Sandstone universities

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The main quadrangle of the University of Sydney, Australia's oldest university

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 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[edit]

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, namely:

Other Australian University Groups[edit]

Red brick universities[edit]

The University of NSW, Monash University and the Australian National University have been termed 'red brick' universities.[4] They are similar to the red brick universities in the UK, both groups coming after the ancient Universities and sandstone universities.

Verdant (gumtree) universities[edit]

Universities founded in the 1960s and 70s have been known informally as 'verdant' or 'gumtree' universities.[5] These universities were established in their state capitals, often next to native bush land (now nature reserves), and have lush vegetative campuses. They are either the second or third established university in their state. These include:

La Trobe University is unique among the verdant universities in that it owns a 28 hectare wildlife sanctuary as well as managing the Gresswell Hill Nature Conservation Reserve, situated north of the Melbourne campus.[6][7]

The verdant universities were part of a broader effort to expand and reform tertiary education in Australia based on similar UK reforms that led to the creation of Plateglass universities.[5] All of these universities went on to form Innovative Research Universities in 2003.[5]

Potential verdants[edit]

While these five are considered the "main verdants" as they have the most in common, there are other universities that have been labelled as a verdant or gumtree university.[8][9] These include:

See also[edit]


  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. ^ Gable, Guy (2008). The Information Systems Academic Discipline in Australia. ANU E PRESS. p. 319. ISBN 9781921313943. 
  5. ^ a b c "Types of Australian universities". Retrieved 2015-10-09. 
  6. ^ "History of the area, La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary, La Trobe University". Retrieved 2016-01-10. 
  7. ^ "About the Sanctuary, La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary, La Trobe University". Retrieved 2016-01-10. 
  8. ^ "Types of Australian universities". Retrieved 2016-01-12. 
  9. ^ Rowbotham, Jill (21 August 2012). "Universities' staff half casual: new data". The Australian. Retrieved 12 January 2016.