Empire of Teacher Education and Training

A Case Study of Management and Governance at Sydney Teachers’ College
  • Geoffrey SheringtonEmail author
Living reference work entry
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


The establishment of “schools” for the people during the nineteenth century prompted government support for the education and training of teachers in Britain and its Empire of settlement. Initially ideas and methods were based on the practice of schooling. A form of apprenticeships emerged with older students being selected as “pupil teachers” learning to teach under a master teacher while they continued their own schooling. The idea of a “teachers college” as a specialized institution was established for further training of some pupil teachers selected on the basis of merit. This system prevailed for much of the nineteenth century albeit in different forms throughout the Empire. By the end of the nineteenth century, the idea of teaching as a profession had supplanted earlier notions of teaching as apprenticeship. Training through institutions supplementing practice in the classroom became more predominant. Increasingly, teacher education in colleges and universities prevailed as the rise of education as an academic discipline sought to combine patterns of research and teaching. Common patterns emerged throughout the Empire with Scottish influences becoming predominant in the Empire of settlement. A case study of the establishment of Sydney Teachers College under its Scottish-born Principal Alexander Mackie illuminates these trends. The associations of Empire continued into the years after the Second World War, but increasingly teacher education and training was absorbed into national higher education systems which became focused not on Empire but the market in a global economy.


Empire Teachers colleges Scottish diaspora Networks Alexander Mackie 


Ideas on ways to educate and train teachers were part of the wider process of providing schools for the “people.” In Europe and America, the term “normal school” was often used to describe a place where prospective teachers, male and female, would gather to learn how to teach. In Britain, religious and other bodies, including the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge, sought ways of providing mass instruction in elementary schools for the growing working class in the cities. One solution employed older students who became “monitors” to teach younger ones in the elements of literacy. Some of these originated in Britain such as the proposals of Joseph Lancaster at Borough Road London where older pupils taught the younger. Similar methods were practiced in the Empire such as the clergyman Andrew Bell and his monitorial system at Madras in India. By the early nineteenth century, the Anglican National Society was using the monitorial system of Bell who had formulated his ideas in India, while the nonconformist British and Foreign School Society had established a training college at Borough Road London under the Quaker Joseph Lancaster. In Glasgow David Stow trained teachers in his methods of teaching infants. Urbanization and industrialization prompted such educational experiments as ways to manage the unprecedented growth of populations of young people.

The emphasis on practice in the school and the classroom as a way to prepare teachers became the foundation of teacher training in nineteenth-century Britain and the British Empire. Teachers’ colleges of the churches supplemented this process emphasizing moral and cultural values for future teachers. By the late-nineteenth century, teaching became seen not so much a craft as a professional occupation requiring extended education and training in a college and a university. The dichotomy between these different modes of preparing future teachers explains much of the early history of teacher education and training in Britain. Equally, the extension into other forms of preparing teachers was part of the spread of ideas and processes throughout the Empire.

The Pupil Teacher System

By the mid-nineteenth century, state intervention had begun to replace the efforts of voluntary bodies in teacher training. State grants for church schools created a “pupil teacher” system, whereby selected older children were both pupils at school and apprentice teachers learning a craft. As secretary to the Education Committee of the Privy Council which provided the new state grants, the medical doctor Dr. James Kay Shuttleworth helped to shape this early pupil teacher system. Influenced by Stow in Glasgow as well as ideas from Europe, he founded Battersea Training School in South London in 1839. The students lived on-site in a regime that was similar to the religious life of a seminary. As future teachers they were seen as the moral leaders of their social class. The curriculum was divided into extending general education as well as providing an understanding of the arts and practice of teaching. The moral purpose of college life, as well as its educational and professional aims, thus became a feature of nineteenth-century teachers’ colleges in Britain (Selleck 1982).

By 1850, there were 30 training colleges in England and Wales. Most of these were Church of England residential colleges where students lived and studied. Overwhelmingly single sex in student composition, they provided a period of training of between 6 months and 3 years. The heads of these colleges were usually clergymen or graduates of Oxford and Cambridge. While state grants were directed toward creating teachers of the elementary schools, many of the colleges were concerned with maintaining the role of the church while improving the education of the students. A system emerged, whereby certain church colleges such as St. Marks Chelsea influenced the development of other colleges through staff appointments (Rich 1933).

