Our history has been characterised by leaders who have been willing to challenge the status quo and transform fields of education and research.

The Innovator

The origins of a world-class university

As early as 1907, the community was calling for a university in the Hunter.

The establishment of the Newcastle University College of the New South Wales University of Technology on a technical college site in Tighes Hill in 1951 was a landmark step in the community's determined journey. Their remarkable campaign, including setting placards alight at the City Hall, led to the establishment of the autonomous University of Newcastle in 1965, which — according to folklore — was celebrated with a ceremonial bonfire to signify "the joy in the attainment of a long sought destiny".

The support of the community ensured the future of the new University. The University's Great Hall would not exist today without the community's 'buy-a-brick' campaign, which offered everyone a stake in their new university. Through the following decades, proud support for the University has expanded from regions close to home, to communities across Australia and the world; and in turn the University has worked hard to build the social, education and innovation capital of each of its communities.

Historical illustration of a group of people

The history of the University of Newcastle — as for all great universities — has been characterised by leaders who have been willing to challenge the status quo and transform fields of education and research.

Since its foundation, the staff, students and leaders of the University have introduced unique ways of thinking and operating that have led to remarkable outcomes.

In the late 1970s, Newcastle transformed the delivery of medical education in Australia through the introduction of problem-based learning, early clinical skills acquisition and community orientation to the curriculum. The evaluation of personal qualities to the student selection process was also added. This forward-thinking approach to training the next generation of medical practitioners shook the foundation of a long established pedagogy in medical training in Australia — and has produced outstanding results. The approach has now been adopted by many medical schools across Australia and the world.

The University of Newcastle Law School was also the first in Australia to introduce an integrated program where students could study the three components of professional legal training - theory, skills development and experiential learning - at the same time. The University of Newcastle Legal Centre is the centerpiece of the clinical legal program. Functioning as both a legal practice and a teaching facility, the Centre provides an intensive clinical placement site for Newcastle's law students to work with clients on legal problems in real time.

From an enrolment of just five full-time students in the early 1950s, our University now hosts more than 36,000 students, across eight locations in Australia and overseas, including many studying online.

The University has established a major campus at Ourimbah in the wonderful Central Coast region of NSW, and is growing new campuses at Port Macquarie in Mid North NSW and in the heart of two major cities - Sydney and Singapore. The University has also worked to establish teaching and research facilities across NSW and beyond, which actively support rural and regional communities including in Armidale, Moree, Orange, Tamworth and Taree. Approximately 7,000 international students from more than 110 countries choose to study at UoN. The University employs over 3,000 academic staff and 3,400 professional staff, and hosts a global alumni network of more than 115,000 graduates across 118 countries.

The University offers a learning environment that challenges and inspires, comprising degree programs that support students to aspire to be leaders in their field of endeavour. UoN's comprehensive suite of degree programs is enhanced through work-integrated learning that provides a framework to support theoretical learning with valuable hands-on experience. Work-integrated learning is embedded into more than 90 per cent of courses. As a result, UoN graduates are competitive on the world stage with a high level of employability and higher than average starting salaries.

The national move to a student 'demand-driven' system has resulted in an increase in Australian Bachelor degree enrolments in the sector, and growth in domestic Bachelor degree enrolments at UoN in the past two years by eight per cent from 18,100 to around 19,500 students. Importantly, UoN remains a national leader for the commitment and quality of its programs, which support access for students from a range of backgrounds to higher education, including those from a low socioeconomic background, as well as Indigenous students. A commitment to the principle of equity is very much part of the 'UoN DNA', supported by wonderful and generous donors from our UoN family who have funded scholarships, prizes and awards to support bright students to complete a university education, independent of their background and financial circumstances.


In the 1980s, the University launched a small Indigenous student support program called Wollotuka. Approximately half of the country's Indigenous medical doctors are graduates of UoN and Newcastle is one of the largest contributions of Indigenous health workers in Australia from its medicine, nursing, and allied health programs. Close to half of all Indigenous enrolments at the University are in professional disciplines, including teaching, nursing, social work and engineering.

In 2012, more than 740 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students were enrolled at the University. Indigenous students span all faculties and are represented at all levels of study, from enabling education through to research higher degrees. UoN's enrolment of Indigenous students is almost double the sector average, and, in recent years, enrolments of Indigenous students have grown more than 20 per cent.

