From 1839 the Mechanics Institutes introduced art education to Melbourne. More formal instruction was introduced via Schools of Design, the first at the Trades Hall in Lygon Street in 1869; and, from the 1880s, via the Working Men's College (later RMIT). By the 1920s, Melbourne boasted six such colleges within 3 miles (5 km) of the city centre. Art instruction was also provided in state schools, with courses of teacher education set in place.
In 1870 the National Gallery of Victoria School opened in the Public Library in Swanston Street, rapidly becoming the premier centre for art education, its reputation enhanced by its Travelling Scholarship. Private schools also flourished. In the 1890s, the Melbourne School of Art provided instruction in Parisian practices and plein-air techniques; from 1916, Max Meldrum disseminated his tonal theories; and in the 1930s, George Bell introduced post-impressionism to classes at the Bell-Shore School.
After World War II, the Gallery School maintained its traditions in painting and drawing to become, in 1970, the foundation school of the Victorian College of the Arts. The scholarly study of art was established in 1947 at the University of Melbourne, with Joseph Burke as the 'Herald Professor of Fine Arts'; and departments of fine arts were subsequently set up at Monash and La Trobe universities. Melbourne, Swinburne and Prahran Technical Colleges consolidated their roles as centres of art and design, to offer accredited degree courses. The amalgamation of university campuses has seen the emergence of three principal institutions providing practical and theoretical courses at an international standard: Victoria University, Monash University, and the Victorian College of the Arts affiliated with the University of Melbourne.