The University of Sydney was incorporated by an Act of the Legislature of New South Wales on 1 October 1850, and was the first university to be established in Australasia.

The Act of incorporation was amended by subsequent Acts enlarging the scope of the University and the whole were consolidated in the University and University Colleges Act 1900. This was then replaced by the University of Sydney Act 1989 (as amended).

By a Royal Charter issued 27 February 1858, the degrees of Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, Bachelor of Laws, Doctor of Laws, Bachelor of Medicine and Doctor of Medicine granted by the University of Sydney are entitled to rank, precedence and consideration as if the degrees had been granted by any university of the United Kingdom.

At the time of its inauguration on 11 October 1852 in the Sydney College Building – now the Sydney Grammar School near Hyde Park – the University had a staff of three professors and a total enrolment of 24 students. Women were admitted to membership of the University in 1881, the degree of Bachelor of Arts being conferred on the first two women graduates in 1885.

The Senate

By the University of Sydney Act 1989 (as amended), the University is a body corporate consisting of a Senate constituted of official, appointed and elected members.

The official members comprise the Chancellor (if the Chancellor is not otherwise a member of the Senate), the Vice-Chancellor and the presiding member of the Academic Board.

The appointed members comprise six external persons appointed by the Minister of whom one is to be appointed on the nomination of the Senate (and with Senate having the option of nominating up to two Members of Parliament as part of the six appointed members), and one external person appointed by the Senate.

The elected members comprise four persons elected by and from the members of the academic staff of the University, one person elected by and from the non-academic staff of the University, one person elected by and from the undergraduate students of the University (who is not a member of the academic or non-academic staff of the University), one person elected by and from the postgraduate students of the University (who is not a member of the academic or non-academic staff of the University), and five persons elected by and from the graduates of the University (who are not members of the academic or non-academic staff or undergraduate or postgraduate students of the University).

Elections must take place in the manner prescribed by the University of Sydney By-law 1999 (as amended).

Of the members of the Senate, at least two must have financial expertise (as demonstrated by relevant qualifications and by experience in financial management at a senior level in the public or private sector), and at least one must have commercial expertise (as demonstrated by relevant experience at a senior level in the public or private sector).

All appointed members of the Senate must have expertise and experience relevant to the functions exercisable by the Senate and an appreciation of the object, values, functions and activities of the University. The majority of members of the Senate must be external persons.

The Senate has power to provide courses, confer degrees, appoint all academic and other staff, and has the entire management and superintendence over the affairs of the University, with power to make by-laws governing discipline, curriculum, and other matters, subject to the approval of the Governor.

The Academic Board

The functions of the Academic Board, the University’s principal academic decision-making body subject to the Senate, include maintaining the highest standards in teaching, scholarship and research and, in that process, safeguarding the academic freedom of the University.

The Academic Board advises the Senate and the Vice-Chancellor on all academic matters relating to and affecting the University’s teaching and research activities and its educational programs, including general advice on the academic priorities and policies of the University. The faculties, academic colleges and board of studies are responsible for the supervision of teaching and the conduct of examinations.

Faculties, academic colleges and graduate schools

The faculties, academic colleges and graduate schools in order of establishment in the University are as follows:

  • Arts
  • Law
  • Medicine
  • Science
  • Engineering (renamed Engineering and Information Technologies in 2006)
  • Dentistry
  • Veterinary Science
  • Agriculture (renamed Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources in 2002)
  • Economics (renamed Economics and Business in 1999)
  • Architecture (renamed Architecture, Design and Planning in 2006)
  • Education (renamed Education and Social Work in 2003)
  • Sydney College of the Arts
  • Sydney Conservatorium of Music
  • Nursing (renamed Nursing and Midwifery in 2005)
  • Health Sciences
  • Pharmacy
  • the Australian Graduate School of Management (at the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales) (dissolved as a joint venture in 2005)
  • Rural Management (transferred to Charles Sturt University in 2006)
  • the Graduate School of Government (relocated within the Faculty of Economics and Business in 2005).

There is also a Board of Studies in Indigenous Studies that supervises the award of degrees.

There are over 40 schools and departments in the University, spanning a wide range of interests, and a number of faculties have a unitary structure. In all of them, active research and other scholarly activities are carried out aimed at advancing the fund of human knowledge. The University of Sydney has the largest academic library collection in Australia.


The Camperdown/Darlington campus, adjoining Parramatta Road and City Road, covers a total area of about 72 hectares, comprising 50.6 hectares administered by the University and 21 hectares granted to the six affiliated colleges. In addition, several important parts of the University are located away from these campuses. These include:

  • Sydney Conservatorium of Music at the redeveloped Greenway Building in Macquarie Street
  • Faculty of Dentistry at the United Dental Hospital in Chalmers Street and at Westmead
  • Faculty of Health Sciences at Lidcombe
  • Sydney College of the Arts at Rozelle
  • Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery at Camperdown
  • the University Farms, University Veterinary Centre, Camden and teaching and research facilities for the Faculties of Veterinary Science and Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at Camden
  • Crommelin Biological Research Station at Pearl Beach
  • One Tree Island Marine Biology Research Station
  • Plant Breeding Institute, Camden
  • I.A. Watson Wheat Research Centre, Narrabri
  • McGarvie Smith Animal Husbandry Farm near St Marys
  • Molonglo Radio Observatory at Bungendore
  • Fleurs Radio Astronomy Station near St Marys
  • Livingston Farm Management Institute at Moree
  • ‘Arthursleigh’ and Mount Pleasant at Marulan.

In addition, there are eight major teaching hospitals and over 40 other hospitals where medical teaching and research are carried out.

University publications

The published record of the work and proceedings of the University is contained in the Calendar and the Annual Report. In addition, the University issues annually (or biennially in some cases) a handbook for each faculty, academic college and board of studies. The University also issues a Postgraduate Studies Handbook and prospectuses for intending undergraduate and postgraduate students, a Map Guide and various other publications about the University’s achievements.

Copies of all publications may be obtained on application to the Registrar, and the following are available online:

A full list of current policies, procedures and guidelines of the University is available at Policy Online:

A major two-volume history of the University, entitled Australia’s first: a history of the University of Sydney, has been published. Volume I 1850–1939 was published in 1991, and Volume II 1940–1990 was published in 1995.

There is also Australia’s first: A pictorial history of the University of Sydney 1850–1990, published in 1994 and Liberal education and useful knowledge: A brief history of the University of Sydney – 1850–2000 by Professor Sir Bruce Williams, published in 2002.

More information

Any information required about the University, including courses offered, will be readily supplied on application to the Registrar. All correspondence should be addressed to:

The Registrar
The University of Sydney
NSW 2006