Students at the University of Sydney

Student clubs and organisations

The University of Sydney Union (USU)]]

The USU is the oldest and largest student organisation in Australia. It aims to foster the aspirations of the campus community by providing cultural, social and entertainment programs, and student clubs and societies. It supports over 200 clubs and societies that students can join to pursue theirown interest. The USU also looks after much of the on-campus catering and also publishes the weekly campus magazine 'The Bull' ... visit the USU website.

On this webpage:


Sydney University Union (SUU) (The Men's Union) 1874

The Sydney University Union (SUU) was established in 1874 for debating, at a time when the University had fewer than a hundred students.

The Men's Common Room 1884

In 1884, the University's Senate provided a men’s common room for the union near the main Quadrangle.

The rear of the Quadrangle, showing the Men

The rear of the Quadrangle, showing the Men's Common Room at the rear of the Great Hall in the 1890s, photo G3_224_0363, University of Sydney Archives.

The Men's Union Building 1912

However, by the late 1880s this had become inadequate with insufficient ventilation, space and furniture. A larger weatherboard building was erected adjoining the existing common room and, while this fell short of the students’ requests, it was welcomed and provided temporary relief.

In 1888 the Sydney University Association petitioned the Senate for a new suite of rooms, one of which would be allocated to the University Union for meetings.

In 1906, Senate decided to provide a building for the union's use. This building is now known as the Holme Building, named after the first president following the organisation's reconstitution in 1911, Assistant Professor E.R. Holme; the building, although not completed until 1916, was occupied in 1912, with extensions made in 1924, 1935, 1954 and 1957.

The Men

The Men's Union building from Science Road in 1916, photo G3_224_MF374_0195, University of Sydney Archives.

The Men

The Men's Union Building from Parramatta Road in 1920, photo G3_224_MF374_0103, University of Sydney Archives.

Admission of women 1881

In 1881 the Senate decided unanimously to admit women to the University on equal terms with men. The arrival of women greatly influenced the development of recreational and sporting facilities.

One of the basic requirements for the admission of women was the provision of ‘a suitable retiring room and other necessary conveniences set apart exclusively for female students.’ Senate intended to erect a small cottage at the rear of the main buildings. However, this did not eventuate and for the first few years after their admission, women had use of a room in the tower.

The Women's Common Room 1885

In 1885 women students were given partial use of a temporary weatherboard building that had been built as a laboratory for classes in practical chemistry. In 1889 this building was handed over completely to women as the ‘New Ladies Common Room.’ Situated in what is now the south-eastern end of the Quadrangle, the building contained a reading room, a common room used for lunches, debates and meetings, tutor’s room, kitchen and a small dressing room with lockers.

The Women

The Women's Common Room - far right - behind the Main Building in 1893, photo by Edward Hufton, University of Sydney Archives.

A group of women students in front of the Women

A group of women students in front of the Women's Common Room in 1892, photo G3_224_0255, University of Sydney Archives.

Women students at tea 1892

Women students at tea outside the Women's Common Room in 1892, photo, University of Sydney Archives.

A group of women students outside the Women

A group of women students outside the Women's Common Room eating bananas in 1893, photo G3_224_0367, University of Sydney Archives.

The Women

The Women's Common Room in front of the old Fisher Library in 1910, photo G3_224_MF374_0224, University of Sydney Archives.

The Women

The Women's Common Room in the Quadrangle, with the completed South range in the background, photo G3_224_0824, University of Sydney Archives.

Early women's unions from 1892

Sydney University Women's Association was formed in 1892 - to include women undergraduates and graduates, but which was predominantly graduate.

The Women's Debating Union was formed in 1896.

In 1899 the Sydney University Women Undergraduates Union was formed (incorporating the Women's Debating Union) - subsequently changing its name to the Sydney University Women Undergraduates Association.

In 1908 the Women’s Association was reconstituted as the Women’s Union and launched a campaign with the Women Undergraduate’s Association to have a new and extensive
building erected to replace the temporary wooden cottage used as a common room, which was now inadequate due to the increasing number of women students.

The Women

The Women's Undergraduate Association Committee in 1917, photo G3_224_0575, University of Sydney Archives.

The Sydney University Women

The Sydney University Women's Undergraduate Association float in the 1937 Commem Day, photo, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, Digital order number: hood_15000.

The Women's Union and building (Manning House) 1917

In 1913 the Senate agreed to allocate funds for construction of a union building for women students. It was decided to name the new building ‘Manning House’ in tribute to the former Chancellor
who had been responsible for the admission of women to the University.

A separate Sydney University Women's Union (SUWU) was formed in 1914 on the initiative of Senate, to be a society of University women which represented all sections of University life and to control the building of Manning House for the Women's Union, which would be funded by Senate.

Manning House (for the Women's Union) opened in 1917.

The Women

The Women's Union Board of Directors in 1917, photo from 'Hermes' November 1917.

The Women

The Women's Union's Manning House in 1920, photo G3_224_MF374_0210, University of Sydney Archives.

Women students on Manning House stairs in 1927.

Women students on the stairs of the Women's Union's Manning House in 1927, photo by Harold Cazneaux, University of Sydney Archives.

Manning House c1932

Women students on the stairs of the Women's Union's Manning House, c1932, photo by Sam Hood, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, Digital order number: hood_03867.

HRH Princess Alexandra in 1959

Princess Alexandra with students outside the Women's Union's Manning House, where was entertained at lunch on 15 September 1959 by the President and Board of Directors of the Sydney University Women's Union ... more.

Amalgamation of the two unions into one, 1972

The two unions amalgamated on 1 January 1972 to form the University of Sydney Union (USU).


USU