Rus in Urbe: The Country Student at the Nineteenth-Century University

Ian Jack


John Smith, the founding Professor of Chemistry, saw the “chief utility'”of a College at the University of Sydney as “to afford a comfortable home to students, with tutorial assistance, and something like parental supervision”. The young men, and later young women, most evidently in need of such an environment while students, were those resident on country properties or in country towns. As a result the records of the University Colleges, taken in conjunction with the University Archives, have a potential to give insights into a significant cross-section of country students in an urban environment.

As a first stage in examining this potential, the archives of St Andrew’s College have been used as a test case from 1874 until 1900. During these 27 years, 199 students were members of the Andrew’s community. Their origins were diverse: some were metropolitan in residence and in school education; others were from country New South Wales but had attended Sydney schools; an unexpected number of country boys had attended only country schools and had no extensive urban experience before attending University; some students came from other states, especially Queensland, and a few came from overseas. This preliminary paper will go beyond the mere statistics to look at the dramatis personae in their educational, cultural and family context.