While the plans of young Australians after finishing school vary, many aim to go to university. For school leavers to apply for a place at a higher education provider, an Australian Tertiary Admissions Ranking, known as an ATAR, is generally required. An ATAR is a ranking between 0.00 and 99.95, which measures a student's overall academic achievement in comparison to other students in their age group and is received by students at the conclusion of their further secondary studies. Tertiary education providers use ATARs to select students for course admission.
The number of people in Australia who hold a bachelor’s level degree or higher has increased significantly over the past decade. However, Australian school-leavers are not the only people studying for degrees at Australia's world-class universities. Australia’s universities are a highly popular choice for international and so-called mature-aged or non-school-leaver students, too. Australia’s major cities are education hubs, with most of the country's universities situated in Sydney, Melbourne, and other capital cities. This may be a reason why young people living in regional and remote areas of Australia are less likely to have a bachelor's degree or higher.
According to a 2022 report by the OECD, Australia has some of the highest average tuition fees for master’s programs among OECD countries. Nonetheless, Australia’s tertiary education system is designed to be accessible to all, with fee assistance available to eligible people through the Higher Education Loan Program, known as HELP, to pay their tuition fees. However, Australia’s tertiary education system does not only specialize in university education but also vocational education and training, commonly referred to as VET. Vocational education courses offer alternative qualifications, such as Certificate and Diploma qualifications, and prepare students for the workplace through practical and skills-based learning. Courses for VET qualifications are often shorter than university degrees and are prevalent in industries such as construction, personal services such as hairdressing, and hospitality.
Bachelor’s degree graduates in Australia enjoy a relatively high employment rate in the months following graduation. However, a wide range of career paths are available in Australia, and a university education is not essential to secure employment after school.