Initially, enrolments in the colleges were small, but the expansion of scholarships in the 1850s encouraged many pupil teachers to seek a place in the colleges with age of entry being either 14 or 15. Academic standards of early entrants were not high, but increasingly the college curricula open up career paths which went beyond teaching in an elementary school, with some colleges becoming quasi-secondary schools (Rich 1933; Widdowson 1980).

By the 1850s the pupil teacher system had spread into the Empire of settlement. In Upper Canada, the government created both a model school as an example of how to instruct pupils as well as a normal school to train pupil teachers. The Canadian normal school was based in part on examples from the United States but also the Irish teacher training school in Dublin established as part of the Irish “national” experiment which attempted to introduce nondenominational or secular schools. The Irish influence in Toronto extended to the introduction of Irish national textbooks, the decision to have a model school attached to the normal school, and the selection of an Irish headmaster. The normal school allowed the entry of women but also rejected the idea of residential accommodation for students who came from outside Toronto (Houston and Prentice 1988).

In New South Wales, William Wilkins, a former student of Kay Shuttleworth at Battersea, was appointed headmaster of the Fort Street Model School in Sydney. Fort Street would soon became an academic secondary school from where many matriculated to the university. Created head of state education in New South Wales, Wilkins was determined to follow the system of pupil teachers which he described as “an apprentice to a schoolmaster.” But the emerging system of public schools made little allowance for college training beyond that provided for a few elite students in the model school. After the Act of 1880 in New South Wales which removed grants to church schools in favor of government, secular schools teacher training was more concentrated in a nonresidential college for boys and a residential college for girls. By then two other Australian colonies, Victoria and South Australia, had founded training centers for their system of pupil teachers. By 1885, females made up between two-thirds and three quarters of pupil teachers and about 40% of head and assistant teachers in various Australian colonies (Turney 1992; Whitehead 2003). Overall, pupil teachers, trained and untrained, and most often women, were a vital part of teachers for the expanding Empire of settlement.

Throughout Britain and the Empire, the pupil teacher system still remained the most significant way of training well into the twentieth century. While Kay Shuttleworth expected most pupil teachers to be men, the opposite proved to be the reality. Increasingly females became predominant in these training schemes in both Britain and the Empire. Many women came to play leading roles in the associated colleges and training centers. By 1900, females were three quarters of the teachers in the elementary schools in England and Wales. The aim of Kay Shuttleworth to recruit working-class males as teachers had been transformed into career prospects for lower middle-class and working-class women who could aspire to a “white-collar” occupation. Change was assisted by the local school boards created under the 1870 Act for England and Wales. Some school boards created secular and coeducational daytime pupil teacher centers to increase the supply and standards of teachers. A minority report of the 1886 Cross Commission enquiry into teacher training encouraged these trends as a move away from the older forms of church residential colleges. As a further move toward the involvement of women in tertiary and higher education, many elementary school teachers, including women, found posts as lecturers in these centers (Robinson 2000).

Teaching as an Emerging Profession

The pupil teacher system had been created as a way to provide teachers for the elementary schools. By the mid-nineteenth century, teaching was being conceived more as a middle-class profession rather than a craft preceded by apprenticeship. The movement for change arose from a number of influences. First the movement for the higher education of women was associated with demands for qualifications to teach in both elementary and secondary schools. To meet this demand, there was the increasing involvement of universities in both education as an academic discipline and teaching as a profession. These trends became prominent in the “civic universities” in Britain but more specifically in Scotland and the public universities of the Empire. By the end of the nineteenth century, the idea of the college principal was being transformed from the earlier view of religious and moral mentor into a professional imbued with new ideas on the theory and practice of education.

University Day Training Departments

Despite the colleges and pupil teacher centers, there was growing concern that many regions in Britain had no forms of teacher training. In nonconformist parts of Wales, there were few training places provided because of the close association of the residential colleges with the Church of England. In other parts of Britain, students found it difficult to attend residential colleges (Thomas 1990a).

