Academic Year and Language of Instruction in Australia

An academic term is a part of the academic year. It is the time during which an educational institution holds classes. 

The academic year in Australia varies depending on the type of study you are taking on. Many institutions also provide a mid-year or second semester start. Start dates and the number of semesters vary by course and institution.

Below is a general guide on the academic year for the different levels of study in Australia:


  • Duration - 13 years in total (Preschool, Kindergarten/Preparatory, primary school, secondary school (or high school) and senior secondary school (or college)
  • Semesters - 4 (usually called ‘terms')
  • Starts - Late January/early February


  • Duration - From 5 weeks to 1 year
  • Semesters - The year is split into weeks
  • Starts - Throughout the year

Foundation Course

  • Duration - 1 year
  • Semesters - The semester breaks will depend on your course
  • Starts - February but can vary by course and institutions

Vocational Education and Training

  • Duration - 1 to 4 years depending upon the certificate or diploma.
    • Certificate I
      Duration - 4 to 6 months
    • Certificate II
      Duration - About 1 year
    • Certificate III
      Duration - About 1 year
    • Certificate IV
      Duration - 12 to 18 months
    • Diploma
      Duration - 18 to 24 months
    • Advanced Diploma
      Duration - 24 to 36 months
  • Semesters - Two
  • Starts - February, but can vary by course and institutions


  • Duration - Typically 3 years (4 years for honours degree)
  • Semesters - Two, although some institutions offer three semesters (trimesters)
  • Starts - Typically March, but can vary by course and institution

Postgraduate- Masters Degree

  • Duration - 1 to 2 years
  • Semesters - Two, although some institutions offer three semesters (trimesters)
  • Starts - Typically March, but can vary by course and institution


  • Duration - 3 years
  • Semesters - Usually no formal semester
  • Starts – the start date can be negotiated with the supervisor

Academic Year in Australia at a Glance:

In most of Australia, the primary and secondary school year typically lasts from late January or early February to mid-December, and is split into four terms:
  • Term 1 starts in late January or early February and ends in late March or early April (often in close proximity to Easter).
  • Term 2 starts in mid-to-late April and ends in late June or early July.
  • Term 3 starts in mid-July and ends mid-to-late September.
  • Term 4 starts in early-to-mid October and ends mid-December.
The exact dates vary from year to year, as well as between states, and for public and private schools. Most Australian Universities have two semesters a year. Open Universities Australia operates four 13-week study periods each year. Since students study only part-time and off campus these study periods mesh reasonably easily with existing university offerings based on semesters.

Language of Instruction

In Australia, most schools use English. English is the Australian official language and the primary language of instruction in its schools and colleges, but courses are taught in other languages and some schools have bilingual programs as well.  Many Australian schools offer students a choice of an Asian or a European language. Italian remains the most widely taught language, reflecting the extensive community-based programs in Australia's second most widely spoken language.
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