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, students and staff have been drawn 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 the University 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 create life-changing experiences for our students and prepare them for life and work.
130 years of progress
RMIT is established as the Working Men’s College on the philanthropy of pastoralist Francis Ormond, backed by the Trades Hall Council and by public donations, with the aim of bringing education to the working people of Melbourne.
The College offers classes to both men and women 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.
The College establishes classes in trade teaching for returned servicemen. Over 1500 servicemen receive post-war vocational training at the College.
A new name, Melbourne Technical College, is adopted.
The College plays a major role in the war effort, with 20,000 servicemen trained in communications and 2,000 in munitions production.
The College is awarded royal patronage by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of its educational service to the Commonwealth and contribution to the war effort. It is renamed Royal Melbourne Technical College and remains the only higher education institution in Australia with the right to use the prefix “Royal” and the Monarchy's coat of arms. Hibernian Hall (renamed Storey Hall in 1959) is acquired for the College.
The College Council adopts a new name, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
RMIT amalgamates with the Emily McPherson College of Domestic Economy.
RMIT is granted university status under State legislation and adopts the name RMIT University. RMIT amalgamates with Phillip Institute of Technology
RMIT amalgamates with the Melbourne College of Decoration and Design, and the Brunswick campus is formed.
RMIT purchases a site in Bundoora in Melbourne’s northern suburbs for a new campus.
RMIT becomes the first Australian university to adopt an international strategy incorporating the delivery of teaching programs offshore and onshore.
RMIT is invited by the Government of Vietnam to establish Vietnam’s first foreign-owned university.
RMIT International University Vietnam opens in Ho Chi Minh City.
New RMIT Vietnam campus opens in Hanoi.
RMIT launches a capital works program comprising redevelopment of the Francis Ormond and Emily McPherson buildings, and the construction of new landmark buildings in the Melbourne CBD.
RMIT is jointly named the first Fair Trade University in Australia.
The Swanston Academic Building and Design Hub open in Swanston Street, Melbourne, adding significantly to the RMIT quarter of the city.
RMIT University opens a centre in Barcelona, Spain. At the inaugural Victorian International Education Awards, RMIT receives the Premier’s award for International Education Provider of the Year and the award for Excellence in International Education (University)
The Vietnamese Government awards RMIT Vietnam a prestigious Golden Dragon Award for the 12th consecutive year, recognising its excellence in education and research. RMIT Vietnam is still the country’s only fully foreign-owned university and now has 6,250 students.