Australian Council for Educational Research

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The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), established in 1930, is an independent educational research organisation based in Camberwell, Victoria and with offices in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Dubai and India. ACER provides learning tools for students, develops and manages a range of testing and assessment services for the Australian education community, and conducts research and analysis in the education sector.[1]


On 1 April 1930, two staff members, Ken Cunningham, the inaugural chief executive and secretary Mary Campbell, established ACER's first office in two rooms of the T&G building in central Melbourne. By the end of the 1930s ACER's total staff had expanded to five.

ACER was established with a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, a foundation itself established "to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding". Although the Carnegie grants were to benefit the people of the United States, a small percentage of the funds could be used for the same purpose in countries that were or had been members of the British Commonwealth. The grant to establish ACER was made following a visit to Australia by American James Russell on behalf of the Carnegie Corporation to assess the state of education in Australia and investigate appropriate means of assistance.[2]

The official title 'Australian Educational Research Council' was first selected, but then changed at the first council meeting held in 1930 to Australian Council for Educational Research, which has not changed again since.


chief executive Tenure Notable contributions to education research
K.S. Cunningham 1930–1954 Chaired Social Science Research Council of Australia (1943–1952)
W.C. Radford 1955–1976 Edited Review of Education in Australia (1939–1964); Chaired committee to review of public examinations in Queensland and served on committee of inquiry into education in South Australia
J.P. Keeves 1977–1985 Editor of Educational research, methodology and measurement : an international handbook (1997)[3] and Issues in education research (1999)[4]
Barry McGaw 1985–1998 Director of Education of the OECD (1998–2005);[5] chair of the board of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (2009–)[6]
Geoff Masters 1998–Present Developed Partial Credit Model (1982);[7] Undertook review of Queensland primary schools (2009)[8]

Organisational structure[edit]

Today, ACER is an independent, not-for-profit organisation. ACER now receives no government funding – it is funded entirely through contract work, fees for services and product sales. It has more than 400 staff working in its offices in Camberwell, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Dubai, London, Jakarta and New Delhi.

ACER research is organised into nine research programs:[9]

  • Assessment and Reporting: Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Assessment and Reporting: Mathematics and Science
  • Higher Education
  • International Surveys
  • National Surveys
  • Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation
  • Psychometrics and Methodology
  • Systemwide Testing
  • Teaching, Learning and Transitions

In addition to research, ACER's work includes fee for service testing programs such as scholarship selection, university entrance, psychological and human resources tests. Some of these are available online. Test scoring and administration services are also available. Tests, books and other materials are also published and sold through ACER Press for the education, psychology, human resources, parent education, special needs and speech pathology markets.[10] The ACER Institute (formerly the Centre for Professional Learning) provides a range of professional learning seminars and manages ACER's annual Research Conference.[11]

Current activities[edit]

In Australia, ACER's work and its researchers contribute to the shaping of education policy[12] and discussions around a range of issues pertaining to Australian education, from the role of parents,[13] the role of arts in education,[14] teachers and school leaders,[15] post-school education and training,[16] tertiary students' engagement[17] to equity in education.[18]

ACER administers a number of high-stakes tests in Australia, including the Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test (UMAT), a requirement for studying medicine in Australia. About 20,000 candidates sit the UMAT each year, seeking entry into medicine or other health science courses including physiotherapy, dentistry, oral health and pharmacy.[19]

International work[edit]

After an early focus on Australian education, ACER now provides a range of services for an expanding number of international clients. A consortium led by ACER coordinated the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) from 1997 until 2015. PISA is an international assessment of reading, mathematics and science, in which more than 60 countries currently participates. ACER was engaged by the OECD to lead the first ever Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO)[20] and to develop all of the new literacy tasks for the Programme of International Assessment of Adult Competencies.[21]

ACER is also responsible for co-ordinating Australia's participation in the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement's Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study. ACER has been involved in many other significant international studies and is a founding member of the Asia Pacific Educational Research Association (APERA) which links educational research organisations across the region.

ACER India has a close working relationship with the Central Board of Secondary Education, including co-hosting an International Education Conference in 2011.[22]

Tests administered[edit]


  1. ^ "Media Release: Australian Council for Educational Research Opens Office in Dubai". Department of Premier and Cabinet (Victoria). 11 March 2004. Retrieved 19 October 2010. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^,3343,en_21571361_23918823_21313339_1_1_1_1,00.html
  6. ^
  7. ^ Masters, G.N. (1982). A Rasch model for partial credit scoring. Psychometrika, 47, 149–174
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Milburn, Caroline (12 April 2010). "Taking research to the top of its class". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 10 February 2011. 
  13. ^ Tarica, Elisabeth (7 February 2011). "Meet the most important person in your child's schooling – you". The Age (Melbourne). 
  14. ^ "Arts can be key to a good education". Archived from the original on 13 April 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  15. ^ Johnston, Megan (21 June 2010). "Outstanding teachers fight for recognition". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 10 February 2011. 
  16. ^ "School not the key to workplace success". The Sydney Morning Herald. 20 January 2009. 
  17. ^ Harrison, Dan (25 April 2009). "Students waver off course". The Age (Melbourne). 
  18. ^
  19. ^ da Silva, Janet (7 November 2005). "The medical maze". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 19 October 2010. 
  20. ^,3746,en_2649_39263238_46565916_1_1_1_1,00.html
  21. ^
  22. ^ Rai, Ruchika. "Help children become global citizens: Sibal". The Times of India. 

External links[edit]