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University of Melbourne, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences

Region: Parkville Country: Australia

About The University
Established in 1853, the University of Melbourne is a public-spirited institution that makes distinctive contributions to society in and Melbourne's teaching excellence has been rewarded two years in a row by grants from the Commonwealth Government's Learning and Teaching Performance Fund for Australian universities that demonstrate excellence in undergraduate teaching and learning.

Melbourne was also one of only three Australian universities to win ten citations-the maximum number of awards possible-under the Carrick Citations for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning. The citations recognise commitment by university staff who have shown outstanding leadership and innovation in teaching, and dedication and enthusiasm for student learning.


The study of history has been part of the curriculum of the University of Melbourne since it began teaching in 1854. The study of history, and the history of the University (150 years of academic excellence), makes some fascinating reading.

The University of Melbourne is as much a part of the City of Melbourne as its people.

The University of Melbourne was founded very early in the history of the colony of Victoria, less than 20 years after Batman and Fawkner arrived and less than two years after gold commenced the dramatic increase of population and wealth.

The University itself was a direct product of the gold rushes. It was made possible by the wealth of gold and was a demonstration of how important Victoria now saw itself. It was a conscious move by the raw and young community to cloak itself with some of the culture and sophistication of the parent country, and to assert its equality with Sydney whose university opened in 1852. Melbourne's University was also intended to be an agency of civilisation - to improve the moral character of the colony.

Like so much else in the new colony, the University was a state facility rather than a private or church enterprise. To avoid sectarian influence and jealousy it was made a purely secular institution - forbidden to offer degrees in divinity, there were to be no clergy among its staff and the numbers of clergy on the Council were limited. Provision was made for the churches to establish colleges - but they were marginalised to the northern perimeter.

The legislation establishing the University of Melbourne was introduced late in 1852 and passed early in 1853, making it older than all the universities in England except Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and London, and older than most in the British empire. Its foundation was principally the result of the efforts of three men - barrister Redmond Barry, colonial auditor-general Hugh Childers and Lieutenant Governor Charles La Trobe.

The foundation stone was laid in July 1854, and the first four professors arrived early in 1855. The building was not yet ready so classes commenced in April 1855 in the exhibition building in William Street. The University building was occupied late in the year.

Initially there only four faculties, each with its own professor, four talented men attracted by high salaries. They were:
1. WP Wilson (Mathematics)
2. Henry E Rowe (Classics and Ancient History), who died soon after arrival and was replaced by MH Irving
3. Frederick McCoy (Natural Sciences)
4. WE Hearn (Modern History, Literature and Political Economy)

The University commenced with 16 students, subsequently dropping to 11 before rising slowly over the next few decades. In part, the low numbers indicate that there was little demand in the colony for a university education and that there were few secondary schools able to prepare students for the matriculation examination. The small intakes stimulated a continuing debate between those who wished to cling to a traditional classics-dominated curriculum and those who argued for more utilitarian, profession-oriented courses. In 1857 law was introduced, in the early 1860s medicine and engineering.

Government of the University was complex, consisting of a Council, a Senate and a Professorial Board. The first Vice-Chancellor was Hugh Childers, then still in his twenties, but in those years it was a much less important position than today. The University was largely dominated by the foundation Chancellor, Redmond Barry, who held the position until his death in 1880.

In 1881 legislation made minor reforms to the University, including allowing for the admission of women. This confirmed a decision previously made within the University after a long and bitter battle. At first women were confined to arts, the first woman graduate being Bella Guerin in 1883. In 1887 women were admitted to medicine.

The contentious issue of the role of the University was still being debated late in the century, especially in the 1890s because of depression cutbacks and falling enrolments. There was some broadening of courses in areas of engineering and the sciences, but matters came to a head when it was discovered in 1902 that Frederick Dickson, the Bursar, had been siphoning off large sums of University money and that it was effectively bankrupt. A Royal Commission was appointed, chaired by Theodore Fink, into the governance and operation of the institution. The recommendations led to a broadening into more utilitarian courses in such areas as agriculture, dentistry and education, and a restoration of funding. There commenced a major period of renewal in the first decade of the century.

From then until 1945, the University played two principal roles. One was to provide professional training (now including commerce) for young men and women of the affluent classes, and occasionally offering the chance for poor but brilliant scholarship students to rise professionally and socially. (Gradually, too, a few women gained a foothold on the staff.) The other role was as a significant site for research, an activity which had emerged late in the nineteenth century but which grew increasingly important as the twentieth century advanced.

Significant reforms of university government in 1923 legislation reduced the significance of the Senate and made the Council more clearly the pre-eminent forum. However, there was the continuing problem that the first officer was a part-time unpaid Chancellor. Finally the first paid Vice-Chancellor, Raymond Priestley, was appointed in 1936 and succeeded in 1939 by John Medley.

Arguably the most important period for the University commenced after World War 2. A rapidly growing demand for higher education transformed the University of Melbourne from a small and elite institution which was far beyond the reach of most people in the community to a huge institution drawing from broadly across the population and offering instruction in an ever-increasing and changing range of courses, and which was now essentially Commonwealth funded. From the 1960s it was only one of a number of universities, and beyond them was a mounting number of competing tertiary colleges.

The 1980s and 1990s brought amalgamations with a number of those colleges, including the Melbourne College of Advanced Education and the Victorian College of the Arts, enhancing the university's role as a broadly based teaching and research institution.

In the late twentieth century, the University of Melbourne maintains its pre-eminent position among Australian universities and is increasingly international in its outlook and its reputation. 1998 saw the establishment of Melbourne's private arm, Melbourne University Private.

