Matriculation Colleges

Hobart Matriculation College, with North Hobart Oval in the foreground (AOT PH30/1/3618)

Matriculation Colleges were an educational innovation for Tasmania. Like area schools, they were partly an inventive way to satisfy a rapidly growing demand with limited resources, and partly a progressive educational idea whose time had come.

The rapidly expanding post-1945 population and the increased demand for better qualifications put enormous pressure on the state high school system. Matriculation studies had been confined to selective high schools, but from the early 1950s the demand from students in technical and regional high schools rose significantly, and the new comprehensive high schools were about to release many more students seeking the same. Yet the numbers at selective high schools were small, and there were not enough qualified teachers to staff 'matriculation tops' at all secondary schools.

The concept of centralised matriculation colleges, with boarding facilities for country students, was developed by ET Smith, principal of a comprehensive high school. He argued that concentration of resources would better prepare the academic students and allow them to be treated more as the young adults they were, and that this would reduce the University's influence on the secondary curriculum. The idea was opposed by most of his colleagues, but welcomed by the Minister for Education, Bill Neilson, who was well aware of the urgency of the situation. The change began in 1962. There was initial public resistance, but the colleges proved their worth and became popular. Yet in little more than a decade new educational ideas and social trends led to further changes. Non-matriculation courses were introduced to cater for the wider range of students who wished to continue beyond high school, and 'matriculation' was dropped from the colleges' names. Today they are known as 'senior secondary college' and are effectively comprehensive schools for years 11 and 12.

Michael Sprod