University of Sydney

  1. University of Sydney

The University of Sydney

LatinUniversitas Sidneiensis


Sidere mens eadem mutato (Latin)
Literal: “The constellation is changed, [but] the disposition is the same” [1]
Meaning: The traditions of the older universities of the Northern Hemisphere are continued here in the Southern






AU$829m (31 December 2008)[2]


Her Excellency Prof. Marie Bashir, Lady Shehadie AC CVO[3]


The Reverend Dr Michael Spence


3,081 (FTE academic, 2008)


47,775 (2009)


31,634 (2009)


16,141 (2009)


Sydney, NSW, Australia




Blue, Gold & Red




The University of Sydney (informally Sydney UniversityUSyd or simply Sydney) is the oldest university in Australia. It was established in Sydney in 1850. It is a member of Australia’s “Group of Eight” universities that are highly ranked in terms of their research performance. In 2009, the University had 47,775 students making it the second largest (behind Monash University) in Australia.[4]

Front lawns

Centred on the Oxbridge-inspired grounds[5] of the University’s Main Campus on the south-western outskirts of Sydney’s CBD, the University has a number of campuses as a result of mergers over the past 20 years. The University of Sydney is a member of the Group of Eight, Academic Consortium 21, the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) and the Worldwide Universities Network.

  1. History

The Main Quadrangle

During 1848, in the New South Wales Legislative CouncilWilliam Wentworth proposed a plan to expand the existing Sydney College into a larger university. Wentworth argued that a state university was imperative for the growth of a society aspiring towards self-government, and that it would provide the opportunity for ‘the child of every class, to become great and useful in the destinies of his country’. It would take two attempts on Wentworth’s behalf, however, before the plan was finally adopted.

The University was established via the passage of the University of Sydney Act[6], which was signed on 1 October 1850. Two years later, the University was inaugurated on 11 October 1852 in the Big Schoolroom of what is now Sydney Grammar School. The first principal was John Woolley. On 27 February 1858 the University received its Royal Charter from Queen Victoria, giving degrees conferred by the University rank and recognition equal to those given by universities in the UK [7]. By 1859, the university had moved to its current site in the Sydney suburb of Camperdown.

In 1858, the passage of the Electoral Act provided for the university to become a constituency for the New South Wales Legislative Assembly as soon as there were 100 graduates with higher degrees. This seat in Parliament was first filled in 1876, but was abolished in 1880 one year after its second Member, Edmund Barton, was elected to the Legislative Assembly.

Most of the estate of John Henry Challis was bequeathed to the university, which received a sum of £200,000 in 1889. This was thanks in part due to William Montagu Manning (Chancellor 1878–1895) who argued against the claims by British Tax Commissioners. The following year seven professorships were created; anatomy, zoology, engineering, history, law, logic & mental philosophy, and modern literature.

Under the terms of the Higher Education (Amalgamation) Act 1989 (NSW)[8] the following bodies were incorporated into the University in 1990:

Prior to 1981, the Sydney Institute of Education was the Sydney Teachers College.

The Orange Agricultural College (OAC) was originally transferred to the University of New England under the Act, but then transferred to the University of Sydney in 1994, as part of the reforms to the University of New England undertaken by the University of New England Act 1993[9] and the Southern Cross University Act 1993.[10] In January 2005, the University of Sydney transferred the OAC to Charles Sturt University.

The New England University College was founded as part of the University of Sydney in 1938, and separated to become the University of New England in 1954.

In 2001, University of Sydney Chancellor Dame Leonie Kramer was forced to resign by the University’s governing body.[11] In 2003, Nick Greiner, a former Premier of New South Wales, resigned from his position as Chairman of the University’s Graduate School of Management because of academic protests against his simultaneous chairmanship ofBritish American Tobacco (Australia). Subsequently, his wife, Kathryn Greiner, resigned in protest from the two positions she held at the University as Chairwoman of the Sydney Peace Foundation and a member of the Executive Council of the Research Institute for Asia and the Pacific.[12] In 2005, the Public Service Association of NSW and the Community and Public Sector Union were in dispute with the University over a proposal to privatise security at the main campus (and the Cumberland campus.)[13]

In February 2007, the University agreed to acquire a portion of the land granted to St John’s College to develop the Sydney Institute of Health and Medical Research. As a Catholic institution, in handing over the land St John’s placed limitations on the type of medical research that can be conducted on the premises, seeking to preserve the essence of the College mission. This has caused concern among some groups, who argue this could interfere with scientific medical research. However this is rejected by the university administration because the building is not intended for this purpose and there are many other facilities in close proximity where such research can take place.