Some associated with the universities saw possibilities in teacher education. Owens College in Manchester provided evening classes for elementary teachers from 1853. Others regarded training in the residential colleges as offering a basic curriculum that was essentially illiberal in outlook and not suitable to include in higher education. But the recommendations of the 1886 Cross Commission, examining the effect of the 1870 Act creating school boards, supported the view that the universities become involved in teacher education. From 1890 there were grants for Day Training Colleges associated with the universities, justified on grounds that the existing system was failing to provide an adequate supply of teachers. The anticipated benefits were seen as being less expensive than existing arrangements with staff already in the universities being able to offer courses in the humanities or science. Regulations provided for the establishment of local committees to oversee practice teaching in schools, while masters of method would be appointed to lecture on education, giving a course of model lessons. Eventually such masters would be given the title of professor, assisted by a small number of staff, leading to the slow incorporation of education as an academic discipline within the universities (Patrick 1986).

The grants had most appeal to the “civic universities” that had emerged in the provincial cities over the nineteenth century. Focusing on local needs, they engaged with the various emerging professions such as teaching. Most of all, and unlike Oxford and Cambridge, the “civic universities” were coeducational and thus open to the entry of women. With the prospect of a new source of students, many civic universities established in the nineteenth century seized the opportunity to establish Day Training Colleges which soon became sub-departments of the university to which they were attached. In 1891, the University of Cambridge founded its own male only Day Training College under the historian and scholar Oscar Browning. By 1900, the Day Training College in England and Wales had become the embryonic form of teacher preparation which would influence much of the shape of training over the next half century (Crook 2000; Thomas 1990b).

Paralleling these changes in university provision for training elementary school teachers were efforts to find ways to recruit teachers for secondary education particularly in the new boys’ and girls’ public schools founded in the nineteenth century. The College of Preceptors had been established in 1846 to stimulate training in schools outside the government sector by awarding certificate to candidates who completed training. The principle was founded on the idea of a “Teachers’ University,” whereby members of the teaching profession became responsible for their own training. In effect, the college fell back on offering evening lectures offered by a number of public figures including Joseph Payne who came to play a dominant role in the college. In 1869, the college admitted women to its council. In 1871, Payne became lecturer in education, later elevated to professor, offering lectures in a variety of topics such as “The theory or science of education” and the “The practice or art of education” (Dent 1975; Rich 1933).

More direct efforts to train women for secondary schools came through such institutions as the Cambridge Training College for Women established in 1879. The college had a close relationship with the headmistresses of the new girls schools as well as Newnham College which had been set up within the University to allow women to attend lectures even while they could not graduate (Hirsch and McBeth 2004; Searby 1982).

Local Authorities’ Teacher Colleges

The establishment of the Board of Education in 1899 created an agency for building educational systems in England and Wales. The Education Act of 1902 created Local Education Authorities (which were principally local councils) to initiate change with the stimulus of state grants which the board administered through regulations. A system emerged for engagement between the central state regulation and local initiatives.

The interaction between the board and the local authorities had a number of implications for the education and training of a new generation of teachers. After almost a century, trained teachers were still in the minority in both elementary and secondary schools in Britain and the Empire. The ratio of trained teachers to untrained was 1:12, while less than half the qualified pupil teachers were admitted to a college. From 1907, the board also encouraged the growth of new state-aided secondary schools provided by the local authorities which now drew on these schools for a new source of teachers. With grants from central government, local authorities created their own secular training colleges attached to no religious faith (Jones 1924).

From 1902 until the outbreak of the Second World War, a system of training emerged involving the church colleges of the nineteenth century, new colleges established by Local Education Authorities and the emerging departments of education in the universities. By the eve of the First World War, the era of the old pupil teacher system survived only in rural areas. Most recruits to teaching had completed a secondary school education, often as “bursars” and “student teachers” and then entered teacher training institutions. Here they extended their academic studies and undertook professional and practical work with a view to preparing to teach. These changing models of teacher education and training soon had an impact in the Empire but none so much as the Scottish example.

