The ACAP Story
This is the story of how a privately owned college which literally started its life in a shoe-box, grew to be one of Australia’s largest education providers in the discipline of applied psychology.
For the first six years of life, Canadian Cliff Moore operated ACAP quietly out of a small upstairs office on Broadway in Sydney, offering ten week diplomas in counselling and psychotherapy.
By 1989, the college was not prospering and Cliff decided to hand over the business to Lionel Davis, who was in the process of establishing a consultancy after a successful start to his professional life in the field of community development. The prospect of having office space if he took over the business was appealing.
From his old notes, Lionel revised the curriculum for ACAP’s first two courses under his leadership and offered them over 10 weeks, on campus or by distance education. He ran some advertisements, students enrolled, and ACAP was back in business.
Lionel had a vision to improve the way psychology was being taught in Australia. His own experience studying Psychology at university didn’t offer him personal insights, self development or practical applied skills. He graduated with some helpful knowledge and good report writing skills, but no practical experience whatsoever. He wanted to provide practical skills for students, that they could immediately apply in their workplaces, use an experiential adult education model, make personal development integral to the training, provide practical hands-on experience through field work placements and above all, operate with an ethic of contributing back to the community.
Despite much opposition from the psychology establishments, Lionel was inspired to apply for accreditation once again, with four courses. In September 1993 ACAP offered Australia’s first accredited training courses in counselling. In 2005 ACAP’s approval as one of the first private organisations to be awarded higher education provider status came through.
One of the secrets to ACAP’s success is that Lionel combined community development principles with the best of the corporate world to build and sustain a very healthy organisation. In the late 1980s ACAP started offering courses in the intensely competitive area of applied psychology and within a short time began producing graduates who were snapped up by employers. The college committed itself to the principles of experiential adult learning in spite of the fact that those principles seemed inherently unprofitable.
The real secret ingredient nevertheless was people.
The ingredients to grow into the college that ACAP is today, fittingly, could only come from people. A vision for what the school could become. A philosophy that could inspire others to share in the journey. The courage to persist in the face of strong opposition. Enough resources to fund the growth step by step and the determination to see it through when often it would have been easier to pack up and go home.
At the start those qualities came from Lionel. But ACAP swiftly developed its own life and culture, and now literally thousands of other people have played vital roles in bringing the organisation to life. A constant focus to expand from the early days of Counselling to Psychology and then Social Work, Criminology and Coaching has paved the way for the most recent chapter in ACAP history, launching an MBA for 2022.
ACAP truly has been the mouse that roared. The tiny organisation that survived against all odds, and grew to not only thrive, but to play an important and ongoing role in transforming how applied psychology is taught, practised and regulated in Australia.
Extracts and adaptations from ‘Out of the (Shoe) Box’ 2006
1983 - 1989: ACAP established by Cliff Moore
Canadian Cliff Moore opens ACAP in a small upstairs office on Broadway in Sydney, offering ten-week diplomas in counselling and psychotherapy.
1989 - Lionel Davis injects life back into ACAP
Lionel takes over the college with a crystal clear vision to provide practical skills for students that they can immediately apply in their workplaces.
1993 - 1997: Accredited Counselling & VETAB
First private education institution in Australia to deliver accredited counselling courses at the undergraduate and postgraduate level. 1993 - 1997 delivers rapid growth and university partnerships.
2003: ACAP becomes a HEP
2003 ACAP becomes an approved HEP under the NSW Higher Education Act. Postgrad courses accredited in NSW and QLD. In 2004 ACAP is approved to deliver bachelor of applied social science in NSW and QLD.
2005: FEE HELP introduced
ACAP is approved by the Commonwealth government to offer higher education students FEE HELP for their tuition.
2006: Navitas acquires ACAP
In 2006, Navitas buys ACAP and in 2013 Psychology & Social Work disciplines are added, later followed by Criminology.
2018: ACAP becomes bold and blue
A strategic brand realignment creates polarised opinions but achieves cut through and paves the way to another period of fast growth for the college.