The founder and principal (John Mason) is one of Australia's most published garden authors (over 100 books), a board member of the Australian Garden Council, and editor for Home Grown Magazine. He is the only person to have been made a fellow of both the Chartered Institute of Horticulture in England and also the Australian Institute of Horticulture. He is also a fellow of Parks and Leisure Australia.


John Mason graduated from Burnley Horticultural College in 1971 and over the next decade moved from initially running a nursery and landscape business, to becoming the youngest Parks Superintendent in Australia, writing regularly for Your Garden Magazine and serving an a range of committees including the Australian Garden Council, International Play Association, Australian Institute of Horticulture and the Melton Garden Society. John first broadcast on radio in 1981 and in 2019 was still broadcasting (through World Gardening Radio out of Essex) 

ACS and its staff are a member of many industry organisations.


ACS Distance Education is a silver sponsor of the Australian Institute of Horticulture (AIH), and students enrolled in full certificate (or more advanced) courses, qualify for and  are provided an opportunity to take up free membership of the AIH.


Historically Speaking


Over 250,000 people have studied our courses, over more than 45 years; and they are today, being delivered under license through a group of affiliated colleges located in seven different countries. These include both private and government institutions.


For 5 years we organised the garden pavilion for the Royal Melbourne Show; and won awards for our efforts twice. From the Mid 80's to 1999 and again from 2012 to 2017; we were contracted to produce a national garden magazine for Sydney publishers. In the early 1990's we were the first private college in Australia to become a Registered Training Organisation; and through the 90's developed and accredited a range of horticultural courses in Australia. Over that time we worked with the Royal Horticultural Society to develop and deliver their long established RHS General Certificate as an online course (first to do so in the world). 

The greatest value in studying our courses comes from the fact that we are widely known and respected in the world of horticulture, by employers and colleagues.

We have a reputation for maintaining high standards of horticultural education that has a strong focus on plant knowledge and foundation science; two extremely important pillars of horticultural practice. 

Our staff and principal are well known as garden writers and professionals of high standing.


Our range of courses are being delivered by a group of affiliated colleges located in five different countries.

Preferred Member Training Provider with the Australian Institute of Horticulture

The best indicators of our credibility are the quality of our staff, the testimonials from our students, and the background of other institutions we are affiliated with.

Our courses are now delivered under license by around 20 colleges - people are studying ACS courses, from more than 150 countries around the world.

We also have a selection of formal accreditations and affiliations (some indicated below).

ACS is more than a school - Our staff work in the real world as well as working in education. The principal is a well known garden writer and gardening editor for several magazines (including Garden Guide and Home Grown). Other staff work as consultants, managers, scientists and in other capacities within the industry.



ACS has been established since 1979, and has established a high level of respect in academic circles within a range of disciplines in the UK, Australia and beyond. Staff include world renowned academics from several countries, and it maintains active partnerships with respected institutions in several countries including England, Ireland, America, Australia and New Zealand. Many of these affiliates are formally recognised by government education authorities in their respective countries. ACS has been affiliated with colleges, located in Australia, the UK, America, Singapore, France and Ireland (see Educational Affiliates). Many of these colleges hold government accreditations and offer articulation for ACS graduates into accredited qualifications. Affiliates in the UK include Warwickshire College (incorp. Pershore College) in the Midlands and Warnborough College in Ireland and Kent.

The school’s credentials are varied, and include:

ACS is recognised by the International Approval and Recognition Centre (IARC).

You can see the standards that endorse and adhere to on the IARC site: click here


International Approval and Recognition Centre (IARC)
ACS is recognised by the International Approval and Recognition Centre (IARC).


Australian Institute of Horticulture
The principal, John Mason, is a fellow of AIH. ACS is a silver sponsor of the AIH. As such, ACS certificate students meet AIH criteria are entitled to subscribe to AIH as a student member.


ACS Is allied with the AIH as an official sponsor. 


'ACS is an organisational member of the Future Farmers Network.

FFN are focused on building the engagement and network of those aged 18 to 35 years with the aim to empower, support and retain young people in Australian agriculture.'


Complementary Medicine Association
College Member of Complementary Medicine Association assessed to teach a range of areas including Counselling, Nutrition, Natural Therapies.


ACS Global Partners Network
Member of ACS Global Partners Network – committed to Ethical Education


ACS and its staff are members of many other industry bodies, including 

Complimentary Medicine Association (UK)

Chartered Institute of Horticulture (UK)

Australian Nursery Industry Association

Horticultural Media Association

Garden Writers Guild

International Herb Association

Association for Coaching (UK) Organisational Member (OMAC)

Alternative Technology Association

The Permaculture Association



ACS is formally affiliated with a number of other institutions spread across a number of countries. 

Our affiliates include both government and industry recognised institutions.



ACS is highly credible, particularly in horticulture. Our courses are highly credible.

Look into our staff you will find they include some of the most reputable professionals from their respective areas of expertise

Look into our graduates, you will find as much if not more career success as graduates from the best horticultural colleges.

The truth is that our courses are just as well (or better) recognised, as any. Often shorter courses can be formally recognised by government accreditation bodies, but poorly recognised by many employers; while longer courses that do not meet government bureaucratic guidelines may teach you more horticulture, be better recognised by industry employers; but not be formally recognised by governments.


When asked, people may be asking any one of a multitude of different things. For some, recognition is about “endorsement”, while for others it is to do with “credibility”, and yet others, “how useful the course might be”.


Highly qualified people often under employed?

The era of formal qualifications being really important has peaked.  Don't confuse education with qualifications though. Everyone can still improve themselves - but like good food, formal education is best when you choose well and take it in moderation. More and more people understand that knowledge, awareness, learning, experience and attitude are what makes a person capable - not a swag of qualifications.


Formal education may be becoming less important; but learning is becoming more important.

Pathways to jobs are becoming more fluid. CPD schemes are emerging in all sorts of industries that never used to have them. Innovative pathways to forging a career are developing. If this trend continues, there will be ever diverse possibilities for learning what you need to learn, and fewer people taking the traditional, well established pathways.

By taking a different pathway, you can show prospective employers that you are a free thinker, and more likely to be innovative and creative.

There is a strong argument for anyone to get out of mainstream learning - but to always continue learning.



We realised some time ago that there was no long term future in developing and delivering courses that emphasise satisfying predetermined curricula. It is a redundant concept to set rigid learning outcomes then teach students with a primary goal to pass exams built around those outcomes.


Our courses are designed to be more flexible; allowing students, focused on developing a broad foundation in the subject, and allowing each individual student to change where they put the emphasis in their learning experience; according to their situation, needs and timing. We aim to make them more competent and have a capacity to adapt in their chosen discipline. We aim to increase their motivation (too many courses emphasise "passing the exam" so heavily that they stress and demotivate the student).


We are constantly focused on the learning - student assessment and gaining any sort of qualification is de-emphasised, and learning is reinforced - and in doing so, we believe our graduates are more capable and have a better attitude.

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