ACER was established in Melbourne, Australia, in 1930 with a grant from the Carnegie Corporation. From a staff of five, ACER has grown into one of the world’s leading educational research bodies with an expanding international presence. ACER has more than 430 staff working in offices in Adelaide, Brisbane, Dubai, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, London, Melbourne, New Delhi, Perth and Sydney.

Prior to the establishment of ACER there had been no educational institution with a nation-wide interest. The first research undertaken was: the standardisation of scholastic and mental testing for Australia; a study of the number of children aged 10 to 18 in each school grade or type of occupation; and the fundamental problems of the primary school curriculum.

ACER’s early focus was on research, rather than service activities, and making ACER a clearinghouse of research information, with an emphasis on primary and secondary education.

ACER has been instrumental in the implementation, management and reporting of large-scale international surveys such as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), the IEA International Civic and Citizenship Study (ICCS) and the IEA International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS).

The early years

ACER developed as:

  • a centre devoted to the scientific study of education;
  • a source of reference on what was the best and latest in educational thought and practice; and
  • a supporter of progressive education.

During the Second World War, ACER was involved in psychological testing for personnel selection to the Australian Armed Services and government departments. ACER also worked on publications dealing with evacuation possibilities, and advised the Department of Post-War Reconstruction in Australia. For the three years from 1942 ACER was mostly concerned with the war effort, with regular work suspended. Its war time work helped lead to government financial support from 1946 and confirmed it as a significant national institution in Australia.

Post war

Post-war years

ACER’s focus widened to include more emphasis on testing. Work included: a large growth in library work; establishment of a semi-autonomous test division; conferences of test users; research into test theory; Australia-wide curriculum survey; university study to determine predictions of academic success; and the beginning of studies into adolescence and unemployment.

Recent development

ACER has grown rapidly in recent decades, opening its Sydney office in 2002, followed by offices in Dubai and New Delhi in 2004, Brisbane in 2006, Perth in 2007, Adelaide in 2009, London in 2014, Jakarta in 2015 and Kuala Lumpur in 2018.

  • 1928

    James Russell from the United States visits Australia on behalf of the Carnegie Corporation to assess the state of education and investigate appropriate means of assistance.

  • 1929

    Representatives from each of the states (except Queensland) and Executive meet to form a constitution. Official title ‘Australian Educational Research Council’ accepted.

  • 1930

    February. Australian Council for Educational Research established (its name being changed at the first council meeting) with the agreement of a grant from the Carnegie Corporation.


    ACER commences operation. K.S. Cunningham appointed first Executive Officer, and serves from 1930-1954.


    First ACER publication, Educational Research Series No. 1, Individual Education, by C. Fenner and A.G. Paull.


    IQ tests gain popularity.


    A Library Group established and runs until 1948. ACER is instrumental in setting up free library services in Australia.


    ACER hosts the international New Education Fellowship Conference in Australia. The conference begins in Brisbane in August, and concludes in Perth seven weeks later after moving to other capital cities. The conference is a huge success, with more than 8000 people attending.


    Funding from Carnegie Corporation ceases. ACER has saved some of the initial grant money, which keeps the organisation afloat during the war years until government support becomes available in 1946.

  • 1940

    ACER begins aptitude testing with army recruits.

  • 1950

    Dr W.C. Radford commences as Director, and serves until 1976. Radford was previously Assistant Director.


    ACER establishes the Australian Journal of Education, which is still published today.


    ACER office moves from Collins Street to Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.

  • 1960

    Co-operative Scholarship Testing Program (CSTP) for testing for scholarships to independent schools begins.


    ACER office moves to Hawthorn.

  • 1977

    Dr J.P. Keeves appointed Director, and serves until 1985.

  • 1985

    Dr Barry McGaw appointed Director, and serves until 1998.

  • 1990

    ACER office moves to current head office in Camberwell.


    ACER Press established.


    ACER selected to lead international consortium running OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Continues until 2015. ACER still conducts the Australian component of the study.


    Dr Geoff Masters appointed Director (title later changed to chief executive officer).

  • 2000

    ACER a founding member of the Asia Pacific Educational Research Association (APERA) which links organisations across the region.


    Sydney office opens in January.


    Government funding to ACER ceases. ACER had been receiving a small portion of its income from the Commonwealth and State governments since 1946.


    Dubai, India and UK offices open.


    ACER acquires Educare News, which is relaunched as Teacher Magazine.

  • 2005

    Ken Rowe chairs National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy for the Commonwealth Government.


    Brisbane office opens.


    Report on options for an Australian Certificate of Education delivered to Department of Education, Science and Training and released publicly in March.


    Over $4.6 million worth of income is collected via the web, compared to $1.2 million in the previous year.


    Perth office opens.


    Ecommerce turnover during 2006-07 almost doubles compared to the previous financial year, with over $8.4 million worth of income collected via the internet.


    Camberwell Road building sold.

  • 2008

    Railway Parade building opens. Most Melbourne staff are now based in the main office in Prospect Hill Road, Camberwell, which is connected to the adjacent Railway Parade building.


    ACER opens Operations Centre in Mulgrave.


    CEO Professor Geoff Masters invited to participate in the national 2020 Summit discussions of the Rudd government’s productivity agenda in April.


    ACER office in India changes from a ‘liaison’ office to a wholly owned subsidiary – Australian Council for Educational Research India Private Limited.


    ACER CEO Professor Geoff Masters reviews literacy, numeracy and science standards in Queensland primary schools.


    The number of ACER staff exceeds 300 employees.

  • 2012

    ACER online assessment and reporting system launched, making the whole suite of PAT tests available online for the first time.

  • 2013

    More than one million assessments successfully completed through the ACER online assessment and reporting system.

  • 2014

    ACER registered as a higher education provider by the Australian Government Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency.


    Teacher magazine relaunched as an online publication.

  • 2015

    ACER Jakarta office opens.

  • 2016

    ACER admitted to official partnership with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

  • 2018

    ACER Kuala Lumpur office opens.


    More than 14 per cent of ACER’s 430 employees based outside Australia.