Sandstone universities

The sandstone universities are an informally defined group comprising Australia's oldest tertiary education institutions.[1] Most were founded in the colonial era, the exceptions being the University of Queensland (1909) and The University of Western Australia (1911). All the universities in the group have buildings constructed primarily of sandstone. Membership of the group is based on age; some universities, such as the private Bond University, have sandstone-plated buildings but are not considered sandstone universities.

The label "sandstone university" is not completely synonymous with membership of the Group of Eight, which includes the Australian National University, Monash University and the University of New South Wales, but not the University of Tasmania. Nevertheless, the connotations (prestige, a focus on research, and curricula that have a strong emphasis on theory rather than practice) are much the same for the two groups. Australian Government survey data of university graduates has indicated in the past that students who enter sandstone universities come from higher income families, and that graduates largely have higher paid occupations or positions of influence, prompting claims of elitism and social division.[2][3]

Constituent institutions

Sandstone universities can be taken to be either universities founded before World War I, or the oldest university in their respective state; either definition gives the same set of universities.

University Location Established Undergraduates Postgraduates Endowment Academic staff Colors
University of Adelaide Adelaide, South Australia 1874 20,005 7,352 $929 million[4] 1,481[5]      
University of Melbourne Melbourne, Victoria 1853 26,751 22,543 $1.335 billion[6] 4,631    
University of Queensland Brisbane, Queensland 1909 35,076 18,620 $224.3 million[7] 2,908      
University of Sydney Sydney, New South Wales 1850 35,351 25,958 $2.5 billion[8] 2,150      
University of Tasmania Hobart, Tasmania 1890 27,880 5,999 $561 million[9] 1,255    
University of Western Australia Perth, Western Australia 1911 19,839 5,967 $709 million[10] 1,538    

Other Australian university groups

Red brick universities

The University of NSW, Monash University and the Australian National University have been termed 'red brick' universities.[11] They are similar to the red brick universities in the UK, both groups coming after the ancient Universities and sandstone universities.

Verdant (gumtree) universities

Universities founded in the 1960s and 70s have been known informally as 'verdant' or 'gumtree' universities.[12] [13] These universities were established in their state capitals, often next to native bush land (now nature reserves), and have lush vegetative campuses. They are predominantly the second or third established university in their state.[14]

See also


  1. Marginson, Simon (29 November 1999). "THE ENTERPRISE UNIVERSITY COMES TO AUSTRALIA" (PDF). Annual Conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education.
  2. Department of Education Training and Youth Affairs (1998), The Characteristics and Performance of Higher Education Institutions, Canberra: Higher Education Division, Department of Education, Employment and Youth Affairs
  3. Department of Education Training and Youth Affairs (1999), Completions, Undergraduate academic outcomes for the 1992 commencing students, Melbourne: DETYA.
  4. "2017 University of Adelaide Annual Report" (PDF). Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  5. "2018 Pocket Statistics" (PDF). Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  6. "2018 Annual Report" (PDF). University of Melbourne. Retrieved 31 August 2019.
  7. "Annual Report 2018" (PDF). The University of Queensland.
  8. "University of Sydney 2018 Annual Report" (PDF). University of Sydney.
  9. "Higher Education Financial" (PDF). Department of Education.
  10. {{cite web|title=2018 Annual Report |publisher=University of Western Australia|url=}
  11. Gable, Guy (2008). The Information Systems Academic Discipline in Australia. ANU E PRESS. p. 319. ISBN 9781921313943.
  12. "Types of Australian universities". Retrieved 2015-10-09.
  13. Marginson, Simon; Considine, Mark (2000). The Enterprise University: Power, Governance and Reinvention in Australia. Cambridge University Press. p. 15-16. ISBN 052179448X.
  14. The only exception is Macquarie, which is the third university is Sydney, but the fourth university in New South Wales. It follows the University of Sydney (1850), University of New South Wales (1949) and University of New England (1954).


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