The Study of Education at the University of WA 1916-1985

Di Gardiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study analyses how 'Education' as an area of study was constructed at The University of Western Australia [UWA] during the period 1916-85. While there is little commentary available regarding the construction of 'Education' in a curriculum sense, what evidence there is suggests that there was hostility towards the inclusion of 'Education' within the university curriculum in the older universities in Australia and in the UK and USA. This resentment led to a polarisation of views; on the one hand, there was a desire to escape completely to what was often referred to as 'the high ground of theory and respectability' while, on the other hand, there were those who argued for the pre-eminence of becoming immersed in recent and relevant experience, uninformed by theoretical perspectives. Writers in Educational Studies accentuated the tension which developed between these two positions as they tended to consider them to be mutually exclusive. The question of how Education as an area of study was constructed at UWA and whether similarly conflicting views were evident, provided a focus for the study. The study provides an overview of the development of education from the time of the first settlement, places the UWA experience within the context of developments at Teachers College Columbia and The Institute of Education at London University, and then traces the development of the study of Education at UWA from its inception in 1916 through to the 1985 with the retirement of the last long-term head of department. A wide variety of sources has been used in developing the narrative. Primary sources located largely within the UWA Archives were especially valuable. These include manuscripts, personal papers, printed material such as the early UWA Calendars and the UWA Education Faculty Handbooks, minutes of meetings, Education Reports, anecdotal evidence, and oral accounts. Secondary sources also provided information necessary to build the contextual framework. Three main factors were identified as important in the development of Education as an area of study at UWA. First, was the strong, practical emphasis of the curriculum of the University as a whole when it was founded. The second was the influence of the staff in establishing a reputation for academic rigour and a strong commitment to research, while at the same time maintaining an important role in teacher training. Finally, the continued response of the Faculty of Education at UWA to changes in secondary education, demonstrated its commitment to professional integrity. The central argument advanced is that throughout the period, the emergence and development of 'Education' as an area of study at UWA was a response to the demands for both relevance and respectability. In this regard, the hostility experienced in other universities did not emerge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-168
JournalEducation Research & Perspectives
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004


Dive into the research topics of 'The Study of Education at the University of WA 1916-1985'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this