ACT Year 12 Certificate — the senior secondary certificate in the Australian Capital Territory.

ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) — a percentile ranking (in increments of 0.05 between 0.00 and 99.95) that indicates a student's academic performance compared to the rest of their cohort. For example, an ATAR of 80 indicates that the student is in the top 20 per cent of their state. Its primary use is to rank and select school leavers for admission to tertiary courses. The ATAR is used across all states and territories except for Queensland, which uses the Overall Position (OP). See below for information about the OP.

Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) a unified national system of qualifications covering the secondary, Vocational Education and Training (VET) and higher education sectors. It sets out a national standard for qualifications — from the senior secondary certificate of education through to the PhD. It also makes it easier for students to move between institutions or progress to higher qualifications (see Qualifications ladder).

Articulation where a qualification leads into a higher-level course with advanced standing. For example, a diploma of accounting may articulate into the second year of an accounting bachelor degree.

Block study a method of course delivery where students study in short, intensive bursts. For example, students might study 9 to 5 on weekends or during a fortnight-long residential program.

Breadth subject — a subject taken in a different discipline to a student’s chosen field of study, intended to offer students a more well-rounded education.

Bridging course — courses that help students meet the prerequisite requirements of a course by providing them with ‘assumed knowledge’ in specialist areas such as maths or science.

Capstone unit — a unit taken in the final year of study that aims to bring together content learnt throughout the degree to prepare students for graduation and the workplace.

Census date — the last day students can withdraw from subjects without academic or financial penalty.

Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP) — a government-subsidised higher education place. Students with a CSP pay a student contribution rather than full tuition fees. CSPs are available in all undergraduate programs at public universities, as well as select postgraduate courses and in some fields at private institutions.

Cut-off the minimum tertiary entrance score (ATAR, OP or Queensland selection rank) you will need to gain in order to be granted entry to a course.

Dual-sector institution — an institution that delivers courses from both the VET and higher education sectors. There are six dual-sector universities in Australia and many private colleges that offer courses in both sectors. TAFE institutes are also starting to expand course options, which includes introducing bachelor degrees in some fields.

Equivalent Full-time Student Load (EFTSL) a measure of your study load. One EFTLS is a standard year of full-time study. If you are studying half the units of a full-time student, your EFTSL is 0.5. EFTSL is used to determine the cost of tuition fees for full-fee students as well as student contribution amounts for CSP students. You may also need to maintain a certain EFTSL to be eligible for student allowances.

English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) an intensive program for overseas students to improve their English before commencing formal studies. The National ELICOS Accreditation Scheme (NEAS) maintains the high standard of Australia’s ELICOS courses.

FEE-HELP a federal government loan scheme available to eligible full-fee paying students that allows them to defer the repayment of their tuition fees until they are earning at or above the minimum repayment threshold ($53,345 in 2014–15).

Flexible delivery the broad term used to describe the range of different study options offered by institutions, including online or distance, part-time, block and mixed-mode study.

Foundation studies — courses designed to prepare students for tertiary study, sometimes with credit towards a relevant undergraduate degree. These courses teach skills such as academic writing and research.

Full-fee places a higher education place for which the student is charged the entire cost. Most places at private providers or in postgraduate courses (and all places for international students) are full fee.

Grade Point Average (GPA) — a score used to evaluate a student’s academic performance for admission into a postgraduate course or other program such as student exchange. A student’s GPA is their average grade for all subjects completed in their program so far. The GPA can also dictate whether or not you graduate with ‘honours’ or ‘distinction’.

HECS-HELP a Commonwealth loan scheme available to eligible students enrolled in Commonwealth Supported Places (CSP) that allows students to defer the payment of their student contribution until they are earning at or above the minimum repayment threshold ($53,345 in 2014–15)

Higher education post-secondary education that includes bachelor degrees and postgraduate programs. It does not include VET courses, with the exception of select higher education diplomas and advanced diplomas. Higher education is offered through universities, private colleges and some TAFE institutes. Traditionally, higher education is more academically oriented, while VET is more skills based — although this is not always the case.

Higher School Certificate (HSC) — the senior secondary certificate in New South Wales.

