Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Federal Capital University Proposed for Australia in 1910

At the Australian National University's Forum for early-and mid-career teachers and researchers yesterday, one of the speakers* mentioned that proposals for a Federal Capital University went back as far as the 1920s. This is supported by Davis (2013), but a quick web search showed it was actually in 1910 that the Minister responsible for what became Canberra, proposed a university:
Something of the nature of a university that "will lick creation" is promised by the Minister of Home Affairs (Mr. O Malley) at the Federal capital site. "We intend to have a real democratic university and an advanced university," said the Minister in reply to a question yesterday. "In my opinion the universities of Australia should be reconstructed on different lines. This university we are going to establish will be saturated with the same sympathetic spirit as is found in the advanced guard of Christian democracy today, it will cater principally for the people, not for the sons of boodlers."
    From "Federal Capital University", The Advertiser, page 13, 19 October 1910 (Trove Archive).
Apart from the reference to "Christian" democracy, much of what the Minister foresaw is still relevant to ANU today. This includes an emphasis on an "advanced university", but one "for the people", not the children of the wealthy ("Boodler" was a derogatory term for a rich person).

* I can't say who said this at the forum, as we were operating under the Chatham House Rule.


Davis, Glyn. The Australian idea of a university [online]. Meanjin, Vol. 72, No. 3, Spring 2013: 32-48. Availability: <;dn=640753171641857;res=IELLCC> ISSN: 0025-6293.

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