Our History

Open Colleges – celebrating more than 100 years of history!

In the late 1800s, Thomas Foster – the owner of the Colliery Engineer and Metal Miner newspaper in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, USA – announced an innovative new concept in education. Thomas Foster launched the Colliery Engineer School of Mines inspired by the regular Q&A column in his newspaper, which aimed to help local and poorly educated coal miners pass mandatory exams in mine safety. Unlike other schools of the time, the Colliery Engineer School of Mines adopted a truly innovative approach by delivering its courses by correspondence.

The first class enrolled 500 miners and within eight years there were 190,000 students studying a variety of courses, including commercial education and 40 other engineering trades.

logo_icsIn 1901, the Colliery Engineer School of Mines changed its name to the International Correspondence Schools (ICS), reflecting its expanded scope and direction. At its core, ICS remained committed to enabling hard-working people to improve their skills and life opportunities.

The Australian connection

Australians were among those first ICS students in the 1890s, which is hardly surprising, given the very early development of distance education in this huge country in the mid- to late-19th century.

The first permanent office of ICS in our region was established in New Zealand in 1903. Agencies were established in Australia around the same time, and by 1910 there was a permanent infrastructure in place.

ICS was formally registered as a corporation in Australia in December 1921, and continued to thrive by constantly adapting and developing courses to meet emerging vocational needs.

A pioneer in distance learning technologies

In 1994, ICS once again pioneered a new concept in accessible education with the release of courses on CD-ROM.

In July 1995, ICS launched its first web site and announced its first batch of soon-to-be-released ‘online’ course material. To put this initiative into perspective, in 1995 most major corporations had little or no online presence at all!

New Ownership Drives Growth

logo-thompsonThrough a series of mergers and acquisitions, ICS in Australia was acquired by Harcourt Learning Direct in 1997 and then Thomson Education Direct in 2001. With a revitalised financial and management structure, the organisation continued to prosper, placing a strong emphasis on building its already impressive online capability.In a Sydney Morning Herald article in July 2001, leading business commentator Robert Gottliebsen said, “About three years ago, Thomson decided the internet would be the growth market for the communications sector and it should expand its education services”. Gottliebsen added that “Thomson has a magnificent internet infrastructure to run courses…”

logo-cengage In 2007, Thomson became part of Cengage Learning and its name changed to Cengage Education.

logo-opencolleges In 2010, Cengage Education was acquired by the Open Colleges Group, and in October 2011, embarked on the next exciting phase in its evolution as Open Colleges.

New divisions join the team

In 2011, the Integrated Care and Management Training organisation joined Open Colleges Australia. Shortly thereafter, the College of Fashion Design was acquired. These new divisions soon started offering their courses by distance and online learning in partnership with Open Colleges.