Transition between collapsed state phases and discontinuous volume phase transition for a hydrogen bonding gel, poly(methacrylic acid-co-dimethyl acrylamide), were observed by using both the volume measurements and fluorescence intensity of the pyranine fluoroprobe (8-hydroxypyrene-1,3,6-trisulfonic acid trisodium salt) bonded to the gel by means of electrostatic interactions. In the collapsed state, while there is no appreciable change in the volume of the gel, a considerable variation in the fluorescence intensity occurred around 30 degrees C signaling a second order phase transition between collapsed state phases, from relatively frozen to a fluctuating phase. Our analysis of the data around 30 degrees C indicates that the critical point of gel volume transition belongs to the so-called mean-field universality class, as predicted in Onuki [Phys. Rev. A 38, 2192 (1988)] and by Golubovic and Lubensky [Phys. Rev. Lett. 63, 1082 (1989)]. The relaxation time for the equilibrium swelling critically depends on the temperature and diverges near 60 degrees C, where both fluorescence intensity and the volume of the gel change drastically and indicate the discontinuous volume phase transition. The swelling kinetics of the critical gel during the discontinuous volume phase transition can be modeled best with the first term in the expansion of the Li-Tanaka equation for a long initial period of the swelling time. (c) 2007 American Institute of Physics.