ACER eNews

ACER celebrates 75th anniversary

ACER celebrated its 75th anniversary on 1 April 2005. ACER was established in the 1930s with a grant from the US based Carnegie Corporation and for 75 years has been undertaking a wide range of research and development and providing services and materials in support of educational policy-making and improved professional practice.

When ACER was established in the 1930s, it was funded by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation, a US organisation created in 1911 to promote 'the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding.' The grants were to benefit the people of the United States , although a small percentage of the funds could be used for the same purpose in countries that are or have been members of the British Commonwealth . The official title 'Australian Educational Research Council' was first selected, but then changed at the first council meeting.

ACER's early focus was on research as opposed to service activities, and making ACER a clearinghouse of research information. Emphasis was placed on primary and secondary education. It had a policy of functioning through the state Institutes of Educational Research, although this was never particularly successful.

In the early years ACER built up an image as

  • a centre devoted to the scientific study of education;
  • a knowledgeable institution that could be used by Australian educators to improve their information, and a source of reference on what was the best and latest in educational thought and practice; and
  • a supporter of progressive education.

Prior to the establishment of ACER there had been no educational institution with an Australia-wide interest. The first research undertaken was: "the standardisation of scholastic and mental testing for Australia; a study of the number of children aged 10 to 18 in each school grade or type of occupation; and the fundamental problems of the primary school curriculum."

During the Second World War, ACER was involved in psychological testing for personnel selection to the Armed Services and government departments. In 1940 ACER examined 600 army signallers with a large battery of tests then, for three years from 1942, ACER was mostly concerned with the war effort, with regular work suspended. During the war years, ACER became known as an educational and psychological testing service, in addition to its research emphasis. ACER also worked on publications dealing with evacuation possibilities, and advised the Department of Post-War Reconstruction. Its war time work helped lead to government financial support for ACER from 1946 and confirmed it as a significant national institution.

In the post war years, ACER was able to move away from war work to focus on schools again. There was now more emphasis on testing. ACER had become dependent on government finance. ACER work now included: a large growth in library work; establishment of a semi-autonomous test division; conferences of test users; research into test theory; Australia-wide curriculum survey; university study to determine predictions of academic success; and the beginning of studies into adolescence and unemployment.

From its beginnings with two staff in 1930 and five by the end of the decade, ACER has grown into a large, independent, not for profit organisation with more than 200 staff located in Melbourne and Sydney with additional offices in Dubai, India and the UK.

Further details of ACER's history can be found in a brochure that has been produced to mark the 75 th anniversary. Download 75th Year Brochure


Connell, W.F. (1980) The Australian Council for Educational Research 1930-80, ACER: Melbourne .

Swan, D. A., Clay, M., Cooley, W.W., Stanley , G.V. (1984) Report of the Review into the Operations of the Australian Council for Educational Research, ACER: Melbourne .

Williams, B. (1994) Education With its Eyes Open: A biography of Dr K. S. Cunningham, ACER: Melbourne .

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