Teacher Education in the Universities and Colleges of Scotland

In Scotland, ideas on the education of teachers operated under different contexts to England and Wales. Since the Reformation, the parish school teacher in Scotland had held a special status in local communities. Some parish school masters had been able to attend university, although few graduated. This was part of the tradition of a “Scottish democratic myth,” whereby the poor boy from the parishes could supposedly rise in society through education. But the growth of population and increasing urbanization tended to undermine the idea of the parish school and the idea of a democratic intellect, whereby bright students could go straight to university (Anderson 1983).

Many, including the Church of Scotland, were concerned about the undermining of parish and teacher. By 1826, a Presbyterian normal school had been established in Edinburgh to bring together teachers from across Scotland for education and training. The provision of grants from the central state based in London led to the adoption of the pupil teachers scheme from 1846. But the “great disruption” in the Presbyterian Church in 1843, when a large section of evangelicals broke away to form a new Free Church, led to a new growth of teachers’ colleges allied to the new faith. Moray House was formed in 1848 as a Free Church nonresidential college training teachers in association with the University of Edinburgh: an association that lasted into the twenty-first century (Cruickshank 1970).

The Education Act of 1873 in Scotland created the further prospect of a national system based on local board schools with the universities as the pinnacle. State regulations now allowed pupil teachers to undertake studies in university. Eager for a new source of students, at least two of Scotland’s universities responded to this possible source of income. In 1876, professorial chairs, named in honor of Andrew Bell the pioneer of the earlier monitorial system, were established at the Universities of Edinburgh and St. Andrews. Simon Laurie, secretary of the Church of Scotland Education Committee, was appointed to the Edinburgh chair. Laurie had a long record in supporting moves to create teaching as a profession, being prominent if the Educational Institute of Scotland set up in the 1840s partly to re-establish the idea of the “learned dominie.” Holding strong views on the status of teaching, Laurie argued that future teachers needed to mix with the middle class in secondary schools. And at university they should have a liberal education as the basis for teaching as a profession. He proposed first that universities become the “trainers of all aspirants to the teaching profession who are fitted by their previous education to enter on a university curriculum.” Second, he wanted to have education accepted as a subject discipline within the universities (Laurie 1882).

During the 1880s, a “Literate of Arts” providing for education as an optional course was introduced at the University of Edinburgh as well as a postgraduate diploma in Education. Three years later, in the significant Act of 1889, the new Universities Commission in Scotland included Education as a full qualifying subject for the MA degree at all four Scottish universities. From 1895, there were Kings’ Scholarships for students to undertake all their teaching training at university. As an academic area, as well as professional preparation, education was thereby established in Scottish universities (Bell 1983).

Education also found a place within Scottish universities as an emerging research-based discipline. Scottish philosophy had been long influenced by Europe and particularly Germany. Education was shaped as a discipline at the moment there was emerging interest in teaching methodologies. Much of this came through an understanding of the new “science” of psychology. The significant influences were German in origin. Generally there was German philosophic idealism and its impact on Scottish philosophy with a growing belief in state action to achieve change. In the area of education, “Herbartianism” was arising from the views of the German philosopher Johann Friedrich Herbart, who published his Science of Education in 1806. Herbart proclaimed that “the one and whole work” of education was “Morality,” to be found in individual “will” generated from desires which are the conditions of ideas. In Scotland and elsewhere, this provided a theoretical foundation for early educational studies (Bell 1983, 1990).

By the end of the nineteenth century, the small but growing numbers of academics in the discipline of education, in Scotland and elsewhere, were widening their visions beyond Europe to include America. A new generation including Alexander Darroch at Edinburgh and William Boyd at the University of Glasgow developed contacts with John Dewey and his laboratory school at Chicago. Increasingly, “progressivism” infused with ideas of socially useful knowledge began to prevail in the education of teachers. Mackie’s friend Alexander Darroch argued that the aim of education should be “to fit the individual, intellectually, ethically, and practically, to fill his appropriate place in the social organism” (Darroch 1903, p. 136). After the First World War, Scotland became increasingly a center for educational research, developing instruments for testing and measurement of student achievements (Lawn and Deary 2015).

