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Stories from UOW

A collection of vintage photos celebrating UOW’s history – from '60s modernist architecture to the birth of the duck pond.

From humble beginnings training engineers, metallurgists and industrial chemists for the heavy industrial plants in the region in the post-war innovation boom, 65 years later, UOW has grown to become one of the best young universities in the world*.

In 1951, the then New South Wales University of Technology established a division in Wollongong. A decade later, the Wollongong University College of the University of New South Wales was established and boasted 280 students and a teaching staff of 24.

Foundation Professor of Metallurgy Geoffrey Brinson recalls the early days in the 1960s, when the campus had only a handful of buildings sitting starkly on former paddocks.

“The car park was made of coal wash and when it rained cars would often get bogged in it. The mud was so deep in places that the humanities staff used to call it Passchendaele [the infamous muddy WWI battlefield on the Western Front].”

In 1975, Australia’s 18th university was born. Now an independent institution, the University of Wollongong had just more than 2,000 students studying degrees in science, engineering and metallurgy, humanities and commerce, as well as graduate diplomas in teaching, and masters and doctoral degrees.

By 1979, the once vast farmlands that occupied the valley below Mount Keira had begun to be transformed into a lush native bushland complete with a duck pond, which did not go down well with students at the time. The Student Representative Council held protests in response to the pond’s $80,000 price tag.

In 1982, UOW amalgamated with the Wollongong Institute of Education, introducing a large cohort of education academics and students to the university. Two years later, the university would expand again with a new School of Creative Arts.

In the late 80s and early 90s, UOW would add informatics, health and behavioural sciences and law degrees to its offerings and open a new campus in Dubai.

And in the year 2000, UOW was named University of the Year. It would be the same year UOW’s infamous ‘evil duck’ would arrive on campus, where he stayed to terrorise students until his sad passing in 2007.

“Many a time in my four years did I encounter this duck,” one student said at the time of his death. “I will look back fondly at my memories of the evil duck and feel better for having known him. He filled my days at UOW with laughter and terror.”

* QS Top 50 Under 50 Rankings 2015.

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