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The sandstone universities are an informally defined group comprising Australia's oldest tertiary education institutions. 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.
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:
- The University of Sydney
- The University of Melbourne
- The University of Adelaide
- The University of Tasmania
- The University of Queensland
- The University of Western Australia
- 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
- Department of Education Training and Youth Affairs (1999), Completions, Undergraduate academic outcomes for the 1992 commencing students, Melbourne: DETYA.