Our history

ANU is Australia’s national university and has a unique history among Australian universities. Learn about our history, and how it continues to influence the work we do here today on the page below, and visit our Heritage website for more information.


Canberra University College enrolls its first students

Canberra University College, which later amalgamated with The Australian National University, enrolled its first students. Canberra University College was established with a loose association with the University of Melbourne.


Establishing a National University

From late 1944 to 1945, discussions between intellectuals and administrators, including H C 'Nugget' Coombs, Alfred Conlon, and Roy Douglas 'Pansy' Wright set the scene for the establishment of a National University.


Involving prominent academics

In April of 1946, H C Coombs meets with prominent academics in England, some of them Australian ex-patriots, including the medical scientist Sir Howard Florey, the historian W K Hancock and the physicist Mark Oliphant on the proposed Australian National University.


Passing the Bill by Federal Parliament

On the 1 August 1946, the Bill establishing The Australian National University is passed by Federal Parliament.


The Interim Council of the University's first meeting

In September of 1946, the first meeting of the Interim Council of the University took place in the Senate Committee Room in Parliament House.


Designing the University

In late 1947, Brian Lewis, Professor of Architecture at the University of Melbourne was appointed Consulting Architect to design the University's major buildings.


The first Vice-Chancellor

In March of 1948, Sir Douglas Copland was appointed as the first Vice-Chancellor of the University.


Shaping the University

In Easter of 1948, significant meetings occur between the Interim Council and the Academic Advisory Committee, consisting of Florey, Hancock, Oliphant and the anthropologist Raymond Firth on the shape the national university was to take. The meetings took place in the Institute of Anatomy Building, which now houses ScreenSound Australia, the National Screen and Sound Archive.


The first librarian

The University's first librarian, A L G McDonald, was appointed to begin gathering together the University Library's collections.


Laying the foundations of the John Curtin School of Medical Research

24 October 1949 - Foundation stones for the John Curtin School of Medical Research, the Research School of Physical Sciences and University House laid by Ben Chifley, Prime Minister and John Dedman, Minister for Post-War Reconstruction.


The arrival of academic staff members

The first academic staff members arrive to take up their appointments at ANU. At this time, there were few buildings to house them.


First meeting of the ANU Council

12th of July 1951- First meeting of the ANU Council, which succeeded the Interim Council appointed in 1946.


Marking 50 years of Federation

From July to September of 1975, a series of seminars on science, Commonwealth-State relations and federalism held to mark 50 years of Federation.


Conferring the first degree of Honorary Doctor of Laws

On the 7th of December 1951, the ANU confers its first degree of an Honorary Doctor of Laws on Sir Robert Garran, one of the authors of the Australian Constitution and a long-time advocate of university education in Canberra.


The laboratories for the Research School of Physcial Sciences are opened

The laboratories for the Research School of Physical Sciences, the University's first permanent buildings, are opened.


The first Chancellor

The University's first Chancellor, Lord Bruce, is installed.


Forming the Archives of Business and Labour

Noel Butlin, an economic historian in the Research School of Social Sciences, begins collecting Australian business records, which come to form the basis of the University's Archives of Business and Labour (now the Noel Butlin Archives Centre).


University House opens

In February 1954, University House is officially opened.


Celebrating twenty-five years

Canberra University College celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary.


Mt. Stromlo Observatory joins the ANU

Mt Stromlo Observatory formally becomes part of ANU through association with the Department of Astronomy in the Research School of Physical Sciences.


Canberra University College becomes ANU

ANU amalgamates with Canberra University College. CUC becomes the School of General Studies at ANU and undergraduates become part of ANU life for the first time. In 1960 ANU still had its four central research schools, the John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR), the Research School of Physical Sciences (RSPhysS), the Research School of Social Sciences (RSSS) and the Research School of Pacific Studies (RSPaS), while the School of General Studies had Faculties of Arts, Economics, Law and Science.


Residents occupy Bruce Hall

Bruce Hall, the first residential hall for undergraduate students on campus, is occupied.


