Our History

The history of continuing education

The concept of continuing education was introduced in 1867, when James Stuart, a fellow of Trinity College, University of Cambridge, believed that scholars should go outside of the walls of the universities to teach men and women who were being denied an education.

Formal university extension courses were offered across England with most popular subjects being natural science, history, literature, and art. Two notable features of this education movement included the high number of historians who engaged in the work, and the high proportion of female students who saw access to higher education as a way of helping them in their fight for social and political equality.

Continuing studies in Toronto

In 1872, the University of Toronto introduced evening classes to fill gaps for practical competencies and skill building, under the new School of Technology.  Over the next 25 years, the school evolved from a technology school to a practical school for applied science and engineering. Toward the end of the century, Saturday lectures were introduced and topics broadened to include literary subjects.

Throughout the 1900s, the school evolved further to include a three-year certificate course in business, and a series of mail-based courses for men stationed in England and prisoners of war in Germany. 

To meet cultural and technological changes in the 1950s, new courses were developed in such areas as transistor electronics, atomic energy, construction management, retail lumbering, pre-stressed concrete, and executive development for women.

Always with an aim of preparing learners for success, content and programs consistently evolved to equip learners with strong, relevant skills that could be immediately applied in the workplace. To that end, liberal arts classes and refresher courses were offered, as were courses to help newcomers to Canada adapt to their new country. In 1973, the certificate course Teaching English as a Second Language (T.E.S.L.) was developed. 

In 1974, the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies (SCS) was officially founded. At this time, the course offering was extended to include business and professional studies, creative writing, general interest arts and science courses, as well as an English language program for learners from abroad keen to pursue higher education and career opportunities in Canada.

Since then, courses and programs have continued to evolve to meet changing technology, workplace priorities, learner interests, and cultural shifts – all with an aim to support learners in deepening their knowledge and skills in a range of professional and exploratory disciplines. 

Throughout the 2000s, SCS studied market needs and tracked emerging trends in the workforce. As a result of this research, SCS focused on developing business courses that learners could either layer onto their existing degrees or use toward earning recognized credentials or designations.

In 2018 and beyond, SCS continues to have a global focus, developing online and hybrid options to reach beyond GTA classrooms. Courses, programs, and partnerships continue to evolve. SCS has become an intersection of academic excellence, creative and intellectual pursuit, and business knowledge.


1867 – James Stuart introduces the concept of continuing education in England

1872 – Evening classes for adults offered in Toronto as part of School of Technology

1872 – 1899 – Classes in applied science introduced + Saturday public lectures that included literary topics

1939 – Three-year certificate in business introduced

1941 – U of T mailed courses to men stationed in England and prisoners of war in Germany

1950s – Programming evolved to meet changes in culture and technology

1973 – T.E.S.L. developed to help newcomers to Canada succeed in their new country

1974 – University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies founded

1995 – The first six SCS certificates launched

1995 – Launch of Media and New Technology program, with great success

2001 – Launch of Academic English (AE) program with 147 students. Today, there are seven AE programs

2006 – Complete overhaul of programs to rebuild, renew, and revitalize

2018 – Ongoing creation of new opportunities and partnerships