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A history of thinking forward

Shaping change and improving lives from the start

Our founding principle as Australia’s first university was that we would be a modern and progressive institution. It’s an ideal we still hold dear today.

When William Charles Wentworth proposed the idea of Australia’s first university in 1850, he imagined “the opportunity for the child of every class to become great and useful in the destinies of this country”.

We’ve stayed true to that original value and purpose by promoting inclusion and diversity for the past 160 years.

It's the reason that, as early as 1881, we admitted women on an equal footing to male students. Oxford University didn't follow suit until 30 years later, and Jesus College at Cambridge University did not begin admitting female students until 1974.

It's also why, from the very start, talented students of all backgrounds were given the chance to access further education through bursaries and scholarships.

Today we offer hundreds of scholarships to support and encourage talented students, and a range of grants and bursaries to those who need a financial helping hand.

Living our values

Generous individuals have played a key role throughout our history.

Shortly after the University was established, prominent Sydney figures began to support our approach to education with bequests, including the equivalent of $32 million from John Henry Challis in 1880.

It is this tradition of giving and giving back that continues to help us contribute to improving lives and social outcomes and welcoming students from all walks of life.

Many of our alumni, for example, donated to the building of the impressive Charles Perkins Centre, which leads research into creating healthier, more sustainable communities.

Named after the first Aboriginal man to graduate from an Australian university and built upon the generosity of our alumni and others, the centre is a beacon of how we actively live the values set down by our founders.

Charles Badham, 1879

Professor of classics and champion of providing bursaries
“This University is not only for those who have private means or professional connections to start them; it is founded for the people."

Bursaries we offer today