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11 October 2010

On this day in history: First university inaugurated in Australia, 1852

In an 1848 meeting of the New South Wales Legislative Council, the Australian politician William Charles Wentworth mooted a plan to expand Sydney College into a university. He suggested that a state university was a necessary step along the road to self government, a cause that he advocated. The council resisted the scheme for two years, but finally in October 1850, they signed into law An Act to Incorporate and Endow the University of Sydney, the first institution of its kind in Australasia.

The following February, the governing body of the university, called the Senate, met for the first time and the institution began operations in rooms that are now part of Sydney Grammar School. One of these rooms, the Big Schoolroom, was the location of the university's inauguration ceremony held on 11th October 1852. Following this ceremony, the Faculty of Arts began teaching its three year degree that included teaching in Greek, Latin, Maths, and Science.

The National Archives of Australia have made scans of the University of Sydney Act 1850 available. To learn more about the history of the oldest university in Australasia see the University of Sydney site.

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