International Baccalaureate (IB) — an alternative to state-based senior secondary qualifications, the IB is offered in select schools around the country (and the world). It is an internationally recognised qualification, accepted by leading universities world-wide.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) a test designed to assess the language ability of overseas students who want to study at tertiary level in Australia.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)free online courses, open to anyone interested in studying. MOOCs are available in a wide range of areas and are taught using videos, group chat, quizzes and assessments.

Mixed-mode a combination of course delivery methods. For example, students may study most of their subjects online but attend classes on campus one night a week.

Northern Territory Certificate of Education and Training (NTCET) — the senior secondary certificate in the Northern Territory.

Online and distance education a method of course delivery where students study off campus using hard-copy or online materials.

OS-HELP — a loan scheme to assist CSP students who want to undertake some of their studies overseas with expenses such as flights and accommodation. In 2014, students can borrow $6250 for a six-month study period or $7500 if travelling to Asia.

Overall Position (OP) Queensland’s alternative to the ATAR. Eligible students are placed in an OP band between 1 and 25, where 1 is the highest and 25 is the lowest. Like the ATAR, the OP is used to rank students for admission into tertiary courses.

Pathways different ways of entering a course or occupation. Most courses accept students from a variety of pathways such as foundation programs, directly from school, or via a course lower on the qualifications ladder (see below).

Qualifications ladder a progressive set of qualifications set out in the AQF (see above). Students can move up the qualifications ladder by completing a qualification on one of the lower rungs (such as a certificate or diploma) then moving up to the next level (such as an advanced diploma or degree), often with substantial credit.

Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE) — the senior secondary certificate in Queensland.

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) a process for assessing and formally recognising a student’s existing skills and knowledge. These skills may have been obtained through formal or informal training, work experience, voluntary work or life experience. The skills and knowledge recognised may assist with entry or provide a student with credit towards their course.

Registered Training Organisation (RTO) an organisation accredited to deliver VET courses. An RTO may be a secondary school, TAFE institute or private company. RTOs are registered by state and territory training authorities and provide training that meets Australian Qualifications Framework requirements.

SA-HELP — a loan scheme that assists eligible students with the payment of their student services and amenities fee.

Selection rank — a score between 1 and 99, used to rank OP ineligible students for admission into tertiary courses in Queensland.

South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) — the senior secondary certificate in South Australia.

Student contribution — the amount CSP students are required to contribute towards their fees (the federal government pays the remainder). Courses fall into one of three bands, with institutions able to charge up to a maximum amount in each band.

Student exchange — a program where a student swaps places with a student at an overseas partner institution for one or two semesters. Students continue to pay their normal fees to their Australian institution and credit from overseas study usually counts towards their course in Australia.

Study abroad — a program that allows students to study at an overseas institution that does not have an agreement with their home institution. Students are usually required to defer their Australian course for the duration of the overseas study period and pay fees to the overseas institution upfront.

Tasmanian Certificate of Education (TCE) — the senior secondary certificate in Tasmania.

Technical and Further Education (TAFE) — TAFE institutes are government-funded RTOs. They are located around the country and offer mostly VET courses, although some have begun offering bachelor degrees in select areas.

Tertiary education education completed beyond compulsory schooling, usually in the VET or higher education sector. Students may also commence tertiary studies while still at school, such as completing a VET or higher education qualifications or subjects as part of their senior secondary certificate.

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) a test that measures the ability of candidates to understand and use English to the level that is required in a university setting.

VET FEE-HELP a student loan scheme for eligible full-fee paying VET students. The scheme is open to full-time or part-time students studying a diploma or advanced diploma course with an approved VET provider and allows students to defer the repayment of their fees until they’re earning at or above the minimum repayment threshold ($53,345 in 2014–15).

Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) one of two senior secondary certificates available in Victoria, with a focus on applied learning and work skills.

Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) — one of two senior secondary certificates available in Victoria.

Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses that provide skills and knowledge for work through a standardised national training system. VET courses range from certificate I to advanced diploma level and are offered by Registered Training Organisations (see above), including TAFE institutes. Some universities also offer VET courses. VET is generally practical, hands-on and industry focused.

Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) — the senior secondary certificate in Western Australia.

Work-integrated learning — work experience, such as an industry placement or internship, which is integrated into a course and forms part of the course assessment.

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