Faculty history

From modest beginnings in the late-19th century through to the merger with the University of Auckland in 2004, read about some of our faculty’s key milestones.

The University of Auckland Faculty of Education was first established when the former Auckland College of Education and the University’s School of Education merged to form a single home for initial teacher education, educational studies, and counselling and social work on 1 September 2004.

The government’s rationale for merging the Auckland College of Education with the University’s School of Education was to bring together the strong professional practice focus of the College with the proven research expertise of the University in order to strengthen the quality of students’ educational experience.

In 2015 its name was broadened to the Faculty of Education and Social Work to better recognise the work and qualifications offered.

Herbert (Bert) Milnes, the Principal of Auckland Training College pre-World War 1 died at Passchendaele.

The forerunners to the Faculty of Education and Social Work began in January 1881 when the Auckland Training College was first established. This was two years before the University of Auckland’s predecessor – the Auckland University College – opened its doors. However, after just seven years the Auckland Training College was forced to close as the result of government cost-cutting. It was not re-established until 1905–6.

The training college, which was more akin to a glorified secondary school than a tertiary institution, continued to prepare teachers with a strong practitioner focus until the introduction of a more comprehensive three-year teacher education programme for primary teachers began in the 1970s. At this time Auckland Training College also began to diversify into early childhood and secondary teacher education.

As teacher education evolved into a learned profession, the college developed by redefining its role and developing new professional qualifications. Over the course of the following years, the name of the college changed several times to reflect the nature of the evolving professional field of teacher education. In 1936 the college became the Auckland Teachers' Training College. In 1948 this was further refined to the Auckland Teachers' College.

The blazer worn by Auckland Teachers' Training College students in the 1940s

In 1964 secondary teachers broke away from the college to form their own teachers’ college, the Auckland Post-Primary Teachers’ College, which in 1966 became the Secondary Teachers' College, Auckland. Finally, in 1986, the primary, secondary and early childhood colleges again combined to form the Auckland College of Education. Social work, counselling and human services were also part of the now Auckland College of Education.

The University of Auckland, School of Education as a home for educational studies and educating teachers was first established in 1977 when the government relaxed the regulations governing who could offer teacher education programmes. As a School of Education within the Faculty of Arts, it began to offer teacher education in direct competition to the Auckland College of Education. This continued until the merger in 2004. Since the 2004 merger, the faculty has continued to offer qualifications in education, teacher education, educational leadership, social work, human services, counselling, and health and physical education on the Epsom Campus.

At the same time it has seen significant growth in its postgraduate and doctoral programmes. As the faculty has grown, its national and international research profile has correspondingly grown to become a significant part of its present academic profile. At the end of 2023 the faculty will move from its present site on the Epsom Campus to the City Campus to better align with the rest of the University.

The Faculty of Education and Social Work Deans

The first Dean of Faculty was Dr John Langley, who was formerly the Principal of the College of Education. Dr Langley led the faculty until his resignation in 2008. Associate Professor Graeme Aitken was then appointed. He played a leading role in raising the faculty’s international rankings for the next ten years. In 2017, after more than four decades teaching both students and teachers, and now a professor, Professor Aitken stepped down as Dean.

Graeme was promoted to the rank of Emeritus Professor in 2018. In September 2019, Emeritus Professor Aitken received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ministry of Education in recognition of his distinguished 42-year career in education.

At the beginning of 2018, the former Associate Dean of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, previously a secondary science teacher, Professor Mark Barrow took over the role of Dean.

Alumni Associations

In 1907/8 Herbert Milnes founded the "Old A's", a student association with the purpose of organising college reunions and supporting the college for the teacher training role that it served. The call was 'You are Old A’s – Old Auckland' (Training College).

At the outbreak of World War 1, the organisation became inactive and little was heard about it until 1918, when it formed a committee to organise the provision of a memorial for Old A’s members who had fallen in battle during World War I. This memorial can be found at the University of Auckland's Epsom Campus.

From 1922 to 1935, there were intermittent efforts to revive the Old A's until the organisation went into recess in 1935. There were no recorded activities of the Old A’s from 1935 until the mid-1960s, when former students and staff led by Alex Wiren initiated the revival of the association with the support of then Principal Duncan McGhie. In 1976 the Old A's was reconstituted as the Old A’s (Retired) Association.

Since the mid-1960s the Old A's have been meeting twice a year at Epsom Campus under the leadership of a succession of very able presidents and committee members. The committee also ran a bi-annual newsletter edited by its President, Bob Baird, from 2014-2019. On 30 September 2019 the Old A's (Retired) Association held its final meeting at Epsom Campus before it again went into recess.

Graduates of the Faculty of Education and Social Work, as well as the Old A's, are members of the University of Auckland Alumni Association.

Children's Art School

The Children’s Art School at Epsom Campus inspired creativity and developed artistic talent in children and teachers for over 30 years. Students at the Children's Art School produced a wide range of artwork styles in a variety of media to explore and develop their own individual artistic talents.

Explore the gallery archive here.

Te Aka Matua ki Te Pou Hawaiki | Epsom Marae

The Epsom Campus marae Te Aka Matua ki Te Pou Hawaiki and the wharenui Tūtahi Tonu have always been central to campus life. At the end of 2023, when the Faculty of Education and Social Work moved from Epsom Campus to the City Campus, the marae also moved to a new location.

Find more information about the relocation here.