While Oxford and Cambridge continued to exercise influence in Britain and the Empire over the idea of a “liberal education” for an elite, Scottish universities became prominent in the area of professional studies, often in medical education but also in the preparation of teachers. Scottish migration of middle-class professionals assisted this process, as part of a general diaspora of Scottish university graduates who have been described as cosmopolitan in outlook considering themselves as part of a worldwide community of scholars. Scots had long sought opportunities abroad, engaged in imperial service in the army and civil administration. The expansion of the Scottish universities in the late-nineteenth century saw many graduates going overseas. An analysis in 1933 of 19,501 graduates from the University of Edinburgh showed only 56% living in Scotland, 28% in the rest of Britain, and 17% overseas mainly in the Empire (Anderson and Wallace 2015).

Scholar Teachers in Universities of the Empire

By the early twentieth century, formal and informal associations had emerged between the universities of the Empire. Networks, personal contacts, and institutional associations were a way of forming academic disciplines and forms of professional training. The diaspora of British academics was associated with the establishment of new universities in the Empire of settlement. This soon became not so much a simple transplantation of teachers and ideas from Britain to the Empire but a British world of higher education engaging Britain and Empire. By the early twentieth century, education had become part of the discourse at the imperial conferences involving Britain and the dominions of Empire (Pietsch 2013; Stephenson 2010).

In the antipodes the new universities established from the mid-nineteenth century were secular and public foundations of colonial governments with provision for philanthropic bequests including scholarships. Meritocratic in aim they focused on entrance and progress by examination soon opening up opportunities for women. Located in the capitals of the respective colonies, they shared some common purposes with the civic universities of England and Wales and the longer established universities in the cities and regions of Scotland. Conceived in terms of a close affinity to imperial ideals of the culture of higher education, they offered both liberal studies and education for the professions to meet the aspirations and needs of the local settler society (Horne and Sherington 2012; Sherington and Horne 2010).

The growth of school systems in the Empire, and particularly the role of government in financing public education, helped to generate closer association between teachers and the universities of the Empire. In 1876, the newly established University of Adelaide allowed female students to attend classes without even having to matriculate. Many of these early students were women teachers seeking to upgrade qualifications. Adelaide thus became the first Australian university to admit women and thereby initiated a new relationship between Australia’s universities and school teachers.

The admission of women to the University of Sydney from 1881 was indirectly associated with curriculum reform including new academic disciplines and a Faculty of Science. By the late 1880s, there were also moves to include the university in the education and professional training of teachers. There were negotiations between the university and the colonial government over a proposal, initiated among the Sydney Professors, that some students from the teacher training colleges be allowed to undertake studies at the university. The initial negotiations broke down, but in the 1890s, J. H. Carruthers, the new Minister for Public Instruction, himself a graduate of the university, proposed that not only should training college students attend the university, but that steps should be taken to locate a teachers’ training college within the grounds of the university (Turney 1990).

What encouraged this new interest was the Scottish academic diaspora of the late-nineteenth century. Professors from Edinburgh established the medical school at the University of Sydney. Others helped to expand the offerings of the Faculty of Arts beyond the classical languages. Of most significance was Professor Francis Anderson, trained as a pupil teacher but then graduate in philosophy from the University of Glasgow. In 1902 Anderson helped to initiate a reform movement in New South Wales to bring about change in the education of teachers. In place of the pupil teacher system, Anderson proposed training in a specialized college which would be associated with the university as had occurred in Scotland (Turney 1990).

Victoria had already established a Training College for teachers in 1889. The college closed during the Depression of the 1890s, but its reopening in the early twentieth century was associated with new patterns of careers in education across the Empire. Born in Scotland John Smyth began teaching in Londonderry before emigrating to New Zealand where he completed a BA at the University of Otago followed by an MA in mathematics and mental science. In 1895, he travelled to study at Heidelberg in Germany. He then returned to New Zealand to take up a lectureship in education at Otago. In 1898, he enrolled at the University of Edinburgh for a Ph.D. in philosophy with further study in education and economics. He then studied in Jena and Leipzig before coming back to New Zealand as an inspector of schools. In 1902, he was appointed Principal of the Melbourne Teachers’ College and lecturer in education at the University of Melbourne. He was a major example of how the expanding transnational world of education, with the Empire at the center, was embraced by teachers becoming research scholars even though Smyth’s years in Melbourne would be constrained by bureaucracy within the state department of education as well as issues of academic status and recognition of education as a field of study within the university (Flesch 2017; Spaull and Mandelson 1983).

