University of Sydney

The University of Sydney

Coat of arms of the University of Sydney[1]
Latin: Universitas Sidneiensis
Motto Latin: Sidere mens eadem mutato
English: "Though the constellations are changed, the mind is the same." (literal)
Type Public university
Established 1850
Endowment A$1.8 billion
Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson
Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence
Visitor Governor of New South Wales ex officio
Administrative staff
5,350 (2015)
Students 52,789 (2014)[2]
Undergraduates 33,505 (2014)[2]
Postgraduates 19,284 (2014)[2]
Location Sydney, Australia
33°53′16″S 151°11′14″E / 33.88778°S 151.18722°E / -33.88778; 151.18722
Campus Urban, parks

Red, Yellow & Blue  

Affiliations Group of Eight, APRU, ASAIHL, AAUN, ACU, WUN

The University of Sydney (USyd) is an Australian public research university in Sydney, Australia. Founded in 1850, it is Australia's first university and is regarded as one of the country's leading universities. The university comprises 16 faculties and schools, through which it offers bachelor, master and doctoral degrees. In 2011 it had 32,393 undergraduate and 16,627 graduate students.[3]

The university is colloquially known as one of Australia's sandstone universities. Its campus is ranked in the top 10 of the world's most beautiful universities by the British Daily Telegraph and The Huffington Post, spreading across the inner-city suburbs of Camperdown and Darlington.[4][5]

Five Nobel and two Crafoord laureates have been affiliated with the university as graduates and faculty.[6] The university has educated six prime ministers and 24 justices of the High Court of Australia, including four chief justices. Sydney has produced 24 Rhodes Scholars and several Gates Scholars.

The University of Sydney is a member of the Group of Eight, Academic Consortium 21, the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), the Association of Southeast Asian Institutions of Higher Learning, the Australia-Africa Universities Network (AAUN), the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the Worldwide Universities Network.



The University of Sydney in the early 1870s, viewed from Parramatta Road
The Sydney University Regiment forming a guard of honour for the visiting Duke of York, 1927

In 1848, in the New South Wales Legislative Council, William Wentworth, a graduate of the University of Cambridge and Charles Nicholson, a medical graduate from the University of Edinburgh Medical School, 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".[7] 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,[8] on 24 September 1850 and was assented on 1 October 1850 by Sir Charles Fitzroy.[9] 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,[10] the first professor of chemistry and experimental physics was John Smith.[11] 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 United Kingdom.[12] 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 of the university holding higher degrees eligible for candidacy. This seat in the Parliament of New South Wales was first filled in 1876, but was abolished in 1880 one year after its second member, Edmund Barton, who later became the first Prime Minister of Australia, 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 1878–95) who argued against the claims by British Tax Commissioners. The following year seven professorships were created: anatomy; zoology; engineering; history; law; logic and mental philosophy; and modern literature.


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

During the late 1960s, the University of Sydney was at the centre of rows to introduce courses on Marxism and feminism at the major Australian universities. At one stage, newspaper reporters descended on the university to cover brawls, demonstrations, secret memos and a walk-out by David Armstrong, a respected philosopher who held the Challis Chair of Philosophy from 1959 to 1991, after students at one of his lectures openly demanded a course on feminism.[13] The philosophy department split over the issue to become the Traditional and Modern Philosophy Department, headed by Armstrong and following a more traditional approach to philosophy, and the General Philosophy Department, which follows the French continental approach.

Under the terms of the Higher Education (Amalgamation) Act 1989 (NSW)[14] 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[15] and the Southern Cross University Act 1993.[16] In January 2005, the University of Sydney transferred the OAC to Charles Sturt University.


The Main Quadrangle in its complete form as seen today
Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney

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 Roman Catholic institution, in handing over the land St John's placed limitations on the type of medical research which could be conducted on the premises, seeking to preserve the essence of the college's mission. This caused concern among some groups, who argued that it would interfere with scientific medical research. However, this was rejected by the university's administration because the building was not intended for this purpose and there were many other facilities in close proximity where such research could take place.

