RMIT University started its life as the Working Men's College on
7 June 1887.
It adopted the motto “Perita manus, mens exculta” – a skilled hand, a cultivated mind – which continues to be used by the University today.
Since that time, RMIT has grown from a technical college in Melbourne providing education in the arts, technology and trades to working men and women, to become a global university of technology, design and enterprise offering postgraduate, undergraduate and vocational programs.
From the beginning, staff and students have been attracted to RMIT because of its strengths in teaching and research, its reputation for innovation, the talent of its academic leaders, and the strong industry links it has forged over its long history.
What links RMIT’s past to the future is the University’s ongoing commitment to education and research that responds to industry and community needs. That tradition of relevant, industry-focused learning and teaching is unbroken as RMIT continues to prepare graduates with the skills, knowledge and attributes that make them highly employable global citizens.
130 years of progress
Francis Ormond offers £5,000 towards the establishment of a Working Men's College if the general public is prepared to contribute a like sum. With the help of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council, which levies its member unions, the money is raised.
The Working Men's College opens in June. The first part of Building 1 is ready to take the first students.
The College offers classes in technical, business and arts areas. Students gain applied skills relevant to various trades, including architectural and mechanical drawing, theoretical and applied mechanics, plumbing, carpentry and painting. The curriculum offers studies in arithmetic, algebra, bookkeeping, shorthand, physics, physiology and photography.
The Working Men's College begins offering full-time courses in engineering and applied science leading to diplomas. With the substantial fees, the College is able to appoint its first full-time instructors who are able to begin the development of the various teaching departments: engineering, chemistry, metallurgy and mining, fitting and turning.
The College is incorporated under the Companies Act. Prior to this time, the College councillors constituted a board of trustees but were personally responsible for the finance of the College.
Lecturer James Aebi, an Australian pioneer in colour photography, takes colour photographs on campus around 1904-1905. These were probably the first colour photographs taken in Australia here. Victorian Railways partners with the College in a day-release training scheme.
Building 4 West (now Building 28) opens, housing printing, plumbing, gasfitting and carpentry trades teaching.
The College was already establishing its global reach. A list of former students included ten working internationally in geology or mining and a university lecturer in the United States.
Building 2 (art) is completed.
The College establishes classes in trade teaching for returned servicemen-at one stage five hundred men are being trained in twenty-eight classes. Over 1500 servicemen receive post-war vocational training at the College.
The Institution of Engineers, Australia is formed, accepting the College's diplomas as qualifying for membership. Full-time engineering courses are developed.
Building 3 (Kernot Engineering School) is completed.
The College Council agrees to change the name of the institute to 'The Melbourne Technical College' (incorporating the Working Men's College) after representations from the students' association.
Building 5 (metallurgy) is completed. The first stage of Building 9 (Radio School) is built. The College celebrates its fiftieth anniversary.
1939 - 1945
The Melbourne Technical College plays a major part in training for the war. Twenty thousand servicemen pass through the College, mostly RAAF personnel in communications, and two thousand people are trained for work in munitions production.
The Australian Government commissions the manufacture of parts for the Beaufort Bomber.
The College develops into food technology, transport studies, accountancy, real estate and advertising. Chemical engineering is upgraded in cooperation with the University of Melbourne. Art syllabuses are revised and surveying developed. The number of students from south-east Asia attending the College, either as private students or under the Colombo Plan, increases greatly.
'Royal' is added to the title of the College.
Hibernian Hall (renamed Storey Hall in 1959) is aquired for the College.
Council adopts the name 'Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology'.
Non-tertiary RMIT is reconstituted as the Technical College and it is assumed the two Colleges will eventually separate. The Technical College (TAFE) expands its courses rapidly, especially in certificates of technology. Business and general studies expanded.
Industrial research projects are included in undergraduate engineering degrees strengthening RMIT's industrial links.
RMIT amalgamates with the Emily McPherson College of Domestic Economy, teaching finance, food science and tourism.
Year-long centenary celebrations and special events are held throughout the year. A time capsule is set in the pavement at the Bowen Street entrance to Building 1 and the history of RMIT, dating back to its foundation as the Working Men's College, is written and published as 'The Tech'.
RMIT’s Centre for Design establishes a national and international reputation as a leader in eco-design.
After strenuous efforts to effect a merger with the western suburbs technical institutes, RMIT withdraws from the newly formed Victoria University of Technology when the terms of the merger become unacceptable to all parties.
RMIT amalgamates with the Phillip Institute of Technology. RMIT is granted university status under director David Beanland, who becomes vice-chancellor. Mr Ivan Deveson AO is appointed as foundation chancellor.
Melbourne College of Decoration and Design amalgamates with RMIT's Faculty of Art and Design to create the TAFE School of Design. RMIT purchases the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works' northern regional headquarters on the east side of Plenty Road, Bundoora.
RMIT is the first Australian university to adopt an explicit international strategy incorporating the delivery of teaching programs off-shore and on-shore, an education abroad program where students spend part of their course studying overseas, active participation by staff in international teaching and research, and an 'internationalised curriculum'.
Five Australian universities, including RMIT University, form the Australian Technology Network (ATN).
RMIT amalgamates with the Melbourne College of Printing and Graphic Arts.
1998 - 1999
RMIT receives the first Australian Export Award for Education in 1998, the 1998 and 1999 Governor of Victoria Export Award for Education and the 1999 Business Asia News Magazine Award for best Australian service activity in Asia.
In a world's first, a PhD at RMIT is researched, supervised, submitted, examined and stored entirely online. First posted online in 1995, The Flight of the Ducks was identified as being of national significance by the National Library of Australia and archived electronically in 1996.
RMIT International University Vietnam, an accredited campus of RMIT based near the centre of Ho Chi Minh City, becomes the first foreign owned private university in Vietnam. The RMIT Bachelor of Business in Logistics is the first non-Chinese degree in the world to be granted official Chinese Government approval.