Discoveries by UoN researchers have made remarkable contributions to the knowledge and understanding of issues of global significance across many discipline areas.

UoN researchers have led the world in fields as diverse as geotechnical science and engineering, energy and resources, reproductive biology, plant biology, applied mathematics, and health and medical sciences.

Our staff and graduates have been singled out for international accolades and awards in these and other fields including architecture, design, natural history illustration, music, media, and humanities and social sciences.

Engagement with partners and productive collaborations are essential if world-class research is to translate into outcomes that will change the lives of individuals, the productivity of industry, or the economic health and sustainability of nations. The development of the 'Jameson Cell' at UoN is just one example of the University's contribution to world-class research. First discovered in 1986, the revolutionary method of separating valuable minerals and coal from waste material is now used in 25 countries around the world. Hailed as one of the country's most financially successful inventions in the past two decades, the Jameson Cell adds $4 billion a year to the value of Australia's minerals export industry.

Since 1998, the community, the University and the Hunter New England Local Health District have worked together to secure funds to build the iconic Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) facility to support first-rate health and medical research. Opened in 2012, the $90 million building will provide up to 450 researchers and professional support staff with state-of-the-art facilities to support the translation of excellent research findings into better health outcomes for the community.

Through one HMRI project, University and Hunter New England Local Health District researchers are working with colleagues from Harbin Medical University in Northern China on breakthroughs in stroke treatment, which are being adopted across Australia. The collaboration has provided Harbin Medical University access to world-leading technology and research translation into clinical practice; while Newcastle's researchers have broadened their population scope for stroke research from approximately 875,000 in the Hunter New England region to 20 million in the northern Chinese province.

It is the capacity of this multidisciplinary international team together with an environment that fosters excellence that is leading to evidence-based advances in health care in our regions and across the world.

During the past five decades, Australian universities have provided higher education opportunities to international students from the developing and developed world.

Engagement through education between Australia and the Asia-Pacific region developed from the post-World War II Colombo Plan. In the 35 years following the establishment of the plan, approximately 40,000 students from the Asia-Pacific region came to study in Australia. The long history of internationalisation of education has supported a healthy, diverse and sustainable higher education sector in Australia, and has resulted in enduring and supportive relationships between international alumni and their Australian universities.

In 1968, nine teenagers met to board a plane for the first time in their lives. They were leaving Singapore to study at the University of Newcastle under a Colombo Plan Scholarship Program funded by the Australian Government.

Forty years later in 2008 the same nine people came together at a dinner to commemorate that event and to reflect on its significance for their lives. They decided they wanted to demonstrate their gratitude not only to Australia but also the University of Newcastle. The scholarship program had nurtured them through those years of university life and had provided them with a rare opportunity to study overseas. By the end of the dinner they had devised the idea of the 1968 Singapore Colombo Plan Students Scholarship.

Collectively, they raised $80,000 to support a scholarship in perpetuity for an academically gifted Australian student enrolled in second year in the University's Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment. In 2010, three of the original nine donors chose to extend the scholarship by establishing the 1968 Singapore Colombo Plan Students (Memorial) Scholarship. The three donors have given a further $69,000 to this scholarship to provide the option to continue support for the scholar into their third year.

Mr Peter Tay, one of the original Colombo Plan Scholars, has since coordinated the establishment of the Singapore Alumni Scholarship, which provides five scholarships to support Australian students facing hardship. Through this scholarship, Singapore alumni have generously given $200,000. This is a remarkable gesture and reflects the strong sense of belonging and commitment that each of our 115,000 strong alumni across our regions, Australia and the world have for our remarkable University.

Each year, independent ranking systems measure UoN's academic and research performance against the world's best universities, including the Ivy League in the US, the Russell Group in the UK and the 'Group of 9' in China.

In 2012, UoN was ranked in the top three per cent of universities in the world by the QS and Times Higher Education global ranking systems, and in the top four per cent of universities in the world by the Academic Ranking of World Universities. Newcastle's strong performance on the world stage is noteworthy given the intense competition from internationally established universities, many of which are more than 100 years old. It was therefore significant that in 2012, the QS and Times Higher Education also ranked the University of Newcastle in the world's top 50 universities under the age of 50. As a young university, being ranked by independent agencies as a world-class performer signals we are on the right trajectory and is a testament to the development of first-rate education and research programs. This is a great base from which to build our aspirations and ambitions.