Prompted by such networks of Empire, by the early twentieth century, Australia was undergoing an educational renaissance. Each of the six Australian states moved toward building public education systems involving schools, colleges, and universities. As in Britain a centrally controlled state system of education was designed to be efficient in methods and meritocratic in intent. And government control to achieve these ends was even more pronounced than in Britain with the growth of Australian government departments and inspectors (Sherington and Horne 2010). As the following case study reveals, such proposed change had major implications for the education and training of teachers.

Sydney Teachers College, 1906–1940

In 1906, Scots-born Alexander Mackie became first principal of the recently founded Sydney Teachers College in New South Wales. After an academic secondary schooling, Mackie had become a pupil teacher, before completing concurrent studies in education at the Free Presbyterian College Moray House and the University of Edinburgh. His initial supervisor was Professor Simon Laurie, the main Scottish proponent who urged that teaching be founded as a profession based on a liberal education in the universities. For his final year MA dissertation, Mackie wrote a special study of Plato and education, so reflecting the growing interest in philosophic idealism realized through state action. He soon embarked on an academic career becoming lecturer in education at the University of Bangor Wales. Six years later he applied for the position of Principal of Sydney Teachers’ College (Sherington 2019Alexander Mackie Papers).

The appointment of Mackie as Principal of Sydney Teachers College revealed the networks of Empire in the field of education which began to prevail in the early twentieth century. The Australian Journal of Education reflected on Mackie’s significance. “That gentleman comes to us with the centuries of practical interest in and knowledge of education which Scotch parentage implied, and with several years of experience in Wales, one of the most lively quarters in matters educational to be found in the British Empire” (Boardman et al. 1995, p. 25). A committee based in London had recommended his appointment from a field of 31 applicants. His academic networks in Edinburgh and beyond resonated with the selection committee, most of whom would have known his Scottish and other referees personally. The chair of the committee was Professor John Adams of the University of London, a long-time friend and colleague of Professor Anderson at the University of Sydney; other members were John Struthers, head of the Scottish Education Department and Graham Wallas, Fabian Socialist, founder of the London School of Economics in 1895, and chair of the London County Council Subcommittee on the Training of Teachers. The committee was thus principally Scottish in origin and in all respects committed to modern and professional ways of education and teacher training. Of particular significance was the committee chair Professor John Adams who was known as one of the major theorists of teaching in the Empire. Adams maintained contact with Mackie for the next two decades (Boardman et al. 1995).

Networks of Empire, specifically the influence of the Scottish academic diaspora, were already present in Sydney when Mackie arrived in 1906. Apart from Professor Francis Anderson, Peter Board, the new Director General of Education in New South Wales, came from a Scottish migrant family with a strong tradition of teaching. Board had begun as a pupil teachers before attending university much in the manner of Mackie’s profile. He was determined to reform the preparation of teachers to involve recruitment from new secondary schools as well as an increased role for the university. Anderson and Board were Mackie’s strongest allies when he arrived in Sydney (Sherington 2019).

In an address to teachers in New South Wales soon after his arrival, Mackie drew upon his own education and learning and gave indications of possible future directions for teacher education under his supervision as college principal. “Though he could never forget the 30 years he had spent in Scotland, he hoped soon to be able to look upon Australia as his second homeland.” The present was a time of “upheaval” not seen since “Socrates pointed out the fallacies of the Sophists.” There was hope for “educational progress” provided educational administration worked with the “social and economic structure of the State.” As to the pupil teacher system, it had “outlived its usefulness” not only in the “older countries of the world” but in Australia. There were, Mackie said, according to the press report, “two main points in the training of the teacher” – “first – a thorough general culture in academics and in the techniques of his art” and “secondly, that he should carry the academic training so far as to obtain a degree in arts or sciences.” There should be no differences between primary and secondary teachers, he suggested, and “No obstacle placed in the way of obtaining a university education for young teachers.” As such he was holding out the prospect of teaching founded on a university degree rather than being in the traditional fashion of different qualifications for primary or secondary schools (Sherington 2019).

