Pretoria College of Education (PCE) was established in the 1970s when it offered a three-year diploma for those wishing to teach in primary schools and a postgraduate diploma for prospective secondary school teachers. Later, the three-year diploma was phased out and several four-year qualifications were phased in, focusing on either primary or secondary education. Students of this era graduated with Higher Diplomas in Education (HDEs).
In the 1980s, the Bachelor of Primary Education (B.Prim.Ed.) was instituted whereby students could now study for a degree at the College of Education. Entrance requirements were more stringent than those for the diplomas, and lecturers who taught B.Prim.Ed students were required to hold at least an Honours Degree in an academic teaching subject (e.g. History, English). The University of the Witwatersrand administered the degree and students graduated on the premises of the University, not on the college premises as did the diploma students. It should be noted that most other colleges of education still offered only a three-year diploma and others offered a two-year diploma as well.
In 1992, the PCE closed down and was absorbed by the Johannesburg College of Education (JCE). In 2001, JCE amalgamated with the education faculty of the University of the Witwatersrand, and upon further restructuring became part of the School of Education in the Faculty of Humanities.