The University of Melbourne, located in Melbourne, in Victoria, is the second oldest university in Australia (the University of Sydney is the oldest). The university was established by Hugh Childers in 1853 by an Act of the Victorian Parliament and classes commenced in 1855 with four professors and sixteen students. Women were first admitted as students in 1881.
Today, the University has almost 40,000 students, who are supported by nearly 6,000 staff members (full or part-time).
It is one of Australia's "Group of Eight" leading universities and is generally regarded as one of Australia's finest universities.
The oldest and main campus is in Parkville, an inner suburb
of Melbourne. Other campuses in Melbourne and rural Victoria have been acquired through amalgamation with smaller colleges of advanced education.
The "Concrete Lawn" and the Old Commerce building, which shows the mix of 19th and 20th century architecture on campus.
The University has 10 faculties; Architecture, Building and Planning, Arts, Economics and Commerce, Education, Engineering, Land and Food Resources , Law, Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, Music, Science and Veterinary Science. These faculties off courses from Bachelor Degree to Doctorate level. In addition to that the Faculty of Land and Food Resources offers TAFE, diploma level courses as well.
Research is an important activity in all departments of the university. The research activities of the University are broad and varied, the University is very research intensive. The Medical sciences are very well resourced at the University, this is due to the location of the University, in a precint that encompasses a number of hospitals, and is further expanding through the opening of Bio21 and research centre focusing on the application and research of Biotechnology.
Notable alumni of the university include Germaine Greer, Peter Singer, Robert Menzies, amongst a substantial fraction of Australia's most prominent academics, politicians, industry leaders, lawyers, doctors, and artists.
A Nobel Laureate, Professor Peter Doherty, is also currently based in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.
Since 1872, the affiliated residential colleges have been an important part of the university.
Most of the colleges are situated in an arc around the cricket oval at the northern edge of the campus, with a few further afield.
The colleges provide accommodation to about 3000 students, which is a small fraction of the university's total student population. In fact, a large proportion of school-leaver students at the university still live with their parents.
As well as accommodation, the colleges provide tutorials for their students (although unlike the Oxbridge colleges, the tutorials are purely extra assistance and do not form a fundamental part of any university course).
Several of the original on-campus buildings, such as the old law and arts buildings, feature similarly beautiful period architecture.
Unfortunately, it is generally agreed around campus that the expansion during the post-World War Two period saw a departure of taste, with a number of incredibly ugly red-brick clad high-rise buildings. These include the Raymond Priestly building (used for administration), the Redmond Barry building, Wilson Hall (replacing the old Wilson Hall which was destroyed by fire), and some of the additions to the colleges; most hideous of all is unfortunately the architecture building itself.
A recent spate of expansions have included the Ian Potter Gallery (an art museum), and the Sydney Myer Asia Centre. The Potter Gallery in particular is highly regarded for its architecture, and won several awards when completed in 2000. The massive University Square development which has extended the campus far to the south, has been more contentiously received, with initial planning battles forcing the retention of 19th century residential townhouses as a facade.
Student extracurricular activities generally come under the loose umbrella of the Melbourne University Student Union , student sporting activities under the Sports Union and postgraduate students at UMPA ]. Many student clubs are affiliated with MUSU, as well as student theatre and the "official" student newspaper, Farrago.
There is a long history of student activities at Melbourne University. Particularly noteworthy is Union House Theatre, out of which a large number of notable Australian celebrities have emerged, such as Cate Blanchett and Barry Humphries; the Union Band Comp, which has kick-started the careers of several well-known Australian bands; and an annual comedy review which produced the Talking Dog crew.
The Student Union has, for at least the last decade, been a venue for vicious factional political battles (which occasionally sees the unusual alliance of Student Unity (Labor Right) and Liberal Students supporters to defeat left-wing candidates, in particular those aligned to the Australian Labor Students (Labor Left) and allegations of maladministration.
On February 6, 2004 was placed into liquidation by the Supreme Court of Victoria after a property deal entered into by Student Unity went wrong.  A successor body to the collapsed union is now in the final stages of incorporation, after a new constitution was drafted by left-wing students at the behest of the university administration. An Interim Student Representative Committee governs the union chaired by Paul Donegan , while all other financial decisions are made by a university company.
Despite a muddy history, the student union and the university administed commercial organisation now demonstrate Australia's best-practice of financial responsibility, accountability and transparency.
- Macintyre, Stuart; & Selleck, Richard J.W. (2003). A short history of the University of Melbourne. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. ISBN 0-522-85058-8.