Update: University of Sydney's Ramsay Centre proposal

18 September 2019
The University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence has today written to staff to advise on an updated funding proposal to the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.

Dear colleagues,

Last year, we worked with you to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (‘MOU’) that outlined key principles to guide any future agreements we might make with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. We have not yet formally heard back about the MOU, but remain committed to the principles of academic autonomy that it enshrines.

Since then, the Centre has signed agreements with the Universities of Wollongong and Queensland. We ourselves have had time to think further about a proposal that we might put to the Ramsay Centre, a proposal consistent with the MOU, and building upon some of the excellent ideas that staff raised during the consultation. Our concern has been how Ramsay Centre funding might best support a broad range of students at Sydney, and do so in a way distinctive from the Wollongong and Queensland offerings.

What’s sometimes been lost in the public debate is a fact that many of you raised with us; that this is not a new area of study for our institution. We already have an unparalleled offering of existing units of study in these areas.

These current offerings cover a diverse range of disciplines including archaeology, architectural history, art history, Biblical studies, Classics, European studies, history, the history and philosophy of science, language, literature, music, philosophy, Studies in Religion, and majors in languages such as Ancient Greek, Classical Hebrew, French, German, Italian, Latin and Spanish.

Rather than focussing the funding on a small, select group of students, we think there is an opportunity to open up access to our teaching in these areas to hundreds more.

So yesterday I wrote to the Ramsay Centre to canvas the possibility of funding for a new proposal.

Our idea is to introduce a new major in the Western tradition that students could choose as part of our existing Bachelor of Advanced Studies program. We are proposing that the majority of funding to be used for students in the form of scholarships, bursaries, study abroad opportunities and other related support costs.

We envision the major would involve two core units: ‘Introduction to the Western Tradition I’ and ‘Introduction to the Western Tradition II’, which would be ‘great books’ in methodological approach. Students would also undertake an ICPU and select five electives from a broad pool of existing study options offered by faculties such as Arts and Social Sciences, Science, Architecture, Design and Planning and the Conservatorium of Music.

These changes will allow us to support hundreds of students each year. Over the life of the funding agreement we believe that around 1100 students could benefit.

Of course, the principles of our MOU would still need to be agreed. These include full control over our curriculum, teaching, marking and staffing.

I am sure that, as with any funding body, there will be ongoing conversations with the Ramsay Centre about ways in which they would like to see this proposal revised.  As those conversations proceed, I will keep you up to date at every point consistent with my commitment to do so from the beginning.


Dr Michael Spence
Vice-Chancellor and Principal

Our current offerings

An indicative list of units available in the last few years gives some idea of the rich array of offerings the University currently provides and will make available to students choosing to study the Western tradition as their second major.

The Conservatorium of Music

  • Music in Western Culture
  • Musicology
  • Introduction to the Philosophy of Music


  • The Birth of Modern Science
  • Psychology and Psychiatry – History and Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Biomedical Sciences
  • The Scientific Revolution

Architecture, Design and Planning

  • Architectural History and Theory 1
  • Roman Architecture: Creation-Reception
  • Architectural History and Theory 3
  • Australian Architecture

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Ancient Greek

  • The Language of the Greek Bible
  • Greek Epic
  • Greek Oratory and Historiography

Ancient History

  • Foundations for Ancient Greece
  • Foundations for Ancient Rome
  • Greek and Roman Myth
  • Law, Disorder and Ideology in Rome
  • Ancient Greek Democracies
  • Ancient Greek Religion
  • The City of Rome: History and Landscape
  • Alexander and the Hellenistic World
  • SPQR: The Senate and the People of Rome
  • The Emperor in the Roman World 14-117 AD
  • Tragedy and Society in Greece and Rome
  • The Later Roman Empire (AD 286-474)
  • The World of Ancient Epic
  • Herodotus and His World
  • Julius Caesar and the Roman Republic
  • Augustus and the Roman Revolution
  • The Peloponnesian War and Culture
  • Livy: Republics Past and Present
  • Historiography Ancient and Modern
  • Hannibal, Carthage and Rome


