Shortwood Teachers' College was founded in 1885 as part of the package of widespread social, economic and political reforms spearheaded by Sir John Peter Grant who was appointed Governor of Jamaica after 1865.
In 1880, Thomas Capper, B. A., newly appointed Superintendent of Schools, emphasized the need for more trained women "of quality" to be trained as teachers. He felt that their influence on the minds and manners of young child could be salutary for the development of the people. He was supported by such prominent persons as Bishop Enos Nutthall, Reverend Mr. Robb and Mr. George Hicks. Together they persuaded the newly appointed Governor, Sir Henry Norman, to make a report on this to the Home Office. Ultimately, approval was given for the establishment of a female Teachers' College.
On September 28, 1885. The Jamaica Female Training College, with Miss Amy Johnson as its Principal and Miss M. C. Randall as her assistant, opened its door to eighteen students.
The College , fully financed by the government, was first located in lower Barbican but a case of yellow fever at the college during its very first year induced the authorities to remove the college to Camperdown where it remained for one year. In 1887 the government purchased the property part of the Shortwood Estate on which the college now stands. The Institution was removed to this location and was no doubt called Shortwood Teachers' College after that time.
By 1889 the college began to experience serious financial problems and would have floundered had not the Lamb Report of 1889, with full support of Bishop Nutthall recommended that the college be expanded to make it viable.
Following this recommendation the student body was increased to 50 and an annual grant of 1,200 pounds sterling was given by the government. The government of the college was also entrusted to an Interdenominational Board under the chairmanship of Archbishop Nutthall.
In addition the curriculum was expanded to include practical subjects Agriculture Science, and Domestic Training: Gardening, Cookery and Laundry. Additions was also made to the buildings. From this point the institution experienced a period of quiet and steady growth.
The earthquake of 1907 caused considerable damage to the buildings. Luckily, the earthquake came during the holidays. When the college was reopened classes were held in the least damaged parts of the building and in tents. In 1939 the college was devasted by fire.
Throughout the years the College has offered programmes which prepare students to teach at the Early Childhood, Primary or Secondary level education. In August 2000 the Primary programme was discontinued. Shortwood is the only teachers' college that trains teachers of French and Spanish. In August 2001, male students were accepted. Classes in Information Technology are offered to all Year groups, and all students are given access to the internet.
The College has gone beyond offering a three-year diploma in teaching. The College, in collaboration with the University of the West Indies, and with the support of the Ministry of Education Youth and Culture now offers a Bachelor's degree programme in Early Childhood Education. August 2000 saw the start of a Master's degree programme in Early Childhood Education, offered jointly by the College and the University of South Florida. The College maintains a high standard of academic performance and discipline.