Australia has 39 public and 2 private universities. Most are very modern universities with a surprisingly short history. This means many universities are named after important historical figures. Let’s go through and see what gives them their namesakes.
University of Melbourne – I’m really dissapointed that this never became the University of Batmania. The city of Melbourne was founded by John Batman. Batmania was one such nickname that Melbourne had before it was officially named Melbourne.
Flinders University – Where would Australia be without Matthew Flinders? Well, it probably wouldn’t be called Australia. The Captain was the first to circumnavigate Australia and to popularize the term “Australia”. He was imprisoned for over six years by the French upon his return to England.
Bond University – James Bond? Not quite. This university was named after the businessman Alan Bond. He is known for his involvement with the Australian yacht team that won the 1983 America’s Cup. The 131-year streak buster is a sports record.
Charles Darwin University – With the capital of a territory and this university, it’s easy to think Charles Darwin was Australian. The famous Brit just had a lovely band of admirers. He is best known for originating the theory of evolution in his book On the Origin of Species. Interestingly enough, it was the presence of the Australian marsupial kangaroo and platypus that almost convinced him of two separate Creators.
Macquarie University – Named after Lachlan Macquarie, a former Governor of New South Wales. The Scotsman was dubbed “The Father of Australia” for his role in transforming New South Wales from a penal colony into a free settlement.
Charles Sturt University – Charles Sturt was an early English explorer of Australia. Along with being part of the original explorers of Sydney, he searched the Red Centre for an inland sea. I’m sure he was dissapointed.
James Cook University – Named after perhaps the most interesting man on this list. He is the first European to reach contact with the eastern coast of Australia (as well as Hawaii). Australians have dubbed the term taking a look to be to “take a Captain Cook”. He met his end at the hands (or should I say spears?) of angry natives in Hawaii. He is portrayed in The Pirates of the Caribbean. I just made that last part up.
Curtin University – Named after John Curtin. Mr. Curtin is best known as being the Prime Minister during World War II. General MacArthur once stated that Curtin was “one of the greatest of the wartime statesmen”.
Deakin University – Named after the nation’s second Prime Minister. Alfred Deakin played a major role in the irrigation of this dry continent. He is actually a University of Melbourne alumnus. That would be cool if he were a Deakin alumnus.
Edith Cowan University – Australia’s answer to Susan B. Anthony. She was the nation’s first woman elected to parliament. Edith was actively involved with women and children’s welfare groups. That woman you saw on the Australian 50 dollar note was none other than Mrs. Cowan.
Griffith University – Named after Sir Samuel Griffith. Griffith was the Premier of Queensland as well as principal author of the Constitution of Australia. The Queensland Criminal Code he drafted in 1899 remains largely unchanged to this day. He is a University of Sydney alumnus.
La Trobe University – Named after Charles La Trobe, who was the first Lieutenant-Governer of the colony of Victoria. Much of La Trobe’s legacy stems from the various inner city parks and gardens that La Trobe reserved throughout Victoria.
Monash University – The civil engineered turned WW1 Commander. Sir John Monash at one time was commanding the largest group of corps on the Western Front. Monash was said to be more effective the higher he rose in the military ranks. He received his Master of Science as well as Doctorate at the University of Melbourne.
Swinburne University of Technology – Named after an Australian engineer and politicians. It’s no wonder that this university is named after George Swinburne. He founded the institution. His greatest accomplishment as politician was his role in the passage of a water bill that helped stave the severity of droughts.
Victoria University – Named after the state of Victoria which was named after Queen Victoria. She was so important that an entire era of time was named after. Her reign as Queen lasted 63 years. How many years of queening did you ever do?
Murdoch University – Named after Sir Walter Murdoch. Murdoch is honoured for his prominence in Australian academic circles. When he was told that the government of Western Australia would name it’s second university after him, he said “it better a good one!” He wouldn’t be dissapointed as Murdoch University is ranked worldwide in many fields.
Steve Irwin University – There hasn’t been a university named after the famous Crocodile Hunter. Yet. Unless Julia Gillard blows it, expect a university with her namesake in the future. I’m sure Australian of the Year Geoffrey Rush will have his own film school one day. Maybe even Perth-native (and Batman’s nemesis) Heath Ledger.