The McGregor Summer School, one of the nation's largest cultural activities of its kind, is held annually for two weeks in January on the University of Southern Queensland's Toowoomba campus.
The first Summer School was a project of the Darling Downs Association for Advanced Education (later Darling Downs Unilink), which was formed in 1957 with the aim of inducing the state government to establish a University College in Toowoomba, which ultimately would develop into a University. That first School was held in January 1969 with three classes in painting, three tutors and 43 students. The following year sculpture and weaving were added and each successive year, the visual and creative arts have been increased. Theatre was introduced in 1974 and music in 1976. The Summer School now offers over 40 classes in performing, visual and creative arts and attracts over 500 arts enthusiasts from across the nation and overseas.
During the ten days of Summer School, students have the opportunity to listen to lunch hour concerts performed by the promising music students and in the evening, public concerts are given by the music tutors, who are among Australia's finest musicians. Where else could one go to a concert and hear at least ten first class performers in the one venue? One of the highlights of the Summer School is being able to meet and talk to the people from all walks of life and many differing talents and interests who come to Toowoomba for the two weeks.
In 2000, the Summer School gained a new patron – R M Williams. RM was always a keen supporter of the McGregor Schools and the organisers were honoured that he accepted the patronage to add to his already busy life. Sadly, R M passed away in November 2003 and was replaced as patron by Dr Irene Amos OAM until 2011.
The five-day McGregor Winter School takes place in July of each year.
Winter School began as the McGregor Chamber Music School in 1987 under the direction of Mr Andrew Lorenz, and the painting classes were introduced in 1991. The chamber music segment continued until 2002, and the School now focuses on visual and creative arts, offering approximately twenty classes, ranging from painting in oils, acrylics, watercolour, charcoal to disciplines such as sculpture, textiles, jewellery making or creative writing.
Both Schools endeavour to employ top professional artists and craftsmen to tutor the students in a very wide range of performing, visual and creative arts.
In 2008, the McGregor Schools became part of the USQ Artsworx season. That same year, the School introduced a four-day program of intensive classes at the University's Fraser Coast campus. McGregor on the Bay offered six visual and creative arts classes covering painting, drawing, jewellery making and creative writing during September.
In 2010 and 2011, a series of weekend workshops were held at the Queensland College of Wine Tourism in Stanthorpe. McGregor in the Vines offered participants the opportunity to indulge their creativity or simply expand their knowledge for a weekend getaway amid lush vineyards and picturesque scenery, whilst sampling fine wines and cuisine.
The McGregor Spring School was introduced to the annual suite of offerings in 2013 - a four-day long weekend of creativity at the USQ Toowoomba campus coinciding with the Garden City's Carnival of Flowers.