Establishing the Faculty of Oriental Studies

The School of General Studies establishes a new faculty, the Faculty of Oriental Studies. In 1970, it became the Faculty of Asian Studies.


Reaching New Guinea

The New Guinea Research Unit, part of the Research School of Pacific Studies, begins operations with a small group of support staff and academics located in Canberra and New Guinea. The Unit fostered interdisciplinary work on New Guinea among ANU academics.


New libraries are opened

The two University Library Buildings are opened, the R G Menzies Building and the J B Chifley Building.


Flooding in Lake Burley Griffin

Lake Burley Griffin is flooded, skirting the southern edge of the ANU campus


Appointing the first female professor

Hanna Neumann is appointed the University's first female professor, as Professor of Mathematics in the School of General Studies.


The Australian Forestry School accepts its first students

The Australian Forestry School, which had been established in Canberra since 1927, accepted its first students as a department in the ANU Faculty of Science.


Opening new research schools

The Research School of Chemistry (RSC) and the Research School of Biological Sciences (RSBS) are established bringing the number of research schools to six.


Opening the Computer Centre

The Computer Centre was established, intended to serve users campus wide.


Seperating departments

A decision is made to create a separate Research School of Earth Sciences (RSES) from departments in the Research School of Physical Sciences.


Establishing the Centre for Resource & Environmental Studies

The Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies (CRES) is established, part of a trend to establish what was sometimes referred to as a 'third dimension', namely units and centres within the University


Research Unit opens in northern Australia.

The North Australia Research Unit (NARU) is established to facilitate research on north Australia


The Humanities Research Centre is established

The Humanities Research Centre (HRC) is established as another important 'centre' in the University.


Opening the Women's Studies Program

After extended debate, a separate Women's Studies Program in the Faculty of Arts came into being.


Renaming the School of General Studies

The School of General Studies formally renamed The Faculties.


A new telescope for the observatory

A new 2.3 metre telescope is opened at the Siding Spring Observatory, which was closely linked with the Department of Astronomy in the Research School of Physical Sciences.


Establishment of the ANU Supercomputer Facility

The University purchases a 'Fujitsu FACOM VP50 vector processor' and establishes the ANU Supercomputer Facility to house it.


Establishing the ANU Graduate School

The ANU Graduate School is established, intended to coordinate graduate teaching and resources across the University and to provide greater cohesion between the Institute of Advanced Studies and the Faculties.


Changes for the Research School of Physical Sciences

The Research School of Physical Sciences becomes the Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering (RSPSE).


The Canberra Institute of the Arts joins with the ANU

The Canberra Institute of the Arts, comprising the Canberra School of Music and the Canberra School of Art, amalgamates with ANU.


Opening the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology

In the Faculties, a new Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology is established.


New centres are established

In the Institute of Advanced Studies, the Research School of Information Sciences and Engineering (RSISE) is established. The Centre for Middle Eastern and Central Asia Sudies (from 1999, the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies) is established in the Faculty of Arts.


ANU's 50th anniversary

ANU celebrates its 50th anniversary with a program of academic and social events.


The University welcomes new additions

The University Archives is established. The Mount Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories become the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA). The Asia Pacific School of Economics and Management (later Government) is established.


Restructuring the University

In June the ANU Council announces a major restructure of University governance including the creation of Deputy Vice-Chancellors for Research and Education and the establishment of twelve virtual National Institutes


Bushfires severly impact Canberra and the ANU

The Mt Stromlo Observatory and the Weston research facilities are severely damaged by bushfires. The Medical School is accredited by the Australian Medical Council for the first intake of students in 2004. The National Institute of the Humanities and Creative Arts is established, bringing together the National Institutes of Arts and the Humanities.


The National Institute of the Arts join with the ANU

The National Institute of the Arts (NITA) amalgamates with the Faculty of Arts.


Forming seven ANU Colleges

The formation of seven ANU Colleges, grouping together Research Schools, Faculties and Centres.