The aim of teaching becoming a university trained profession, based on education as an academic discipline, studied in college and university, and including practice in schools, would mark Mackie’s next three and a half decades as college principal and university professor in Australia. In his first decade as principal, such an ambition seemed a possibility. He recruited staff whose qualifications were based on both teaching and research. In this way he was following trends already apparent in Britain and which were well known to him. In 1913–1914 the percentage of graduate staff in the teachers’ colleges of the churches in Britain was only 62% compared to 82% in the university departments. The preeminence of the university departments of education in Britain was increasingly related to the status of the university to which they were attached (Jones 1924). Through key appointments in Sydney Teachers College at Sydney, Mackie actually surpassed the research records of many academics in the University of Sydney. And with support from Professor Anderson, the University of Sydney granted Mackie the title of professor and the right to teach in university courses (Boardman et al. 1995).

The institutional association between the university and the college was ensured when Peter Board, the Director of Education in New South Wales, reached an agreement with the university to establish a teachers’ college within the grounds of the university. By the end of the First World War, many students were undertaking a 4-year degree comprised of studies in university academic subjects followed by work in the college and practice in schools. The majority of these students were women laying the foundations for careers in teaching in the public schools (Boardman et al. 1995).

Mackie regarded the connection between college and university as perhaps the major achievement of his early years in Sydney. In 1921, when he visited Britain as part of an extended study leave, he attended the Second Congress of the Empire, delivering a paper on “The Universities and the Training of Teachers.” Most of his focus was on the University of Sydney, but he also referred to Australian universities in general. Pointing out that public education was the responsibility of each Australian State, he stated that “Professional training for teaching in primary and in secondary schools is provided by the Universities and by the Education departments” which control a “College for Teachers.” The university exercises no “direct control” over the colleges, although in each state, except Western Australia, the college is in or adjacent to university grounds. Often staff in the college held positions in the university, while college courses qualified for the professional diploma of the university (Sherington 2019).

Despite Mackie’s aims, the close arrangement between universities and teachers colleges was beginning to change by the early 1920s. In the wake of the costs of the war, governments throughout the Empire began to reduce expenditure and to cut back on education and teacher training. Even at the Second Congress of the Empire in 1921, there was an emerging view that the university sector in Britain and the dominions could not absorb large numbers of students who might prefer a life in a college rather than being on the margins of the university. In 1925, a departmental report of the Board of Education for England and Wales reinforced the view that training colleges and departments of education in universities should operate in separate spheres with some limited scope for cooperation. This soon became a common model within the Empire (Patrick 1986; Turner 1943).

At Sydney Mackie faced specific problems in maintaining relations with the university, in part because of the views of the new Director of Education who sought to counter Mackie’s aims. S.H. Smith was a former pupil teacher who had little sympathy for the values of a university education. Throughout the 1920s Smith reasserted bureaucratic oversight of Sydney Teachers’ College, following government directions to restrict expenditure and denying opportunities for students in the college to undertake a university education. On one occasion Smith suspended Mackie as principal. He also ensured that Mackie’s position as professor would disadvantage him by ensuring he could not receive a full pension from government. Relations remained tense. Mackie proposed the college became an independent body within the university, but neither the university or the State Department of Education would accept this (Boardman et al. 1995).

By the 1930s, Mackie and others in Australian education were turning more to America for ideas and support. Mackie had always admired Teachers’ College in New York for its promotion of research and teaching. The interest of the Carnegie Corporation in Australian led to a research initiative. Mackie became part of a trio of administrators and academics based in Sydney and Melbourne who used Carnegie funds to support the establishment of the Australian Council for Educational Research. The new council sponsored a series of publications beginning in the 1930s which placed Australia as part of the growing international research on education (Connell 1980).

The growing interest in Australian education was associated with overseas visitors to Australia culminating in the major conference of the New Education Fellowship held in 1937. Mackie often drew upon progressive education in America to criticize top heavy bureaucracy and centralization in Australian education. In 1934 he was part of the committee reviewing curriculum and examination reforms in New South Wales. Some of his suggestions were later enacted after the Second World War when his former student Harold Wyndham became Director General of Education in New South Wales. In his famous report, Wyndham proposed a system of comprehensive secondary schools, drawing on ideas from his period as a doctoral student at Stanford but also his earlier years at Sydney Teachers’ College working with Mackie (Hughes 2002).

