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Feature Article - A Hundred years of University life
Although in its early days lectures were delivered in Launceston as well as Hobart, the university comprised a single campus in the southern city until 1991, when the Hobart-based University of Tasmania amalgamated with Launceston’s Tasmanian State Institute of Technology to form a multi-campus university.
In its first years the university was mainly accommodated in the old Hobart High School at the Domain. By the 1920s, however, this site was clearly inadequate for even the modest rise in student numbers. A number of alternative sites were considered in the 1920s and 1930s, with the Sandy Bay rifle range emerging as preferred site. The actual move did not, however, happen until the mid-1950s, and considerable discomfort was experienced by students and staff for a number of years at the old site.
The change in the role of women in the university has been dramatic in recent years, though the first female Master of Arts (MA) was awarded in 1899, only one year after the first male MA, and the first Master of Science (MSc) went to a woman in 1900. The first woman graduate, Elizabeth Wilson, also became its first female academic in 1899.
Apart from the peaks in female enrolments during the two World Wars, female enrolments only reached 50% of all enrolments in 1989. Since then, women have represented the majority of enrolments.
Women took part in the student association early in the life of the university - women were on the management committee by 1903 - but the Tasmania University Union (TUU) did not have a female president (Cynthia Johnson) until 1941, and the second female president was elected as late as 1989. During the 1990s there have been 5 more female Presidents elected.
Most of the elements of a university’s cultural and political life have been present from early in the University of Tasmania’s life. Students from Asia were first enrolled in the 1950s, under the Colombo Plan.
The first student magazine, Platypus, appeared in 1914, superseded by the present Togatus in the 1930s. In 1924 the first student sports team, a rowing eight, competed in an inter-varsity sports carnival, and the team won in the following year. The university student review, Old Nick, started shortly after World War II.
Political activity in some form or other also appears to have been a feature of the university’s life from early times. Students disrupted Commemoration, as the graduation ceremony was then called, in 1912, and when this continued students were encouraged to transfer their more lively disruptive activities to their own ceremony known as Mock Commem. Even this mock ceremony was banned in 1934, though only for one year as it turned out. The TUU lobbied for student representation on university bodies in the 1930s, and achieved representation on University Council, albeit without voting rights at first.
In the 1950s there was controversy surrounding the infamous Orr case, and general dissatisfaction with the speed of the planned move to the present Hobart campus’ Sandy Bay site; dissatisfaction supported by the findings of a government inquiry. Activism grew during the 1960s and 1970s, focused on the major political issues of the time, and continues to the present.
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