  1. University rankings

Sydney has been ranked amongst the top 100 universities in the world by various sources. The UK’s Times Higher Education Supplement World University Rankings published in October 2008 ranked Sydney 17th in the world for Arts and Humanities, 27th for social sciences, 41st for technology, 44th for natural sciences and 27th for biomedicine, confirming its 3rd highest position in terms of its score on the Academic Peer Review (rankings for 5 major subject areas) among Australian Universities.[14].[15][16]

The University of Sydney as a whole has been consistently named between 31st and 40th worldwide and 3rd nationwide (following ANU’s 16-23rd and Melbourne’s 19-27th) from 2004 to 2007[17] in that same publication’s league table. In addition, the University of Sydney has also been constantly ranked between 97th and 150th worldwide and 3rd (following ANU’s 50-59th and Melbourne’s 73-82nd) among Australian Universities from 2004 to 2008 by the Academic Ranking of World Universities [18] published by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. This prominent position is also confirmed by an annual ranking survey published by the Higher Education Evaluation and Accreditation Council of Taiwan (HEEACT)[19], which uses a rigorous ranking methodology of evaluating the performance on the scientific papers published by the university and has placed The University of Sydney top 100 worldwide and second only to The University of Melbourne within Australia since its publication in 2007.

In a recent survey, Times Higher Education Supplement worldwide ranking of universities released in October 2009, the University of Sydney, tied with The University of Melbourne was placed 36th overall in the world, securing its top 3 position with ANU and Melbourne among Australian institutions.[20]

  1. Notable alumni

Main article: List of University of Sydney people

Throughout its history, University of Sydney alumni have made significant contributions to Australia and beyond. Australian leaders who have graduated from the University include two Governors-General, five Prime Ministers, four Chief Justices of the High Court of Australia and 20 other Justices of the High Court. Sydney graduate, Dr H. V. Evatt, served as the first President of the United Nations General Assembly.

The University has produced three Nobel laureates and numerous renowned scientists. A number of notable artists, writers, and entertainers have also graduated from the University, including Clive JamesGermaine GreerJohn Bell and the seven members of The Chaser.

  1. Organisation

The Physics Building houses the School of Physics, and spans one side of the playing fields called The Square.

The University comprises sixteen faculties:[21]

The four largest faculties by (2007) student enrolments are (in descending order): Economics and BusinessArtsHealth SciencesScience. Together they comprise 57% of the University’s students. Each contains a student enrolment over 5,000, and they are indeed the only such faculties.[22] It is notable that the Faculty of Economics and Business, disproportionately to other Faculties consists of about 49% international students, whilst the University-wide average rate is about 22% (2008).

  1. Endowments and research grants

By financial endowments, the University of Sydney is the second wealthiest Australian university, with $1.259 billion endowed[23], behind only The University of Melbourne with $1.29 billion endowed[24] and followed by Monash University, which has an endowment of $1.178 billion.[25]

Latest figures show that the University of Sydney has received the highest amount of research grants, which may demonstrate its research competitiveness and the size of its students and staff body.[4] The University of Sydney also has the second largest (behind Monash University) body of students and researchers among Australian universities.

The University of Sydney secured more than $46 million in funding in the 2007 round of National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Project Grant, Capacity Building and Fellowship awards, the largest allocation to any university in the state. The James Jones foundation has announced the 2007 recipient of the bicentennial award in university research linked to applied agricultural economics. The award includes various grant and research opportunities that may be taken up by both staff members and senior students. Five of the University’s affiliated medical research facilities secured $38 million in the Australian government’s 2006 budget, part of $163 million made available for a variety of development and expansion projects.

  1. Campus
  2. 9 Main campus

The main campus of the University is spread across two inner-city suburbs of Sydney: Camperdown and Darlington.