  • Minoans and Mycenaens
  • Ancient Mediterranean Lives
  • A Greek Odyssey: The First Millennium BC
  • Athenian Art, Architecture and Society
  • Contact and Exchange in South Italy
  • Etruscans and Romans
  • Dialogue of Civilisations: East and West

Art History and Theory

  • Romanticism and Visual Art
  • Art and Society in the Trecento Italy
  • Art and Passion in seventeenth Century Europe
  • The Art of France
  • High Renaissance Art
  • Art and Society in Victorian England
  • French Art, Salon to Cezanne
  • Art in the Age of Giotto
  • Absolutism to Revolution
  • British Art and Empire

Biblical Studies

  • Reading Bible: Narrative, Law and Ritual
  • Biblical Themes: Joshua to Kings
  • Messianism in Biblical Prophetic Texts
  • Biblical Poetic Books
  • Historical Jesus to Written Gospels
  • The New Testament as Literature
  • Daniel and Revelation as Apocalypses
  • Job, Proverbs and Other Biblical Wisdom


  • Drama: Classical to Renaissance
  • Jane Austen, Then and Now
  • Shakespeare
  • Western Theories of Language
  • Novel Worlds
  • Myths, Legends and Heroes
  • Love and Desire in Early Modern England
  • Imagining Camelot
  • The Victorian Novel
  • Contemporary British Literature
  • Modern Irish Literature
  • The Eighteenth Century: Scandal and Sociability
  • Introduction to Old English
  • Medieval Literature: Dreams and Visions
  • The Canterbury Tales
  • Christopher Marlowe
  • The Brontes
  • Medieval Tales of Wonder European Studies
  • European Modernity and the Greek Ideal
  • Europe's Religions: Cultures and Beliefs


  • The Middle Ages
  • Renaissance and Reformation (1498-1648)
  • Twentieth-Century Europe
  • Modern European History 1750-1914
  • Imperialism, 1815-2000
  • Contemporary Europe
  • European Film and History
  • High Renaissance
  • Mediterranean World in High Middle Ages
  • Love and Death in the Middle Ages
  • Venice Floating City: Myth and History
  • Renaissance Italy
  • Violence in Italy
  • Atlantic World in the Age of Empire
  • Medieval Cultures
  • Britain and the World: C.1837-1914
  • Portraits of Medieval Women
  • Civility and Squalor: Eighteenth-Century British Isles
  • Reconquest? A History of Medieval Spain


  • Ovid's Metamorphoses
  • Virgil's Aeneid
  • Latin Imperial Poetry
  • Latin Republican Prose


  • Reality, Ethics and Beauty
  • Society, Knowledge and Self
  • Early Modern Theories of Perception
  • Knowledge, Reason and Action
  • Eighteenth-Century French Philosophy
  • Exploring Nonclassical Logic
  • Problems of Empiricism
  • History of Ethics
  • Plato and Aristotle
  • The Pre-Socratics
  • Philosophy of Human Rights
  • Aesthetics and Art
  • Truth, Meaning and Language
  • Moral Psychology
  • Descartes and Continental Philosophy
  • Modernity in Crisis
  • Democratic Theory
  • Critical Thinking
  • Philosophy and Literature
  • Nineteenth-Century Philosophy: Kant to Nietzsche
  • The Classical Mind
  • Bodies and Passions
  • Philosophical Ethics
  • Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein
  • Locke and Natural Philosophy
  • Existentialism
  • Hegel
  • Hellenistic Philosophy

Studies of Religion

  • The Birth of Christianity

In addition, students in the combined BA/BAdvanced Studies will have opportunities to undertake units of study in languages such as Ancient Greek, Old English, Old Norse, Latin, Classical Hebrew, French and Francophone Studies, Germanic Studies, Spanish and Latin American Studies, Italian Studies and Modern Greek Studies.