The University of Sydney (informally Sydney Uni or USyd) is the oldest university in Australia. It was established in Sydney in 1850. It is a member of Australia's "Group of Eight" Australian universities that are highly ranked in terms of their research performance. In 2007, the University had 45,182 students and 3,018 (full-time equivalent) academic staff making it the second largest in Australia.
The University of Sydney has been ranked amongst the top 40 universities in the world by various sources. The UK’s Times Higher Education Supplement World University Rankings published in October 2006 ranked the University fifth best in the world for the Arts and Humanities, nineteenth for the social sciences and twentieth for biomedicine. The University as a whole was ranked 35th in the world in that same publication's league table, ranking third among Australian universities. In the Newsweek global 100 for 2006, the University of Sydney (together with the Australian National University) was one of two Australian universities placed in the top 50 in the world.
In the most recent THES worldwide rankings of universities released in November 2007, the University was ranked 31st overall (up four places from 2006), maintaining its position as the third highest ranked Australian university behind ANU (16th) and the University of Melbourne (27th).
Centred on the Oxbridge-inspired grounds 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.
During 1848, William Wentworth proposed a plan to expand the existing Sydney College into a university in the Legislative Council. 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 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 equal rank and recognition as those given by universities in the UK . 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 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) the following bodies were incorporated into the University in 1990:
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 and the Southern Cross University Act 1993 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. In 2003, Nick Greiner, a former Premier of NSW, resigned from his position as Chairman 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 Chairwoman of the Sydney Peace Foundation and a member of the executive council of the Research Institute for Asia and the Pacific. 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.)
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 the 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.
The four largest faculties by (2007) student enrollments are (in descending order): Economics and Business; Arts; Health Sciences; Science. Together they comprise 57% of the University's students. Each contains a student enrollment over 5,000, and they are indeed the only such faculties.
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.
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 Blacket designed 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. Meanwhile, a new home for the Sydney Law School is under construction, located alongside Fisher Library on the site of the old Edgeworth David and Stephen Roberts buildings.
The University of Sydney Library consists of numerous individual libraries across its many campuses. Fisher Library was named after an early benefactor. The University library is the largest in the southern hemisphere, with a collection of more than 5.25 million items. It possesses many rare items such as one of the two extant copies of the Gospel of Barnabas, and a first edition of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica by Sir Isaac Newton.
The future of these organisations is under a shadow with the passage of legislation implementing voluntary student unionism in late 2005. Such legislation prohibits the compulsory collection of fees from students who enrolled for the first time in the second semester of 2006 and all students from the beginning of 2007.