Originally housed in what is now Sydney Grammar School, in 1855, the government granted the university land in Grose Farm, three kilometres from the city, which is now the main Camperdown campus. The architect Edmund Blacketdesigned the original Neogothic sandstone Quadrangle and Great Tower buildings, which were completed in 1862. The rapid expansion of the university in the mid-20th century resulted in the acquisition of land in Darlington across City Road. The Camperdown/Darlington campus houses the headquarters of the University, and the Faculties of Arts, Science, Education and Social Work, Pharmacy, Veterinary Science, Economics and Business, Architecture, and Engineering. It is also the home base of the large Faculty of Medicine, which has numerous affiliated teaching hospitals across the State.

The main campus is also the focus of the university’s student life, with the student-run University of Sydney Union (often known simply as the Union) in possession of three buildings on-site – Wentworth, Manning and Holme Buildings. These buildings house a large proportion of the university’s catering outlets, and provide space for gaming rooms, bars and function centres. One of the largest activities organised by the Union is the Orientation Week (or ‘O-week’), centering on stalls set up by clubs and societies on the Front Lawns.

The University is currently undertaking a large capital works program (entitled “Campus 2010 + Building for the Future”), with the aim of revitalising the campus and providing more office, teaching and student space. The program will see the amalgamation of the smaller science and technical libraries into a larger library, and the construction of a central administration and student services building along City Road. A new building for the School of Information Technologies opened in late 2006, and has been located on a site adjacent to the Seymour Centre. The busy Eastern Avenue thoroughfare has been transformed into a pedestrian plaza, and a new footbridge has been built over City Road. The new home for the Sydney Law School, located alongside Fisher Library on the site of the old Edgeworth David and Stephen Roberts buildings, has been completed.

From 2007, the University will also use Bay 17 in the new Carriageworks development in the former Eveleigh railway yards just to the south of Darlington as an examination room.

The campus is well-served by public transport, being a short walk from Redfern Railway Station, and served by buses on the neighbouring Parramatta Roadand City Road.[26]

  1. 10 Satellite campuses

Clock Tower on the eastern side of the main quadrangle

  • Mallett Street campus: The Mallett Street campus is home of the Faculty of Nursing. As of 2005, the Faculty no longer offers undergraduate Bachelor of Nursing programs. A new Master of Nursing program (M.N) has been introduced, with its first intake of students in 2006. Other hybrid programs such as the Bachelor of Arts/Master of Nursing, Bachelor of Science/Master of Nursing, Bachelor of Applied Science/Master of Nursing, Bachelor of Sports and Exercise Science/Master of Nursing have also been introduced.
  • Cumberland campus: Formerly an independent institution (the Cumberland College of Health Sciences), the Cumberland campus in the Sydney suburb of Lidcombe was incorporated into the University as part of the higher education reforms of the late 1980s. It is home to the Faculty of Health Sciences, which covers various allied health disciplines, including physiotherapy, speech pathology, radiation therapy, occupational therapy, as well as exercise science and health information management.
  • The Sydney Dental Hospital located in Surry Hills and the Westmead Centre for Oral Health which is attached to Westmead Hospital. See: Sydney Faculty of Dentistry.
  • St James campus: This building in Phillip Street is near the Supreme Court and was the location of the Sydney Law School until 2009. The law school is now primarily located on the Camperdown campus in a purpose-built facility, with postgraduate programs still run from the St James campus.
  • Rozelle Campus: The Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) is based in a former sanitorium in the Sydney suburb ofRozelle, overlooking Port Jackson. The college specialises in the fine (visual) arts.
  • Sydney Conservatorium of Music: Formerly the NSW State Conservatorium of Music, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music (SCM) is located in the Sydney CBD on the edge of Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens, a short distance from the Sydney Opera House. It became a faculty of the University in the 1990s, and as of 2005 incorporates the main campus Department of Music, which was the subject of the documentary Facing the Music.
  • Orange Agricultural College: Located at Orange in rural NSW, the Orange Agricultural College joined in 1994. Orange campus was principally the domain of the former Faculty of Rural Management; however other undergraduate courses from the Faculties of Arts, Science, Nursing and Pharmacy were also taught at Orange. The Orange Campus and the Faculty of Rural Management were transferred to Charles Sturt University in 2005.
  • Camden campus: Located on Sydney’s southwest rural fringe, the Camden campus houses research farms for agriculture and veterinary science.
  • The Narrabri Plant Research Centre is located at Narrabri, near the Queensland border.
  • Taylors College: Located at Waterloo NSW, this college is operated by the University for its Foundation Program, catering to international students wishing to enter the University.
  1. Facilities and services
  2. 12 University of Sydney Library

Fisher Library, the main building of the University of Sydney Library.

