Milestones: from inauguration to present day

We've always broken conventions and established new ones

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.
  • 2020

    Our experts help shape the COVID-19 response.
  • 2021

    New Indigenous strategy launches. One Sydney, Many People 2021-2024 Strategy aims to support the best researchers and most promising students to achieve their full potential.
  • 2022

    2022 All university campuses and student accommodation switch to 100 percent renewable electricity.
    2022 The University launches its 2032 Strategy, that sets out its vision for the next decade.