History of the ACT
The Australian College of Theology (ACT) was established by the General Synod of the Church of England in Australia and Tasmania in 1891 ‘to foster and direct the systematic study of Divinity, especially among the clergy’. For this purpose it provided courses, subject outlines and reading lists and set examinations for clergy and lay people who studied as private candidates or in Anglican theological colleges around Australia. The ACT continued as an Anglican institution providing this early form of distance education down to the 1960s when it opened its main awards to non-Anglicans, a development that reflected the ecumenicalism that was beginning to affect church life in Australia. This ecumenicalism was extended during the following decade when the ACT Board began approving non-Anglican institutions to deliver its courses. Around the same time the College was approved to award degrees by the New South Wales government. These changes took the ACT into a new phase for the remainder of the twentieth century. Although still operating under the auspices of the General Synod, it was now a degree granting body for a national network of theological and Bible colleges.
Early in the twentieth-first century the ACT assumed a third identity when it was approved as a Higher Education Provider (HEP) under the Higher Education Support Act of 2003. Shortly afterwards it became a public company limited by guarantee and, in 2010, the first HEP to receive self-accrediting authority under the National Protocols for Higher Education Approval Processes. It received national registration under the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) which replaced the former state-based registration process. ACT was also the first provider to receive national registration on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS).
In 2022, ACT’s Constitution was revised, providing for members from a much wider group of current ACT stakeholders, including Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian and Reformed denominations, and mission organisations such as CMS Australia, OMF International and Pioneers Ministries. The new constitution incorporates a statement of Christian identity for the first time and governance improvements at many points.
Also in 2022, TEQSA registered ACT as a University College, a provider status granted only to institutions that deliver superior-quality higher education.
The ACT continues to operate as an inter-denominational consortium of affiliated colleges with 17 theological and Bible colleges approved to deliver its courses in Theology, Ministry and Christian Studies from Undergraduate Certificate through to Doctoral level. Approximately 3000 students are enrolled in these courses each year. To date over 23,000 men and women have graduated from ACT courses and gone on to significant careers in churches, para-church organisations, missions and all walks of life as educated Christian people.