 4 - Certificate IV
  • Level 5 - Diploma
  • Level 6 - Advanced Diploma, Associate Degree
  • Level 7 - Bachelor Degree
  • Level 8 - Bachelor Honours Degree, Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma
  • Level 9 - Masters Degree
  • Level 10 - Doctoral Degree.

Each AQF qualification type includes the requirements for AQF qualifications such as:

  • the levels criteria
  • the qualification type descriptor 
  • information about the responsibilities of qualification developers, accrediting authorities and issuing organisations.

Diploma and advanced diploma qualifications are available for accreditation and issuance in both higher education and vocational education and training.

Where to go for more information

How to cite this overview

NCVER (National Centre for Vocational Education Research) 2019, Getting to know VET overview: Australian Qualifications Framework, VET Knowledge Bank, NCVER, Adelaide, <http://www.voced.edu.au/vet-knowledge-bank-getting-know-vet-overviews-aqf>.

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