Following a severe stroke suffered on a trip to Britain in 1939, Mackie retired as Principal of Sydney Teachers College and Professor of Education in the University of Sydney. In his honor the University of Sydney named a building which was later a site for adult education. Sydney Teachers’ College recognized him through naming a library while there were various other prizes throughout Australia. The Mackie medal was established in his memory as a recognition of his work in promoting educational research, so providing for national awards for work in the fields of education, psychology, and philosophy. More generally, he has been seen as the major founder of progressive teacher education in Australia (Connell 1980; Hyams 1979; Spaull and Mandelson 1983).

Less recognized is that Mackie’s period as Principal of Sydney Teachers College had coincided with the rise of the institutional and personal networks of Empire in education. His policies showed that the idea of Empire could be associated with progressive policies in teacher education and training. In this way, his period in Australia needs to be seen as part of the influence of the Empire from the late-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century.

Conclusions and Future Directions for Research

Empire gave rise to not just networks but institutions and cultures of inquiry and research. One of the best examples was the London Institute of Education founded in 1902 at the beginning of the idea of education and Empire. Initially under the guidance of Professor John Adams, the institute emerged as the center of research and postgraduate training soon attracting students from across the Empire. Its role continued well into the years after the Second World War, a symbol of a world of education and focus for new ideas on the training of teachers (Aldrich 2002). And in Scotland, Moray House became a center for developing IQ and other testing material which was circulated throughout Britain and the former Empire (Lawn and Deary 2015). Comparative accounts of the rise of institutions and cultures of inquiry within outside the Empire would enrich current scholarship.

For the most part, national aims supplanted the older associations of Empire. Increasingly the post-Second World War expansion of universities absorbed or amalgamated different forms of education and training that had existed in colleges and universities. In Britain, the role of central government was significant in bringing about change. The McNair report of 1944 signalled the end to autonomous teachers’ colleges, proposing a “coherent teaching service” leading to area training organizations involving universities and colleges (Crook 1995). The Robbins Report of 1960 placed the education of teachers within a wider context of overall higher education, recommending that the training colleges become “Colleges of Education” working in harmony with universities to form Schools of Education (Dent 1975). Over the next three decades, there was a gradual merging of universities and colleges in the area of education. Much of this occurred under increasing central government controls often designed to restrict rather than expand teacher education and training (Gosden 2000). How questions of gender impacted as these shifts played out remain to be researched.

For a brief postwar period, State Governments in Australia retained responsibility for teachers’ colleges. Many new colleges were residential in rural areas, following a traditional 2-year training and with little association with universities. But the Commonwealth Government gradually assumed responsibility from the states for the funding of both universities and colleges, raising questions for future research around the significance of regionalism in the provision of tertiary education as well as questions of educational opportunity.

Following a report from Keith Murray, the Scots-born chair of the United Kingdom University Grants Committee, Australia initially followed the British model of funding for universities through an independent authority. By the 1960s the commonwealth was funding both universities and colleges of Advanced Education, some of which were former teachers’ colleges which began to branch out into other forms of professional education still deserving further study as part of a once binary system of higher education. The binary system of separate universities and colleges survived until the 1980s, and creation of the “unified national system” which combined some universities and colleges transformed some colleges and institutes into universities (Forsyth 2014). The original idea of university and college autonomy had now given way to the principle of higher education responding to markets to achieve national economic ends. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, a common Australian idea of the university had emerged throughout the nation still grounded in many of the ideas formed in the age of Empire in the nineteenth century but now subject to claims of accountability and efficiency the impact of which researchers continue to track (Davis 2017).

Amidst all this change, by the twenty-first century, new transnational connections gave rise to visions of “global educational markets” which went beyond the old boundaries of Empire. Global league tables emerged comparing the performance of students in different nations. In the process, the long transition of the education and training of teachers into a profession seemed under challenge. The call for more efficiencies and immediate accountability in teacher education and training was even leading to a revival of the “practical turn” in the preparation of teachers, so undermining the professional ideal established in the nineteenth century (Furlong 2014). How this will play out in the future and with what effects suggests ample agenda for future research.



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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of SydneySydneyAustralia

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