Our founding principle as Australia’s first university was that we would be a modern and progressive institution, supporting students of all backgrounds to further their education. These values haven't changed – but as you can see, our campus and its surroundings certainly have!
In 1852, when the University first opened its doors, students had just a few subjects to choose from, such as the classics, sciences and mathematics. They could also study what were then called ‘modern’ subjects, like French, German and political thought.
In 1856 the first degrees were granted, and in 1881, the University of Sydney became one of the first universities in the world to accept female students.
Today, our world-famous Quadrangle is a place for study and sightseeing, but before this the site was actually first used as a military camp. Later on, it became Grose Farm, which employed convicts. It’s hard to believe that the lawns that students relax on today were once inhabited by cows!
In 1854, Australian architect Edward Blacket accepted an invitation to design the University’s first buildings. The Main Quadrangle was built in Victorian Gothic style, based on the quadrangles of Oxford and Cambridge.
The Quadrangle’s gargoyles are over 100 years old and can be spotted all over the building. There are many throughout the University – keep an eye out for them when you're wandering around campus.
In 1851 the University Senate formed a committee to select books for the soon-to-be Fisher Library. More than 50 years after the library committee was formed, Fisher Library opened to the public in 1909.
In 1967, Fisher Library became the first university library in Australia to obtain one million volumes. Today, the University of Sydney Library is the largest academic library in the Southern Hemisphere with over five million items.
The University of Sydney Union (USU) was established in 1874 and in 1914, the Sydney University Women’s Union (SUWU) was formed.
In 1929, the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) was formed and the first edition of Honi Soit, the only weekly student publication in Australia, was printed.
Images provided with permission by the University Archives and Records Management. Visit the University archives.