THE QUEST FOR AUTONOMY TO 1965
By Gionni Di Gravio, University Archivist -
In June 1942 during World War II, Newcastle came under shelling from Japanese mini submarines. How did the Parents and Citizens Association committee of the Newcastle Boys High School react to such an attack? According to Don Wright in his History of the University, they decided to set up a University College, initially to be run by the University of Sydney. By October 1942, they began advertising fees for the following year 1943. These actions forced the then Vice Chancellor of Sydney University to come up to Newcastle in November 1942 to inform them that it wasn’t going to happen!
Newcastle is renowned for its amazing resilience, and here is a time line on how the University of Newcastle came to be an autonomous institution.
In a nutshell:
(i) The push for a university 1849 – 1951
(ii) The quest for autonomy 1951 – 1965
The university tradition dates from the middle of the twelfth century and has contained two elements, the humanistic tradition originally founded upon the liberal arts and later including the pure sciences (rational thought and analysis) and a vocational aspect based upon the faculties of theology, law and medicine.
The Paris Exhibition of 1867 inspired the incorporation of technological studies into the IDEA of what a University should be for the fear was that many countries in Europe were overtaking Britain in technology.
1849 - Bishop Tyrrell gave birth to the idea of a University in the Hunter Region. To invest his dream he transported aboard the "Medway" his extensive collection of books from England. This Collection known as the Morpeth Collection now resides in the Cultural Collections (formerly Archives Rare Books and Special Collections) of Auchmuty Library. This formed part of a collection of some 2,700 volumes from St. John’s College Morpeth, generously donated by the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle to the University, and includes editions of major theological and philosophical works printed in the 16th-18th centuries. At least half the Collection originally belonged to William Tyrrell, the first Anglican Bishop of Newcastle, who was appointed to the Diocese in 1847. The oldest book held in the Library is found in this collection, namely, Eusebius’ Ecclesiasticae Historiae printed in Paris in 1544.
1907 - The Herald re-invigorated the call for a University College [Newcastle Herald articles 31st May 1907, 10th Sept 1909]
1910 - Newcastle District Public Schools Association under Inspector J. Finney passed a resolution calling for the establishment of University College originally to be called Edward College (after King Edward). [Herald 1st August 1910.]
1928 - Prominent citizens Connelly and Basil Helmore urge for the establishment of a university.
1936 - Tighes Hill Technical College opened with help from BHP. The Herald urges the people of Newcastle to see it only as a first step towards a University.
21st June 1942 - Newcastle Boys High School Parents and Citizens Association under leadership of Headmaster Ross Mearns, Rabbi Morris and Paul Hayes resolved that a university college be established in Newcastle. A committee was formed to push for the establishment consisting of the who’s who of Newcastle.
1st October 1942 - The University Committee resolved that the Senate of the University of Sydney establish a college at Newcastle beginning in the 1943 academic year. By the end of October 1942 Mearns starts advertising fees for this College.
11th November 1942 - The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney is forced to come to Newcastle in order to dampen the enthusiasm of the Novocastrians.
April – June 1943 - The Uni Committee began a set of radio broadcasts on 2NC and 2KO to get wider support from the community.
3rd December 1951 - Newcastle University College of the New South Wales University of Technology opens at the site of the Newcastle Technical College.
1954 - Newcastle University College offers Arts degrees for the first time, with degrees awarded by the University of New England
13th April 1961 - Godfrey Tanner marches to TOWN HALL
"On the night of 12 April 1961 they held a ‘freedom march’ from the Tighes Hill site to the City Hall (about five kilometres) to take part in a public meeting organised by the Lord Mayor’s Committee. Estimates of the numbers involved vary from fifty to 200. Led by the mercurial Godfrey Tanner, later Professor of Classics, they marched the distance shouting, cheering, waving flaming torches and banners carrying slogans like ‘Burn Baxter’s Empire’, ‘Big Baxter is Watching You’, ‘Baxter’s Bargain Basement’, ‘Let Newcastle Fiddle while Baxter Burns’. Outside the City Hall, they set alight their banners and tossed them into a blazing heap before moving inside to join 250 of Newcastle’s more sober citizens in a public meeting to demand immediate autonomy." [Don Wright]
1961 - Lord Mayor’s Committee (under Frank Purdue) visit site of bushland Shortland for future University.
"One of my most cherished memories is being in the McMullin Building in the 1960s and hearing Brin Newton-John’s piano playing wafting through the place"
12th March 1962 - Baxter tells Auchmuty that Newcastle will have Autonomy. A Council is created by the University of New South Wales to prepare for autonomy.
July – August 1962 - OPUS visits site on a number of occasions and discovers Aboriginal people living on site. [OPUS 8 29th August 1962 Vol.9 No.8]
2nd Dec 1964 - Legislation passed creating 2nd provincial University of the state of New South Wales.
1965 - Autonomy granted to the University of Newcastle, Australia.
See also uoncc.wordpress.com/2007/07/26/universitys-grant-of-arms-...
A staged cremation celebrating the move of the Engineering Department from the grounds of the old Newcastle University College (Tighes Hill) to the Shortland Campus of the University of Newcastle, Australia - c.1970