Charles Badham: a champion of accessible education

1 June 2022

How our history shapes us today

Some of our most enduring lessons as a university come from those who served us during our founding years. Their steadfast dedication and vision continue to guide us as a university for all.

Charles Badham, image courtesy of University of Sydney Archives, G3_224_1625

One of these figures is Charles Badham - the University’s second Professor of Classics - who began at the University in 1867.

A champion of accessible education, Badham believed in the University’s founding edict that it should seek to make education available to as many as possible. 

Scholarships were already available at the time of Badham’s tenure. However, the student population was still limited to the wealthier classes of Sydney. Where local students could reside at home while studying, regional students - even those offered scholarships - did not have the means to pay for their accommodation and living expenses while studying.

Moved by the needs of these individuals, Badham declared the need for student bursaries. He toured the colony calling for donations from members of the public to support enrolling students with lesser means than their peers.

This University is not only for those who have private means or professional connections to start them; it is founded for the people.
Charles Badham

Thanks to the generosity of people like those who responded to Badham's request, we continue this tradition, offering donor-funded bursaries and interest-free loans to students in financial need.

Helping future leaders

A financial bursary can be the difference between a promising student being able to study and realise their full potential or choosing to abandon their studies.

The first bursary was awarded in 1875 to the son of a police constable and gaoler from Pitt Town in the Hawkesbury. It supported him for the duration of his studies and crucially paid for his living costs.

Mary Elizabeth Brown graduates in 1885 with a Bachelor of Arts. Image courtesy of University of Sydney Archives, G3_224_1349

Funded by a donation from Mrs Isabella Alexander in honour of her late husband Mr Maurice Alexander (1820-1874), this first bursary marked the beginning of a 147-year tradition of generous donors who have continued to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The first female graduates of the University, Mary Elizabeth Brown (BA 1885) and Isola Florence Thompson (BA 1885, MA 1887), commenced at the University after receiving bursaries.

In many ways, what resonates most about Badham, is the way his vision for the University has become embedded in our values, history and our future. Improving access for students from disadvantaged backgrounds sits alongside research and teaching as among our highest priorities.

Already in 2022, we have supported more than 220 students with emergency bursary payments. Tim Bishop, an Indigenous man and father of two is the grateful recipient of more than one financial bursary.

His career aspiration is to preserve Indigenous languages so people can share their life stories in their native tongue, but becoming the first in his family to gain a degree was not an easy decision from a financial standpoint.

“So many Indigenous languages are on the verge of being lost. The older people who know their language—they are not going to be around for too much longer. If I can connect to culture and I can keep it strong, I don’t really have words for how important that is.”

"I am very grateful for the bursaries I have received – allowing me to complete my studies while raising a family.”

There are many ways to have a lasting impact at the University of Sydney. From supporting current students to funding breakthrough research, or an area of your choice. Give generously this tax time.

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