Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

The families of the New England University College

Workmen, Booloominbah 1938. There was great pressure to get the College open quickly. Alterations were still underway as the first staff and students arrived.  

This year marks the eightieth anniversary of the foundation of the New England University College in 1938, the first university institution in Australia outside the capital cities. As part of the anniversary, over October 2018 I ran a short series of columns on the families of the College.

Institutional histories focus on the institution. That's understandable. However, the NEUC could not have survived without the sacrifices made by the wives. For most, they were far removed from family support and had to manage with uncertainty and sometimes primitive conditions. The children of the NEUC families, the siblings, grew up in an amalgam world that was intensely local while also being global. Sydney was remote, more remote in fact than Oxford or Cambridge or Manchester.

This post gathers the family columns together so that you can follow the story through. Many things are left out, suppressed in order to fit within tight newspaper word limits, but they will give you a taste of a small but unique part of Australia's history. I have also included some links to earlier pieces that tell a little of the history of the NEUC, as well as a short UNE video made to celebrate the College's anniversary.

The family series is:
Earlier in 2018, I completed the first part of a series of columns on the Pacific Belshaws. This includes a number of columns on the early days of the NEUC.
On 1 November 2018, the University held a morning tea for the alumni of the NEUC This is the short video prepared for the occasion. I note one error. In redoing a short grab I said that my mother, Edna Belshaw, was David Drummond's grandaughter. She was, in fact, his daughter. Felt a bit silly when I spotted it later!


Johnb said...

An excellent short video Jim, one thing that surprised me was that I had never realised the first students went there at 16 with just a Leaving Certificate. A significant leap of faith by the founders, the staff, the parents and the actual students themselves when you think about it.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, John. Same age as the TC students in 1928 and indeed when I went to uni. I would have been just turning 17 if I had gone straight to Uni after first completing the Leaving. I already had a scholarship. There were some older students such as the ex-servicemen who came in from the end of the war.

One of the challenges facing the College in the early days was to persuade parents, especially for daughters, that going to university (any university) was actually safe!

Johnb said...

I was fortunate enough to be admitted to Newcastle Uni with just a Leaving Certificate Jim but I was just coming up to 30 and a Mature Student admission. Yes I was impressed with both parents for a willingness to launch their sons and daughters into a distant environment at that age and the 16 year olds themselves for responding so well to tackle not only the big move but the not insignificant demands of an academic course. I don’t think the current two years to 18 in Upper school are an equivalent to the first two years of a University degree.