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University of New England (1954 - )

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Location: Armidale, New South Wales, Australia
Located in Armidale, a city of northern New South Wales, the University of New England was established on 1 February 1954 under legislation passed by the New South Wales Parliament which allowed for the incorporation of its predecessor institution, the New England University College, as an autonomous institution.
Like the University College, the University of New England initially taught subjects in Arts and Science but soon became the first University in Australia to offer undergraduate units in Rural Science (1956) and Agricultural Economics (1957). Its emphasis on the local region was further reflected in its decision to establish External Studies courses (1955), devise one of the most comprehensive Adult Education programs in the country and again become the first University in Australia to offer units in Natural Resources (1971). Encapsulating the philosophy which formed the basis of the University’s origins and development, its first Vice-Chancellor, Robert Madgwick, announced shortly after autonomy that ‘there is clearly an implied responsibility on any University to associate itself with the needs and interests of the community in which it is situated’.
During the 1950s and 1960s, in accordance with the federal government’s decision to provide greater financial assistance to Australian universities, the University of New England’s student population expanded from 250 at the time of autonomy to 2,400 in 1972 (a further 3,500 students were at this time studying externally). The campus in its physical dimensions expanded accordingly. New buildings were erected to house each of the four faculties (Arts, Science, Agricultural Economics and Rural Science), and a college precinct was established to the University’s south-west for the purpose of accommodating students from across the region. ‘From small beginnings’, Madgwick commented as early as 1966, ‘the University has grown until it is no longer a small institution even by some overseas standards’.
Growth slowed during the 1970s and 1980s under the federal government’s policy of ‘steady state’, but the University continued to excel in its traditional areas of inquiry. Its first generation of exceptional researchers and teachers – including Bill McClymont (Rural Science), Noel Beadle (Botany) and Russel Ward (History) – were now complemented by a number of equally talented and internationally renowned scholars. Among them were John Dillon (Agricultural Economics), Ron Neale (Economic History), Miriam Dixson and Alan Atkinson (History), Gordon Anderson (Music), Graham Maddox (Politics) and John Burton (Natural Resources).
For a brief period (1989–1993) the University formed the locus of the University of New England Network, which incorporated the former Colleges of Advanced Education at Lismore and Armidale along with the Agricultural College at Orange. The merger was a failure and in 1994 the network university was dissolved. Its successor institution, incorporating the original University of New England and the former Armidale College of Advanced Education, was then reconstituted as the University of New England.
The University, after the turmoil of the early 1990s, has returned ever-more strongly to its founding aspirations. It continues to see itself first and foremost as a regional institution with regional obligations. Recent efforts in both the scientific and social fields, such as the University’s various Cooperative Research Centres, its Institute of Rural Futures and Heritage Futures Research Centre, have thus been directed to this end.

Related Bodies:
New England University College
Armidale Teachers’ College
Armidale College of Advanced Education
University of New England Network

Related People:
DH Drummond
PA Wright

Matthew Jordan, A Spirit of True Learning: The Jubilee History of the University of New England (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2004).

Related Entities for University of New England

Previous and Subsequent Entities

 1938 - 1954 New England University College
       1954 - University of New England
             1989 - 1993 University of New England [Network]

Related People

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Structure based on ISAAR(CPF) - click here for an explanation of the fields.Prepared by: Matthew Jordan
Created: 3 May 2005
Modified: 21 June 2006

Published by The Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, 5 April 2004
Prepared by: Acknowledgements
Updated: 23 February 2010

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