At the start of 2010, the university controversially adopted a new logo. It retains the same university arms, however it takes on a more modern look. There have been stylistic changes, the main one being the coat of arm's mantling, the shape of the escutcheon (shield), the removal of the motto scroll, and also others more subtle within the arms itself, such as the mane and fur of the lion, the number of lines in the open book and the colouration.[17] The original Coat of Arms from 1857 continues to be used for ceremonial and other formal purposes, such as on testamurs.[18][19]

Concerns about public funding for higher education were reflected again in 2014 following the federal government's proposal to deregulate student fees. The university held a wide-ranging consultation process, which included a "town hall meeting" at the university's Great Hall 25 August 2014, where an audience of students, staff and alumni expressed deep concern about the government's plans and called on university leadership to lobby against the proposals.[20] Spence took a leading position among Australian vice-chancellors in repeatedly calling throughout 2014 for any change to funding to not undermine equitable access to university while arguing for fee deregulation to raise course costs for the majority of higher education students.[21][22]

In order to further enhance its competitiveness locally and internationally, the university has introduced plans to consolidate existing degrees to reduce the overall number of programs.[23]


In 2001, the University of Sydney chancellor, Dame Leonie Kramer, was forced to resign by the university's governing body.[24] In 2003, Nick Greiner, a former Premier of New South Wales, resigned from his position as chair of the university's Graduate School of Management because of academic protests against his simultaneous chairmanship of British American Tobacco (Australia). Subsequently, his wife, Kathryn Greiner, resigned in protest from the two positions she held at the university as chair of the Sydney Peace Foundation and a member of the executive council of the Research Institute for Asia and the Pacific.[25]

In 2005, the Public Service Association of New South Wales 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).[26]

Action initiated by Spence to improve the financial sustainability of the university has alienated some students and staff.[27] In 2012, Spence led efforts to cut the university's expenditure to address the financial impact of a slowdown in international student enrolments across Australia. This included redundancies of a number of university staff and faculty, though some at the university argued that the institution should cut back on building programs instead.[28] Critics argue the push for savings has been driven by managerial incompetence and indifference,[27] fuelling industrial action during a round of enterprise bargaining in 2013 that also reflected widespread concerns about public funding for higher education.[29]

An internal staff survey in 2012/13, which found widespread dissatisfaction with how the university is being managed.[30] Asked to rate their level of agreement with a series of statements about the university, 19 per cent of those surveyed believed "change and innovation" were handled well by the university. In the survey, 75 per cent of university staff indicated senior executives were not listening to them, while only 22 per cent said change was handled well and 33 per cent said senior executives were good role models.[31]

In the first week of semester, some staff passed a motion of no confidence in Spence because of concerns he was pushing staff to improve the budget while he received a performance bonus of $155,000 that took his total pay to $1 million, in the top 0.1 per cent of income earners in Australia.[32] Fairfax media reports Spence and other Uni bosses have salary packages worth ten times more than staff salaries and double that of the Prime Minister.[33]

During Spence's term, the university community was divided over allowing students from an elite private school, Scots College, to enter university via a "pathway of privilege" by means of enrolling in a Diploma of Tertiary Preparation rather than meeting HSC entry requirements.[34] The university charged students $12,000 to take the course and have since successfully admitted a number of students to degree courses. An expose by Fairfax media which turned out to be based on a misunderstanding as to VET and UAC matriculation standards, the scheme has been criticised by Phillip Heath, the national chairman of the Association of Heads of independent schools of Australia.[35] Heath later withdrew the statement, indicating that he had been taken out of context, confirming in a letter circulated to Scots parents that "the Diploma of Tertiary Preparation at Scots is clearly not a “sweetheart deal” as has been reported".

