Charles Darwin University

Charles Darwin University

Charles Darwin University Details

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Charles Darwin University (CDU) is an Australian public university with about 22,083 students as of 2011. It was established in 2003 after the merger of Northern Territory University (NTU) of Darwin, the Menzies School of Health Research and Centralian College of Alice Springs and it was named after Charles Darwin, the celebrated English naturalist.

It is a member of the group of 7 Innovative Research Universities in Australia. CDU has campuses in the Darwin suburb ofCasuarina, the city of Palmerston, and the towns of Alice Springs, Katherine and Nhulunbuy, with smaller training centres in Jabiru, Tennant Creek and Yulara. A new Waterfront Campus opened in 2015 in the Darwin CBD which contains the Business School.

The University offers a wide range of Higher Education degrees and Vocational Education and Training courses with flexible study options, including part-time, external and online.

By 2015 Charles Darwin University will have grown its student base by 50 per cent. It will be renowned for its leading approach to education, research and community engagement in regional and remote Australia, and the region as a whole.

It will also draw on the priorities of the region in framing its education programs and exploring the frontiers of knowledge.

With a focus on high quality, flexible local and distance education, CDU will provide the learning that students, the region and the nation require to produce innovative graduates who effectively meet the challenges of a complex, changing world.

As a distinctive multi-sector education provider, this University will be recognised as a leader in student support and the provision of pathways from vocational training through to advanced research degrees.

It will achieve increased student participation, particularly amongst disadvantaged educational groups, through traditional and non-traditional approaches to education delivery and, in doing so, will effectively meet the needs of Indigenous students to become their university of choice.

This University’s established research strengths in tropical, desert and Indigenous knowledge will become a national and international resource, open to collaboration and equipped to provide solutions to complex problems of local, national and international significance.

CDU will be a dynamic and robust regional tertiary institution that will have forged strong, mutually beneficial partnerships with other key institutions, government and the community.

It will meet the needs of industry and the professions for a skilled workforce and will provide leadership to advance the intellectual, professional, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing of the Northern Territory.

Staff will be recognised for, and supported in, the achievement of the University’s goals. In all areas of endeavour this University will apply the highest standards of professionalism, efficiency and accountability to maximise its effectiveness and ensure the value of its contribution to the region in which it operates.

Schools / Colleges / Departments / Courses / Faculties

Faculty of Engineering, Health, Science and the Environment

  • School of Engineering and Information Technology
  • School of Environment
  • School of Health
  • School of Psychological and Clinical Sciences

Faculty of Law, Education, Business and Arts

  • School of Academic Language and Learning
  • CDU Business School
  • School of Creative Arts and Humanities
  • School of Education
  • School of Law
  • School of Indigenous Knowledges and Public Policy

Faculty of Vocational Education and Training

  • School of Service Industries
  • School of Primary Industries
  • School of Trades
  • School of Health, Community and Children’s Services


Charles Darwin University has evolved over the years through the merging of several higher education institutions.

Darwin Community College, founded in 1974 and renamed Darwin Institute of Technology in 1984, was a combined College of Advanced Education and a TAFE College. It was situated on what is now the Casuarina Campus, although it used other buildings at various times in Darwin. By the time of the formation of the Northern Territory University, it gave degrees in Arts, Education, Business and Applied Science.

The Menzies School of Health Research was established in 1985 as a body corporate of the Northern Territory Government under the Menzies Act 1985. This Act was amended in 2004 to formalise the relationship with Charles Darwin University (CDU). Menzies is now a major partner of CDU and constitutes a school within the University on campus at CDU Casuarina offering post-graduate degrees and higher degrees by research.

On several occasions the Government of the Northern Territory requested the Australian Commonwealth Government to finance a university in the Territory. The response was always that the population was too small. In 1985, it took the unusual step of financing the University College of the Northern Territory itself for a five-year period from 1987 to 1991. The college was governed by a Council, chaired by Austin Asche and led by a Warden, Professor Jim Thomson, from the University of Queensland. An arrangement was made with the University of Queensland that the College would awards degrees from that institution. Staff were recruited in 1986 and housed in the old Darwin Primary School buildings. Just prior to taking the first students in February 1987, the College moved to converted building of the former Darwin Hospital at Myilly Point in Darwin. The former Nurses’ Hostel became a student residence, named International House. The College had two Faculties, of Arts and Science. It awarded, through the University of Queensland link, the first Doctor of Philosophy degrees in the Northern Territory.

Centralian College was founded in 1993 from the merger of Sadadeen Senior Secondary College and the Alice Springs College of TAFE. During its life, the college delivered senior secondary, TAFE and Higher Education through its main campus in Alice Springs, and to a lesser extent the whole Northern Territory. Centralian College is a co-educational senior secondary school, for students from Year 10 to Year 12. Centralian College shares its campus with the Charles Darwin University campus of Alice Springs. Centralian College uses the university’s facilities and students attending Centralian College can participate in VET courses (as early as Year 10) offered by CDU.

The Northern Territory University (NTU) was founded in January 1989 by a merger of the Darwin Institute of Technology and the University College of the Northern Territory. The merger was controversial, but forced by the so-called Dawkins Revolution under Federal Minister of Education John Dawkins. The new university started life on 1 January 1989. Degrees of the University of Queensland continued to be awarded for a few years.

The first Vice-Chancellor was Professor Malcolm Nairn from Murdoch University in Western Australia. Under his leadership the university prospered and morale was high among both staff and students. However funding declined as student numbers rose. During his term of office the various study centres on the Territory, that previously had been run directly by the NT Government, became part of the University. The Palmerston campus, for a few years previously a TAFE College, also became part of the university. The Palmerston campus is situated on University Avenue as this was the proposed site for a new university in a submission to the Federal Government in 1981.

The second Vice-Chancellor was Professor Roger Holmes from Griffith University. After an initial excellent start to his period of office, he disappointed the university and local community by resigning after serving for only one semester to take up the post of Vice-Chancellor at University of Newcastle.

He was replaced as third Vice-Chancellor by the then Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ron McKay. Under his leadership, the financial constraints on the university increased. The environment of having to provide as wide as possible a tertiary education to a small population living in a very large area far from alternative institutions became even more hostile and the university did not prosper. In January 2001, the Katherine Rural College, including Mataranka Station, became part of the university.

After McKay’s resignation due to ill health in 2002, an interim Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ken McKinnon, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wollongong was appointed. He took various actions to improve the health of the university, some controversial, such as the proposal to merge with Centralian College with a new name for the university.

On 21 August 2003, the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly passed the Charles Darwin University Act 2003 (NT), merging Alice Springs’ Centralian College and the Menzies School of Health Research with the Northern Territory University to form Charles Darwin University from 1 January 2004. The inaugural university council meeting was held on 26 November 2003.

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