History of Australian Universities | Oldest Australian Universities

History of Australian Universities

The Australian university sector has grown rapidly since the middle 1980s after a history of relatively slow growth up until that point.

The two original universities, University of Sydney and University of Melbourne, formed at the beginning of the 1850s, had the field to themselves until 1874 when the University of Adelaide opened, followed by the University of Tasmania in 1890. The only other universities commencing operations before the end of the Second World War were the University of Queensland in 1890 and then the University of Western Australia in 1911.

It was not until after the war that the university sector started to develop momentum, albeit initially at a very slow rate. This began with the establishment of the Australian National University in 1946, followed by another three universities up until 1958.

In 1964 a new wave of growth commenced which saw the establishment of another nine universities up until 1975.

Following this it was another 12 years until Curtin University became the next accredited university, in 1987, marking the beginning of a massive expansion of the university sector which saw 20 new universities accredited between 1987 and 1999, 1999 being the last year a new university opened.


Historical Development of Australian Universities – Start Dates
University of Sydney (sydney)NSW1850
University of Melbourne (unimelb)VIC1853
University of Adelaide (adelaide)SA1874
University of Tasmania (utas)TAS1890
University of Queensland (uq)QLD1909
University of Western Australia (uwa)WA1911
Australian National University (anu)ACT1946
University of New South Wales (unsw)NSW1949
University of New England (une)NSW(1938)1954
Monash University (monash)VIC1958
Macquarie University (mq)NSW1964
La Trobe University (latrobe)VIC1965
University of Newcastle (newcastle)NSW1965
Flinders University (flinders)SA1966
James Cook University (jcu)QLD1970
Griffith University (griffith)QLD1971
Murdoch University (murdoch)WA1973
Deakin University (deakin)VIC1974
University of Wollongong (uow)NSW(1951)1975
Curtin University (curtin)WA(1967)1987
Charles Darwin University (cdu)NT(1974)1988
Queensland University of Technology (qut)QLD(1882)1988
University of Technology Sydney (uts)NSW(1965)1988
Bond University (bond)QLD1989
University of Western Sydney (uws)NSW1989
Charles Sturt University (csu)NSW1990
University of Canberra (canberra)ACT(1967)1990
University of Notre Dame (nd)WA1990
Australian Catholic University (acu)MULTI(1850)1991
Edith Cowan University (ecu)WA(1902)1991
University of South Australia (unisa)SA1991
CQ University (cqu)QLD(1967)1992
RMIT University (rmit)VIC(1887)1992
Swinburne University of Technology (swinburne)VIC(1908)1992
University of Southern Queensland (usq)QLD(1967)1992
Victoria University (vu)VIC1992
Southern Cross University (scu)QLD(1970)1994
Federation University (feduni)VIC(1871)1992
University of the Sunshine Coast (usc)QLD(1995)1999

Key & Notes

* Start: – ‘Start’ denotes the year the institution first started operating as a university

* pre: – ‘pre’ denotes the year the institution or its main predecessor first started operating as an educational facility prior to it commencing operations as a university