The University of Western Australia

The University of Western Australia

The University of Western Australia Details

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The University of Western Australia (UWA) is a research-intensive university in Perth, Australia that was established by an act of theWestern Australian Parliament in February 1911, and began teaching students for the first time in 1913. It is the oldest university in the state of Western Australia. It is colloquially known as a “sandstone university”. It is also a member of the Group of Eight.

UWA was established under and is governed by the University of Western Australia Act 1911. The Act provides for control and management by the university’s Senate, and gives it the authority, amongst other things, to make statutes, regulations and by-laws, details of which are contained in the university Calendar.

UWA is highly ranked internationally in various publications: the 2013/14 QS World University Rankings placed UWA at 84th internationally, and in August 2015 the Academic Ranking of World Universities from Shanghai Jiao Tong University placed the university at 87th in the world. To date, the university has produced 100 Rhodes Scholars; one Nobel Prize laureate and oneAustralian Prime Minister graduated from UWA.

UWA recently joined the Matariki Network of Universities as the youngest member, the only one established during the 20th century.

Top in rankings

The University’s longer-term aim is to be counted among the top 50 universities in the world by 2050, continuing to play a vital role in scholarship and discovery of global significance.


Schools / Colleges / Departments / Courses / Faculties

Architecture, Landscape and Visual Arts


Business School


Engineering, Computing and Mathematics


Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences

School of Indigenous Studies



The University of Western Australia (UWA) was established in 1911 as the State’s first university. It was also the first free university in the British Empire, actively promoting equal access to tertiary education for all social classes.

The University was established due largely to the efforts of Sir John Winthrop Hackett, who had a long-standing vision and passion to provide Western Australia with a university. Proprietor and editor of The West Australian newspaper, he chaired a Royal Commission which recommended the establishment of a university. Later he was the founding Chancellor and bequeathed more than £425,000 (the equivalent of more than $32 million today) to the University.

There was consensus among legislators of the time that the University not only be free, but also provide tertiary education of a practical nature to help develop Western Australia’s pioneering economy. At the time of the University’s foundation, Perth’s population was just 121,000 and its economy relied mostly on agricultural, pastoral and mining industries.

As a result, the founding professorial appointments were in Agriculture, Mining and Engineering, Geology, Mathematics and Physics, Chemistry, History and Economics, Biology, and English. These were balanced to an extent by the appointment of lecturers in Classics and Ancient History, French, German, Mental and Moral Philosophy, and Veterinary Science. Overarching these 12 posts were three faculties – Engineering, Science and Arts.

More than 100 years later, the University is now home to nine Faculties and Schools and a number of Research Institutions and Centres which celebrated the University’s Centenary in 2013. UWA also entered the internationally-recognised Academic Ranking of World Universities’ Top 100 listing, continuing to set the standard for other West Australian universities to follow in terms of recognition for its achievements nationally and internationally.

Enrolments grew to 10,195 in 1975 and started tapering off in 1976 as Commonwealth funding and student quotas were cut across Australia. Funding for UWA was also diverted to finance UWA’s first major competitor, the newly created Murdoch University.

With the entry of several other tertiary institutions into Perth during the 1960s and 1970s, UWA was no longer expected to be the sole deliverer of higher education in Western Australia. Consequently, the University was able to be more specific in its goals and priorities than it had in the past.

At the same time, it had to meet the changing needs of the Western Australian community, which had become more affluent and industrialised. Significant growth had also occurred in mining, commercial and financial sectors as well as the public service.

Over the next two decades enrolments slowly climbed to 12,791 in 1994 and then began to increase more rapidly to 21,091 in 2009. In 2012 there were more than 24,000 students enrolled.

2012 was a year of significant change for the University with the introduction of a new course structure.

The model of broad undergraduate studies followed by a postgraduate professional qualification is in line with leading universities across the world and has been designed to produce well-rounded graduates, as well as provide multiple entry opportunities for a wide range of students.

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