An investigation by Fairfax Media in 2015 revealed widespread cheating at universities across NSW, including the University of Sydney.[36] The university established a taskforce on academic misconduct in April 2015 to maintain its leadership position in preventing incidences of cheating and academic misconduct.[37]

An recent investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) exposed corporate deals between the Veterinary Faculty and large pet food companies had resulted in the withholding of harmful cat food product tested to protect corporate sponsors.[38]


Main campus

The MacLaurin Hall

The main campus has been ranked in the top 10 of the world's most beautiful universities by the British Daily Telegraph, and The Huffington Post, among others such as Oxford and Cambridge and is spread across the inner-city suburbs of Camperdown and Darlington.[4][5]

The interior of the Main Quadrangle Southern Range

Originally housed in what is now Sydney Grammar School, in 1855 the government granted land in Grose Farm to the university, three kilometres from the city, which is now the main Camperdown campus. The architect Edmund Blacket designed the original Neo-Gothic 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 university's administrative headquarters, 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.

Jacaranda tree in the main quadrangle

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

As of 2016 the university is undertaking a large capital works program with the aim of revitalising the campus and providing more office, teaching and student space.[39] 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. The university has opened a new building called "Abercrombie building" for business school students in early 2016.

The campus is well served by public transport, being a short walk from Redfern railway station and served by buses on the neighbouring Parramatta Road and City Road.[40]

From 2007, the university has used space in the former Eveleigh railway yards, just to the south of Darlington, for examination purposes.

Satellite campuses

The Great Tower (completed 1862) is on the eastern side of the Main Quadrangle

The university also uses a number of other facilities for its teaching activities.


The University of Sydney Library consists of 11 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;[41] 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.[42] 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.

Lake Northam in Victoria Park

Centre for Continuing Education

The Centre for Continuing Education is an adult education provider within the university. Extension lectures at the university were inaugurated in 1886,[43] 36 years after the university's founding, making it Australia's longest running university continuing education program.[44]

Museums and galleries

Residential colleges

St John's College
Quadrangle of Sancta Sophia College
Wesley College
St Andrew's College

The university has a number of residential college and halls of residence, based on the college system of Oxford and Cambridge universities, 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. "Intercol" refers to the six colleges which exist on campus. They are modelled on the British system of colleges and competition for entry is high each year. The colleges compete in the Rawson Cup (sport for men) the Rosebowl cup (sport for women) and the Palladian Cup (drama, debating and music for both men and women).

The university also has three other residential systems, which are different from the colleges, and are not part of the intercol system. For a variety of reasons, the intercol network has chosen to have no affiliation with these "houses".

There is a university-affiliated housing cooperative, Stucco.

The college also publishes a peer-reviewed online journal, Philament,[46] that focuses on work by postgraduate students including creative stories.[47] the journal is supported by an advisory board of faculty members, and is registered by the Australian Commonwealth Department of Education Science and Training (DEST).


The university comprises 16 faculties and schools:[48]

The five largest faculties and schools by 2011 student enrolments were (in descending order): Arts and Social Sciences; Business; Science; Engineering and Information Technologies; Health Sciences. Together they constituted 64.4% of the university's students and each had a student enrolment over 4,500 (at least 9% of students).[49]

A panoramic photograph of the Quadrangle
The Main Quadrangle of the University of Sydney

Academic profile


University rankings
University of Sydney
QS World[50] 46
THE-WUR World[51] 60=
ARWU World[52] 82
USNWR World[53] 45
CWTS Leiden World[54] 32
Australian rankings
QS National[55] 3
THE-WUR National [56] 3=
ARWU National[57] 5
USNWR National[58] 2
CWTS Leiden National[54] 1
ERA National[59] 2
The Anderson Stuart Building, housing the Sydney Medical School
The Macleay Building housing the Macleay Museum, the oldest collection of natural history in Australia
The Madsen Building, housing the School of Geosciences, previously occupied by the CSIRO

