University of Melbourne

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The "Old Quad Building", formerly "Old Law"

The University of Melbourne, located in Melbourne, in Victoria, is the second oldest university in Australia (the University of Sydney is the oldest). Today, the University has almost 40,000 students, who are supported by nearly 6,000 staff members (full or part-time).

It is one of Australia's "Group of Eight" leading universities and is generally regarded as one of Australia's finest, recently ranked in the top 25 worldwide by the London Times (only the ANU ranks higher). The oldest and main campus is in Parkville, an inner suburb of Melbourne just north of the city centre. Other campuses in Melbourne and rural Victoria have been acquired through amalgamation with smaller colleges of advanced education. It maintains high entry standards for undergraduates, and postgraduate entry, made through the School of Graduate Studies, requires an excellent undergraduate background.



The University was established by Hugh Childers in 1853 by an Act of the Victorian Parliament, and classes commenced in 1855 with four professors and sixteen students. The inauguration of the University was in the middle of Victoria's gold rush, and the University was designed to be a "civilising influence" at a time of rapid settlement and commercial growth (Selleck, 2003). Thus, its ethos mirrored that of Britain, the imperial power, and particularly the elite universities of Oxford and Cambridge. But the local population largely rejected the supposed elitism of its professoriate, favouring 'useful' subjects like law, over the 'useless', like classics. The admission of women in 1881 was a victory for the townspeople over the conservative ruling council (Selleck, p164165). Subsequent years saw many tensions over governance and direction of the emerging University.

By the time of the World War I, governance of the University was the pressing issue. The Council, consisting of more businesspeople than professors, obtained real powers in 1923 at the expense of the Senate, with which it had frequently conflicted. Undergraduates could elect two members of the Council. The administration again became more centralized and efficient after 1970. The Melbourne University Assembly was a short-lived experiment that did not survive into the late 1980s.

The University celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2003. [1] (


The University has 10 faculties; Architecture, Building and Planning, Arts, Economics and Commerce, Education, Engineering, Land and Food Resources, Law, Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, Music, Science and Veterinary Science. These faculties offer courses from Bachelor Degree to Doctorate level. The Faculty of Land and Food Resources offers TAFE, diploma level courses as well, but in June 2005 it was announced that these were to be transferred to to ther institutions.

The "Concrete Lawn" and the Old Commerce building, which shows the mix of 19th and 20th century architecture on campus.
The "Concrete Lawn" and the Old Commerce building, which shows the mix of 19th and 20th century architecture on campus.

Research is an important activity in all departments of the University, which leads Australia in the size and number of research grants it receives. Law and Economics & Commerce are the best-endowed Faculties in financial terms. The medical sciences are also well resourced, benefitting from a location close to a number of hospitals, and are further expanding through the opening of Bio21, a research centre focusing on the application and research of Biotechnology.

Notable alumni of the university include Germaine Greer, philosopher Peter Singer, politician Robert Menzies, author [Helen Garner (],and a substantial number of Australia's most prominent academics, politicians, industry leaders, lawyers, doctors, and artists. Four Nobel Laureates work on campus: Professor Peter Doherty and Professor Bert Sakmann are currently based in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, while Professors Sir James Mirrlees (Economic Science, 1996 - emeritus, Cambridge) and Sir Clive Granger (Economic Science, 2003 - emeritus, San Diego), will teach a couple of months at the University from 2005.

In recent years the University has expanded the numbers of international students, particularly under the direction of controversial former Vice Chancellor, Alan Gilbert. A separate venture, Melbourne University Private was created in 1997 to tap this market via distance learning, but is scheduled to re-merge with the University and to be dis-established by the end of 2005.


Since 1872, the affiliated residential colleges have been an important part of the university. The earliest sought to emulate the finest European colleges, particularly those of Oxford. Most of the colleges are situated in an arc around the cricket oval at the northern edge of the campus, with a few further afield. The colleges provide accommodation to about 3000 students, which is a small fraction of the university's total student population. As well as accommodation, the colleges provide tutorials for their students (although unlike the Oxbridge colleges, the tutorials are purely extra assistance and do not form a fundamental part of any university course).

A larger proportion of students live in surrounding suburbs, and private city centre apartment complexes.

List of colleges
College Founded External link
Trinity College 1872 Website (
Ormond College 1881 Website (
Janet Clarke Hall 1886? Website (
Queen's College 1888 Website (
Whitley College 1891 Website (
Ridley College 1911? Website (
Newman College 1918 Website (
Medley Hall 1954 Website (
International House 1957 Website (
Graduate House 1962 Website (
St Hilda's College 1964 Website (
St Mary's College Website (
University College Website (


The Ian Potter Gallery.
The Ian Potter Gallery.

Several of the original on-campus buildings, such as the Old Law and Old Arts buildings, feature beautiful period architecture. [2] ( The expansion during the post-World War Two period saw the construction a number of functional high-rise office buildings and laboratories, in response to space shortages. These include the Raymond Priestly building (used for administration), the Redmond Barry building, Wilson Hall (, replacing the old Wilson Hallwhich ( was destroyed by fire (, and some of the additions to the colleges. The Architecture building is a monolithic modernist design - a "strong statement of architectural modernism influenced by Le Corbusier". An addition to it added new roof offices in 1997. Economics and Commerce, extended in 1997, is described as "two lacklustre if not downright unpleasant buildings" by the author of the University walking tour [3] (

A recent spate of expansions have included the Ian Potter Gallery and the Sydney Myer Asia Centre (both designed by Nonda Katsalidis). The Potter Gallery in particular is highly regarded for its architecture, and won several awards when completed in 1999. The massive University Square development which has extended the campus far to the south, has been more contentiously received, with initial planning battles forcing the retention of 19th century residential townhouses as a facade.

A searchable archive of photos, can be used to view individual features of the campus.UMAIC (

Student activities

The university has a rich student life due to the variety of clubs and services funded by the Melbourne University Student Union. Student extracurricular activities generally come under the loose umbrella of the Melbourne University Student Union [4] (, student sporting activities under the Sports Union and postgraduate students at UMPA [5] ( Many student clubs are affiliated with MUSU, as well as student theatre and the "official" student newspaper, Farrago.

See also


  • Macintyre, S. & Selleck, R.J.W. (2003). A short history of the University of Melbourne. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. ISBN 0-522-85058-8.
  • Selleck, R.J.W. (2003). The Shop: The University of Melbourne, 18501939. Melbourne: University of Melbourne Press. 930pp
  • Cain J II and J Hewitt. 2004. Off Course: From Public Place to Marketplace at Melbourne University ( Melbourne: Scribe.

External links

  • University website (
  • Map (

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