In Australia, the classification of tertiary qualifications is governed in part by the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), which attempts to integrate into a single classification all levels of tertiary education (both vocational and higher education), from trade certificates to higher doctorates.
However, as Australian universities (and a few similar higher education institutions) largely regulate their own courses, the primary usage of AQF is for vocational education. However in recent years there have been some informal moves towards standardization between higher education institutions.
In Australia, higher education awards are classified as follows:
* Certificate, Diploma and Associate Degrees, which take 1–2 years to complete, and consist primarily of coursework. These are primarily offered by TAFEs and other institutions as vocational training. Universities tend mainly to award Certificates and Diplomas as adjuncts to another degree, e.g. many Australian school teachers have completed a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science with a Diploma of Education (DipEd). They are also awarded at the graduate level, in which case they are called Graduate Certificate or Graduate Diploma (or sometimes Postgraduate Certificate and Postgraduate Diploma), and consist of similar material to a Masters by Coursework, but do not go for as long. The distinction between Graduate and Postgraduate Certificates and Diplomas is somewhat arbitrary and dependent on the institution offering them.
* Bachelors degrees, generally the first university degree undertaken, which take 3–4 years to complete, and consist primarily of coursework. Bachelors degrees are sometimes awarded with honours to the best-performing students.
In some courses, honours is awarded on the basis of performance throughout the course (usually in 4yr+ courses), but normally honours consists of undertaking a year of research (e.g. a short thesis or Masters by Research). If honours is undertaken as an extra year, it is known as an honours degree rather than a degree with honours. Generally, one must be invited by the university to do Honours as an additional year of study, as opposed to being something a student can apply for and it is often only offered to the highest ranking students of that year group.
Honours may be divided into First Class, Second Class (normally divided into Division I and Division II), and Third Class. This is roughly equivalent to the American classification of summa cum laude, magna cum laude, and cum laude. Individuals who do not attempt honours, or who fail their honours course, are awarded a degree with a grade of Pass.
* Masters degrees, which are undertaken after the completion of one or more Bachelors degrees. Masters degrees deal with a subject at a more advanced level than Bachelors degrees, and can consist either of research, coursework, or a mixture of the two.
* Doctorates, most famously Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), which are undertaken after an Honours Bachelors or Masters degree, by an original research project resulting in a thesis or dissertation. Admission to candidature for a PhD generally requires either a Bachelor's degree with good honours (First Class or Second Class Division I), or a Masters degree with a research component.
In many cases a student with only a Pass Bachelor's degree can enroll in a Masters program and then transfer to a PhD. Australian PhDs do not tend to take as long as American or British ones, and consist of less coursework than most American PhDs; however this is contrasted by Australian PhDs often being more specific in focus than their American or British counterparts. There are also professional doctorates which consist of advanced coursework and a substantial project in an area such as education (DEd). There is no concept of a "first-professional doctorate" like those awarded in the United States.
* Higher Doctorates, such as Doctor of Science (DSc) or Doctor of Letters (DLitt), which are awarded on the basis of a record of original research or of publications, over many years (often at least 10).
Australian Universities tend to award more named degrees than institutions in some other countries. Most Australian universities offer several different named degrees per a faculty. This is primarily for marketing purposes. Universities often try to outdo each other by offering the only degree titled with a popular major.