The 2016-17 QS World University Rankings ranked the University of Sydney 46th in the world, dropping from 37th two years earlier.[60] The 2016 QS World University Rankings by Subject,[61] Sydney was ranked 9th in Veterinary Science, 11th in Law, 16th in Education, 17th in Medicine, 18th in Accounting and Finance, 20th in English Language and Literature, 20th in Civil Engineering and Structural Engineering, 21st in History, 25th in Archaeology, 24th in Psychology, and 26th in Linguistics, 28th in Pharmacy and Pharmacology, and 42nd in Communication and Media.[62]

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016-2017 placed the University of Sydney 60th in the world, down four places from the year before, and 9th in the Asia Pacific.[63] Additionally, Sydney was ranked in the top bracket for teaching and research.[64] The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016 placed Sydney 29th in Arts and Humanities, 33rd in Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health, 52nd in Social Sciences and 73rd in Engineering and Technology. The Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings 2015, placed Sydney as 51st-60th most reputable in the world.[65]

The 2017 US News & World Report's Best Global Universities ranking placed Sydney 45st in the world and 2nd in Australasia.[66]

In the 2016 Shanghai Ranking published by Shanghai Ranking Consultancy, the University of Sydney was ranked in the 82nd in the world.[67]

In the Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers for World Universities 2015 by National Taiwan University, Sydney is ranked 36th in the world, 3rd in the Asia Pacific and 2nd in Australia.[68]

In terms of employability, the 2017 QS Graduate Employability Rankings placed University of Sydney graduates 4th in the world, 1st in Australia (of those universities which participated in the ranking), and 2nd in the Asia Pacific region.[69] In 2012, a human resources consultancy in Paris conducted a survey of recruiters in 20 countries, and ranked Sydney as 49th in the world for employability.[70]

In terms of alumni wealth, the number of wealthy Sydney alumni was ranked fifth outside the United States, behind Oxford, Mumbai, Cambridge and LSE according to the ABC NEWS.[71] Business magazine Spear's placed the University of Sydney 44th in the world and 2nd in Australia in its table of "World's top 100 universities for producing millionaires".[72]

Endowments and research grants

The university has received a number of significant bequests and legacies over its history. The following are current professorships ("chairs"), funds and fellowships which are funded by bequests and legacies and named after benefactors:

Coat of arms

Arms used in the University of Sydney logo, pre-2010

The Grant of Arms was made by the College of Arms in 1857. The grant reads:

Argent on a Cross Azure an open book proper, clasps Gold, between four Stars of eight points Or, on a chief Gules a Lion passant Guardant also Or, together with this motto "Sidere mens eadem mutato" to be borne and used forever herafter by the said University of Sydney on their Common Seal, Shields or otherwise according to the Law of Arms.

The use of eight-pointed stars was unusual for arms at the time, although they had been used unofficially as emblems for New South Wales since the 1820s and on the arms of the Church of England Diocese of Australia in 1836.[79]

According to the university, the Latin motto Sidere mens eadem mutato can be translated to "the stars change, the mind remains the same."[1] Francis Merewether, later Vice Provost, in 1857 proposed "Coelum non animum mutant" from Horace (Ep.1.11.27) but after objections changed it to a metrical version including "Sidus" (Star), a neat reference to the Southern Cross and perhaps the Sydney family link with Sir Philip Sidney's "Astrophel (Star-Lover) & Stella (Star)".[80] Author and university alumnus Clive James quipped in his 1981 autobiography that the motto loosely implies "Sydney University is really Oxford or Cambridge laterally displaced approximately 12,000 miles."[81]

Student organisations

Orientation Week at University Place

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.

Notable alumni

University of Sydney alumni have made significant contributions to Australia and the world.

Sydney Law School has produced many luminaries in law and politics, including current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and five other Prime Ministers, three Chief Justices of the High Court, four Federal Opposition Leaders, two Governors-General, nine Federal Attorneys-General and 24 Justices of the High Court, more than any other law school in Australia. The faculty has also produced 24 Rhodes Scholars and several Gates Scholars.

Internationally, University of Sydney alumni include the third president of the United Nations General Assembly and a president of the International Court of Justice (in each case, the only Australians to date to hold such positions) as well as five Nobel laureates and two Crafoord laureates.

See also


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