Melbourne and its graduates will continue to grow in the esteem of future generations in the new century, always proud of its fine history but always aiming to lead the way in higher education over the decades to come.

General university publications

A range of publications are available which profile the University's history, structure, and policy positions on various public debates and issues. At a Glance; the Corporate Brochure; the Campus Tour Map; and Wandering Scholar; provide statistics, spectacular images; and interesting facts and statistics about the University, while Growing Esteem and the Bradley Review documents outline Melbourne's vision and position on higher education.

Future student publications

Aimed at prospective students, the National Undergraduate Course Guide; the International Undergraduate Prospectus; the Graduate Study Guide; New Generation Degree brochures; the International Postgraduate Prospectus; and the Scholarships brochures provide advice on student life and course offerings at Melbourne, as well outlining the types of financial assistance available through scholarships.


Under the academic leadership of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Melbourne Research is charged with the responsibility of supporting the management, administration and development of the University's research agenda.

Melbourne Research comprises the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), The Melbourne Research Office, eResearch and the Research Leadership Unit.

Melbourne Research prides itself on strong partnerships with academic and administrative staff in faculties and departments, and strives to ensure that the support it provides is delivered in the most professional, efficient and effective manner.

The Melbourne Research Office, under the leadership of the Executive Director, Research, provides high level administrative and strategic research support services to University clients across a broad range of areas, many of which are compliance-related.

Founded in 1853 by an Act of the Victorian Parliament, the University of Melbourne is a thriving internationally acknowledged research University. The original campus was set in a large area north of Grattan Street. Melbourne in the 1850s was a small colonial city but its civic leaders had a vision of its future. The Foundation Stones of the University and the State Library of Victoria were laid on the same day. The University is more than a place of learning and research. It is also an integral part of the cultural life of the city of Melbourne. The History of the University Unit was established in 1995 to promote and facilitate histories of the University, and is funded by the Office of the Vice-Chancellor.

The Unit administers an annual round of study grants, organises a series of public Occasional Seminars, and publishes research in two series, Occasional Papers and Working Papers. Its website is an online resource of research on all aspects of the University's rich past, its staff and students, buildings and grounds.

UMAIC is the online image catalogue of the University of Melbourne Archives. Launched in November 2001, we aim, subject to copyright, to eventually make all of the photographs and images in our collections available online.

The largest collection currently available on UMAIC is the University of Melbourne photograph collection with approximately 1400 images that capture the evolving landscape and buildings of the University, ceremonies and celebrations, as well as many past staff.

UMAIC also displays 1,000 selected images from the John Ellis Photograph Collection of Peace and Protest Movements in Melbourne (1971-1996). Ellis took these photographs during his participation in the same events and many of the images are accompanied by his own descriptions of the events and people. Chronicling the Anti-Vietnam War Moratorium, anti-nuclear rallies, Communist Party and trade union events, protest marches and the political figures who attended, John Ellis has documented an important part of our social and political history.

About The Faculty
From the discovery of germs to the invention of the bionic ear, we have been at the centre of medical life in Australia for almost 150 years. The School of Medicine was founded in 1862, in the face of strong opposition and without its first Professor, George Halford, who did not arrive until the following year. Although armed with impeccable testimonials, for many years he had to make do with inadequate conditions, teaching few students, indeed he conducted the first dissection in the back shed of his Carlton home in 1863 along with the first three students and two prominent Melbourne medical identities. From these humble beginnings, by Federation in 1901, we had become the Faculty of Medicine and were well on the way to dominating health and medicine in Victoria, also training many Western Australians, Queenslanders and Tasmanians in this period.

In the 1950s, Australian life was transformed, together with the public expectations of medicine and health. Medical advances in surgery and the introduction of new therapies, such as antibiotics, meant that Australians demanded an expansion in medical services. The mood for change was accelerated when the Murray Committee reported in 1956 on the inadequacies of the nation's tertiary education sector. This led to a significant increase in funding for medical education and we were central to this movement to medicalise society through the expansion of medical services. The current medical building on Grattan Street is a monument to the leading role we played in that revolution. During the decades after the Second World War, we also played an important mentoring role in the establishment of the Monash Medical School in Victoria and, uniquely in Australia, in the establishment and nurturing of a number of medical institutions in South-East Asia.

Along with educating the doctors of the nation, we were a leading institution in Australian intellectual and public life throughout the twentieth century. The Medical School's foundation had coincided with the biomedical revolution in Western medicine and we have played an important part in the innovations and research, both in the laboratory and the clinic, accompanying this revolution.

In 1989 we began the expansion into other areas of health science practice and research which has made us the largest educational institution for health professionals in Australia, when the university's Faculty of Dental Science amalgamated with Medicine to become the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. This expansion continued with the inclusion of Physiotherapy, Psychology and Nursing.

In 2001 we established Australia's first School of Population Health, a landmark in the development of inter-collegiate study and research, and the following year, the School of Rural Health, a strategy aimed at addressing the crisis in rural health throughout the nation.

The most recent additions to our stable of expertise are Social Work and Global Health. Social Work moved from the Faculty of Arts and the Nossal Institute for Global Health was established to build on the programs and resources of the Australian International Health Institute. The Nossal Institute has a combined focus on development assistance, research and teaching, working internationally across South and South East Asia, the Mekong, Southern Africa and the Pacific to address global health challenges in regions where public health needs are greatest.

As a leader in innovation, we have also attracted a large number of world class research institutions to our immediate vicinity, thus making the Parkville biomedical precinct known across the globe-all beginning with one Professor and three students

Contact Details

Address: The University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010 Australia


61 3 8344 5892

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