The University of Sydney Library consists of thirteen individual libraries located across the university’s various campuses. According to the library’s publications, it is the largest academic library in the southern hemisphere;[27] university statistics show that in 2007 the collection consisted of just under 5 million physical volumes and a further 300,000 e-books, for a total of approximately 5.3 million items.[28] The Rare Books Library possesses several extremely rare items, including one of the two extant copies of the Gospel of Barnabas and a first edition of Isaac Newton‘s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica.

  1. 13 Museums and galleries
  • Nicholson Museum of Antiquities contains the largest and most prestigious collection of antiquities in Australia. It is also the country’s oldest university museum, and features ancient artefacts from Egypt, the Middle East, Greece, Rome, Cyprus and Mesopotamia, collected by the University over many years and added to by recent archaeological expeditions.
  • The Macleay Museum is named after Alexander Macleay, whose collection of insects begun in the late eighteenth century was the basis upon which the museum was founded. It has developed into an extraordinary collection of natural history specimens, ethnographic artifacts, scientific instruments and historic photographs.
  • The University Art Collection was founded in the 1860s and contains more than 2,500 pieces, constantly growing through donation, bequests, and acquisition. It is housed in several different places, including the Sir Hermann Black Gallery and the War Memorial Art Gallery.
  • The Rare Books Library is a part of the Fisher Library and holds 185,000 books and manuscripts which are rare, valuable or fragile, including eighty medieval manuscripts, works by Galileo, Halley and Copernicus and an extensive collection of Australiana. The copy of the Gospel of Barnabas, and a first edition of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica by Sir Isaac Newton are held here. Regular exhibitions of rare books are held in the exhibition room.
  1. 14 Residential colleges

St. John College.

Quad of Sancta Sophia College

The university has a number of residential college and halls of residence each with its own distinctive style and facilities. All offer tutorial support and a wide range of social and sporting activities in a supportive communal environment. Five colleges are affiliated with religious denominations and while this gives each of these colleges a special character, students of any denomination or religion are eligible for admission. Unlike some residential colleges in British or American universities, the colleges are not affiliated with any specific discipline of study.

There is also a university-affiliated housing cooperativeStucco.

  1. 15 Student organisations

Orientation week held at the lawn.

Holme Building is one of the centers for student activities.

  • Student Representatives: Politically and academically, undergraduate students are represented by the Students Representative Council (SRC) and postgraduate students by the Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA).
  • University of Sydney Union: The University of Sydney Union (USU) is the oldest and largest university union in Australia. USU provides a range of activities, programs, services and facilities geared at giving students the university experience. This involves delivering a huge Clubs and Societies program, a varied entertainment program, student opportunities, a range of catering and retail services plus buildings and recreational spaces for the University community and its students, staff and visitors.
  • Sydney Uni Sport and Fitness: Formerly known as the Sydney University Sports Union and Sydney University Women’s Sports Association, Sydney University Sport is one of Australia’s largest tertiary sporting bodies. It currently manages and administers 42 sport and recreation clubs, organises sporting and recreation events, and offers student and non-student members a comprehensive range of sporting facilities.

The SRC and Union are both governed by student representatives, who are elected by students each year. Elections for the USU Board of Directors occur in first semester; elections for the SRC President, and for members of the Students’ Representative Council itself, occur in second semester, along with a separate election for the editorial board of the student newspaper Honi Soit, which is published by the SRC. The elections are usually closely contested, and result in much of the main campus being covered with chalk messages from the various candidates. However, some complaints have been made in the pages of Honi Soit and other publications about the organisations’ claims to represent the student body, citing perennially low voter turnouts and the general apathy of much of the university population to student politics.

The future of these organisations was believed to be under a shadow with the passage of legislation implementing voluntary student unionism in late 2005. The legislation prohibited the compulsory collection of fees from students, which had been the customary means of funding student organisations, after the beginning of Semester 2 of 2006. Although the organisations continue to be concerned about their long-term financial viability, they have secured significant funding from the University to partially make up for lost revenue.


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