The 1980s were a momentous period in the history of both Collingwood and Preston Technical Colleges. In 1981 responsibility for Technical and Further Education was transferred from the Education Department to a TAFE Board and 16 colleges (including Collingwood and Preston) became part of council-controlled colleges that reported directly to the TAFE Board.
Through the 1980s the junior school elements had been effectively separated from the adult colleges. Finally the junior school system was closed down and their students became part of a secondary college or high school system.
But there were even more shocks to come for Collingwood and Preston.
In 1987 the TAFE Board was replaced by another body – the State Training Board – which decided, in the interests of economy and other factors (see NMCOT below), to plan for a Northern Metropolitan College of TAFE with the amalgamation of Collingwood and Preston Colleges of TAFE.
In the case of both it meant an end to their independent existence as colleges of technical and further education. They were to be merged and their separate histories to become part of the foundation for a new entity which was to dominate technical vocational education in Melbourne’s north: the Northern Metropolitan College of TAFE or NMCOT.
1980 (midyear): CTC students and staff take up residence in the new multi-storey $11 million Otter Street building. By 1981 Otter Street had become the main campus of Collingwood. Other facilities like the library were substantially refurbished and moved to Otter Street.
1981: Collingwood Technical College formally changes its name to Collingwood College of TAFE.
1981: Horticulture School at Royal Park (Parkville) opened.
September 1981: the Junior Technical School and Collingwood College of TAFE are formally separated, in accordance with the requirements of the Post-Secondary Education Act. The junior school had been suffering from low enrolments for some time and the separation also meant decreased access to the facilities previously available and which now had been transferred to the College.
Nonetheless, the junior school struggled to retain enrolment numbers. This was partly due to the changes taking place in the areas surrounding Collingwood. Over the years, newly established schools, both technical and high schools, had chipped away at the enrolments in Collingwood. From its foundation, when Collingwood was one of only a handful of technical schools with students coming from far and wide, it was by the late 1970s an inner city school surrounded by other similar schools as well as large schools in the new growth areas of the outer suburbs.
1987: appointment of a relieving Principal (Mr Jack Thomas) with the brief to close the secondary section of Collingwood College of TAFE.
1987: years end: the secondary school section of Collingwood College of TAFE is closed bringing to an end 75 years of government technical education in Collingwood. The following year, Collingwood College of TAFE Principal, Ian Scott noted the following:
‘It would be very interesting to know what some of the pioneers of Collingwood Tech would think of this situation, particularly Alex Strang who strongly objected to the establishment of
Preston because of the effect it would have on the enrolments at Collingwood. The views of the School Councillors of 1920 would also be very interesting, remembering their unsuccessful attempt in that year to have the name of the School changed to the NORTHERN DISTRICT TECHNICAL SCHOOL.’ (Scott, 1988)
Scott, Ian D. ‘COLTECH: a story of technical education in Collingwood, 1870-1987.’ Melbourne, Collingwood College of TAFE, 1988.
1988: Collingwood College of TAFE amalgamates with Preston College of TAFE to become the Northern Melbourne College of TAFE (NMCOT).
Throughout the late 1970s and into the 80s, the relationship between Preston Technical College (PTC) and the Preston Institute of Technology (PIT) was becoming difficult to manage.
Established in the 1960s as a development of Preston Technical College’s ‘Diploma School’, the Preston Institute of Technology (PIT) relocated to Bundoora in 1973.
When Preston Institute of Technology was set up, the then School Council became the Preston Institute of Technology Council (PIT Council) and Preston Technical College became part of the ‘College Division’ with operations overseen by this PIT Council through a ‘College Committee’ (a sub-committee of PIT Council).
It is thought by some that in consequence, the old PTC ceased to exist as a legal entity, becoming now a college division of PIT Council. It is not clear what this means from the reports of the time but perhaps it refers to the College Committee not being an incorporated body in its own right but only through the PIT Council; operationally, PTC continued to function and receive money from the State Government.
The day to day operations for staff may not have substantially changed for PTC but from a governance point of view there were problems. VET/TAFE was growing substantially and PTC needed to respond to demand and meet State Government objectives. Funding was made directly to PTC by the Education Department; the Principal of PTC was appointed by the Education Department, yet he was responsible not to the Government or even a College Council but answered directly to the PIT Council.
This requirement was unworkable in the long run and efforts were made to obtain a separation of Preston Technical College from Preston Institute of Technology. The physical distances between administrative centres (11 kilometres Preston to Bundoora) also created separate identities.
Management went so far as to seek model constitutions of governance, and sought to pass motions of separation at Council meetings. All parties involved in discussions throughout the late 1970s and early 1981 (the Council, College Committee, the Principal and his management group, and the State Government through the TAFE Board) seem to have agreed the parties should separate but this does not seem to have formally occurred for a while, even when Preston Institute of Technology separated itself from PTC in early 1981 through affiliating with the Coburg Teachers’ College to become the Phillip Institute of Technology.
December 10, 1981: The PIT Council passes a motion to set up a committee to manage the TAFE sector of the College, with the intent that this committee become, in time, an incorporated body known as the Council of the Preston College of Technical and Further Education.
December 1981: the Victorian Post-Secondary Education Commission (VPSEC) informed the PIT Council that Preston Technical College would formally become the Preston College of TAFE, overseen by a 16 member College Council. PIT Council appointed an interim committee to manage the changeover. Separation was achieved and an independent Preston College of TAFE came into being.