University of the Pastures
Unique in location, character, impetus . . .
UNIVERSITY OF THE PASTURES
BY A STAFF WRITER
MIGRANTS have helped an Australian university to become a highly-respected seat of learning in just nine years. In the academic field it is characteristic of Australia’s growing cosmopolitan nature: it is a university which is unique in location, character and impetus.
This is the University of New England at Armidale in the State of New South Wales —a university of the pastures. Surrounded by rich sheep and cattle properties and the beautiful bush country of the New England plateau, the university has blended itself with the character and welfare of the pioneers and pastoralists who founded it.
At 3,300 ft. above sea level, the university (of 2,935 students) stands aloof from extreme weather conditions.
It is 360 miles from Sydney and 100 miles from the coast, the only university in Australia which is outside the area of a capital city.
About half of the 296 members of the academic staff were born outside Australia. They are robbed, by sheer numbers, of any feeling of being “newcomers”.
Their university is so young that tradition is still looking for an opportunity to begin. As Classics Professor John Bishop, from Edinburgh, said: “To come from a place steeped in old traditions to a place with none, is both refreshing and challenging”. This sums up an attitude at the University of New England, which, in itself, is likely to create a tradition. There is little doubt that the migrant academics, with their wealth of experience from the historical universities of the United Kingdom and Europe, are bringing a valuable contribution of character to their new environment.
There is something symbolic about the red deer and tame kangaroos grazing in the university’s front garden.
The University of New England was established in 1938 as a university college of the University of Sydney at the request of the citizens of northern New South Wales. It remained a university college until the University of New England was proclaimed in February, 1954.
The determination of the people of Armidale and district to establish a university followed the establishment in Armidale of a Teachers’ College in 1929. The people of the district raised £A 10.000 as a token of good faith, and the University of Sydney was presented, in trust for the college, a large brick homestead known as “Booloominbah” and 183 acres of land. The property now comprises more than 800 acres.
In 1962, the university’s enrolment of 2,935 students consisted of 798 internal, 1,971 external and 166 parttime. These figures include 183 post-graduate students. The 296 members of the academic staff made an overall student-to-staff ratio of 10 to one.
There are four faculties — Arts, Science, Rural Science, and Agricultural Economics.
The university is proud of its residential system for students. Full-time undergraduates live in one of five colleges — Mary White and Duval Colleges for women, and Wright, Robb and Earl Page Colleges for men.
The residential system gives students the opportunity to enjoy the full corporate life of the university and the social and intellectual benefits of the free mixing of undergraduates, graduates and academic staff.
“Salaries are good, and so are the conditions,” he added. Another incentive is the provision for sabbatical leave. This gives staff members one year’s study-leave after each six years of service.
Associate Professor Frank Annison in the Faculty of Rural Science, said: “When you live in a country town like this one, you get to know a lot of people. The graziers and farmers in the New England district know and appreciate the research work being carried out at the university”.
Professor Annison came from Babraham, near Cambridge, four years ago.
An idea of the pride and purpose of this “youngster” among universities is given by these words of the Vice-Chancellor, Dr. R. B. Madgwick:
“Perhaps the University of New England is the most worthwhile of all the Australian Universities. Its standards are sound, the quality of its staff is very high and their academic integrity is undoubted. The departments are well equipped and both teaching and research compare favourably with any other place.
“Its buildings are inadequate but accommodation is improving. Its graduates already have an enviable reputation both in Australia and overseas.
“But it is the challenges it faces that makes it such a worthwhile place for people who welcome challenge and who are not afraid, within the accepted university traditions which must be kept inviolate, to try new ways of doing things in a physical setting which is vitally different from that which established Australian universities have known”.