Known affectionately as the 'Emily Mac', this institution was founded in 1906 as the College of Domestic Economy, and followed in the European trend of providing young women with an education in domestic arts and sciences. First located at 450 Lonsdale Street, the College offered diploma courses for teachers of domestic economy and dressmaking, vocational training for the hospitality and clothing industries, and the popular 'engagement ring' class.
After years of struggling in overcrowded premises, the college secured the patronage of Sir William McPherson, the then State Treasurer. His generosity enabled relocation to Russell Street in 1926, where the beautiful white building, renamed after Lady McPherson, became a Melbourne landmark. The college continued to flourish, offering both tertiary and non-tertiary training in Foods and Food Service, Dietetics, Nutrition and Food Science, Fashion Design and Production, in addition to many evening classes for the general public.
Major changes occurred under the last principal, Miss Norma Findley, 1967-79. Inadequate facilities once again became a dominant issue but plans for a multi-storey building did not progress beyond the first stage. Sadly, although the upgrading of the diploma courses was successful, the college failed to qualify as a member of the Victorian Institute of Colleges and amalgamated with its neighbour, RMIT, on 27 March 1979.