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Milestones: from inauguration to present day

Driven by pioneers, philanthropists and free thinkers, our history is punctuated by firsts and triumphs, from admitting women to Olympic Games medals.

A history of progressiveness

  • 1852

    The University’s doors open with a focus on the classics, sciences and mathematics, as well as 'modern' subjects French, German and political thought.
  • Origins (1852–81)

    1856 First degrees given
    1859 Great Hall opens
    1874 University of Sydney Union (USU) established – the first in Australia
    1880 John Henry Challis leaves us the equivalent of $32 million
  • 1881

    We become one of the first universities in world to admit female students.

    Pictured: Female students enjoying afternoon tea outside the women's common room in around 1893. Photograph reproduced courtesy of University of Sydney Archives G3 224 367.
  • Turn of the century (1904–19)

    1904 Nigel Barker becomes our first Olympian at the St Louis games
    1919 Faculties increase from four to 10
    1919 Pioneering obstetrician and gynaecologist Dame Constance D’Arcy becomes the first woman elected to the University Senate.
  • 1928

    The University of Sydney War Memorial Carillon dedicated on Anzac Day to commemorate the 197 undergraduates, graduates and staff who died in the First World War.
  • Modernity (1920s–50s)

    1929 Students’ Representative Council formed
    1929 First edition of Honi Soit goes to print
    1951 First PhDs awarded
  • 1965

    Charles Perkins leads the Freedom Ride bus tour of western and coastal NSW to fight for the rights of Indigenous Australians.
  • 1960s and beyond

    1965 Honi Soit sends a reporter to Vietnam
    1972 USU and Sydney University Women’s Union join forces
    2008 Biggest ever fundraising drive, INSPIRED, launches
    2012 'Wingara Mura – Bunga Barrabugu' strategy launches to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation
  • 2014

    The Charles Perkins Centre, a cross-disciplinary research and education hub, opens to discover life-changing solutions to global health problems such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease and related conditions.