WORDS  Shayaan Malik

Have you ever wondered where Macquarie University came from? Have you ever imagined what the future of Macquarie University looks like? 

A 200-year-old grave lies on the Isle of Mull in Scotland inscribed with, ‘The Father of Australia’. Surprisingly, this title does not belong to Captain James Cook. It belongs to Governor Lachlan Macquarie, the fifth governor of New South Wales (NSW) and one of the most influential people in the establishment of our great nation and the development of society and infrastructure in our state. Given these accomplishments, it seems fitting that Governor Macquarie is also the man after whom our University is named. From its own establishment more than 40 years ago, Macquarie University has come a long way in terms of research and innovation and, just like its namesake, through continual development and advancement, Macquarie University aims to provide endless opportunities for all of its students.

Macquarie University officially opened in 1964 and is built on the land of the Darug tribe, the traditional owners and custodians of this land. It is a 126 hectare wide, park-like campus with more than 33,000 students and more than 2200 members of staff. Unlike other universities in the Sydney area, our University remains the only one to be named in honour of a person. Governor Macquarie was born in 1761 in Scotland and was distantly related to the last chieftain of the Scottish clan, MacQuarrie. In 1809, Macquarie became governor of NSW and through this position he made crucial changes and improvements to the state including the building of government infrastructure, extending roads, establishing the colony’s first bank and stabilising the local currency. Among all this, Macquarie had a positive attitude towards emancipists and viewed them as equal to the middle classes. However, due to controversy that raged around his views, Macquarie eventually resigned as governor and later died in 1824.

Over time, Macquarie University has gradually developed and re-designed the way information and resources are available to students. The construction of the new library is the most recent example that indicates the major shift in student demand for a wider variety of academic resources and more space to study. In an article for the Sydney Morning Herald in February 2009, Macquarie University’s librarian, Maxine Brodie, commented that, “the brutalist ‘60s architectural style of the current building reinforces the old view that libraries are built to protect the books and not to facilitate the use of resources and services.”

Thus, at a cost of $94 million, the new University Library will be five levels high, boasts a capacity of 3,000 seats and will include extended hours for learning lounges. However, the most anticipated innovation of the new library will be the installment of Australia’s first automated book storage and retrieval system (ASRS). According to the University Library website, the ASRS involves a vault system that will store 80% of the library’s 1.8 million items. Furthermore, “robotic cranes will retrieve an item on request and deliver the item to the service desk for collection.” It is the University’s aim to completely close the existing library during the mid-semester break, and from the 25th of July this year, all floors of the new library will be open for use.

In addition to the anticipated opening of Macquarie’s new library, other recent developments include the construction of the Macquarie University private hospital in 2010 and the opening of the Macquarie University underground train station in 2009. The University hospital is the most advanced medical facility in the country and the only teaching hospital to be located on an Australian university campus.

[quote]The University hospital is the most advanced medical facility in the country and the only teaching hospital to be located on an Australian university campus[/quote]

At an estimated cost of $230 million, this private hospital includes the latest procedures and technology to assist medical students, including the Gamma Knife. In addition to the development of the hospital, the Macquarie University underground station was opened in 2009 as part of the Northern line. According to the CityRail website, the development of the underground network has been extremely beneficial, especially to the 30,000 Macquarie University students and staff who commute to the University every week.

Technological innovations aside, there are numerous extracurricular activities at Macquarie that have engaged students for more than forty years. With a four-year-old Sports and Aquatic Centre that features indoor and outdoor swimming pools, courts, a gymnasium and more than 4,500 student visits a week, Macquarie University has come a long way since 1967 when there was only one sports field and two tennis courts. In addition to this, Clubs and UniSport Manager, Kate Glassop, says, “a 500 square meter extension to the current facility is scheduled to commence in mid-2011, which will provide more space and the ability to extend sporting options for students on campus.”

At Macquarie University, there are numerous sports clubs for students to join, including everything from cricket and hockey to rowing and ultimate frisbee. “[Many] clubs were established and have continued to flourish over their 44 years of existence,” says Glassop. There is no doubt that the development and growth of Macquarie University sports clubs will continue throughout 2011 and beyond. These clubs compete in numerous sports competitions on a regular basis, including the Australian University Games and Eastern University Games, and have won many medals for the University.

Ian Pollard, Nadine Neumann, Ian Thorpe, Grant Brits and Liz Ellis are among a large host of famous names that attended Macquarie and have achieved numerous sporting successes on both a national and international scale.
But if sport is not your cup of tea, then there are a wide range of other student clubs that offer everything from cultural and religious groups to the arts and entertainment. One of the oldest clubs at Macquarie University is the DRAMAC group, the Macquarie University Dramatic Arts Society, which was first established in 1967. According to Nick Commins, the President of the DRAMAC group, the society has grown to average several hundred members a year and performs seven shows annually which consist of a variety of theatrical works including a student written production. Commins says, “It is a promising sign that these old societies exist today and still have a vibrant member base, which suggests they’re doing something right and … must provide a valuable service to students on campus.”

Famous entertainers from Macquarie University include the Wiggles, Chris Lilley of Summer Heights High fame and Dan Ilic from The Ronnie Johns Half Hour. The University has acknowledged such famous alumni for their achievements over the years. In 2009 The Wiggles were awarded with honorary doctorates by Macquarie University in recognition of their eighteen-year contribution to children’s education and entertainment. In an interview with Samantha Norris from the Macquarie University Faculty of Human Sciences, The Wiggles acknowledged the important role the University’s Institute of Early Childhood has had on shaping the success of The Wiggles. “It’s wonderful to be able to use what we’ve learned about education and apply it in a different way, by communicating to children with music,” Murray Cook, the Red Wiggle, said. Cook went on to say, ”On behalf of The Wiggles, it is an honour to receive this award and for Macquarie to acknowledge the important educational element that is the very foundation of what we do.”

[quote]The service was so slow. Every time I went there I had to wait at least 15 minutes. It was not the most smoothly run administration[/quote]

Macquarie University also provides numerous accommodation services to its students, all of which provide easy access to the University campus, transport and the Macquarie Shopping Centre. “It was only a 15 minute walk to classes. I loved that because it made university so much easier! … The best part for me was having my own room with my own bathroom,” says one undergraduate student who stayed at the Macquarie Village for a semester. However, some students have also complained about the lack of service at the main office. “The service was so slow. Every time I went there I had to wait at least 15 minutes. It was not the most smoothly run administration,” says another student. Despite this though, most students recommend the Village to others looking for accommodation as it provides great accessibility.

In the 15th century, the noted literary legend William Chaucer penned a prologue to his book Tales of Canterbury which featured the line, ‘And gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche’. Six centuries later, these last three words stand as the official motto of Macquarie University but also as a reminder of the numerous measures that have been undertaken to improve the learning experience for students. The years ahead can be expected to bring further development and change to Macquarie. It is as our Vice Chancellor, Professor Steven Schwartz, has said, “Macquarie University is on track to becoming one of Australia’s leading research universities. It’s our goal that by 2014 – our 50th anniversary – Macquarie will be among the top eight research universities in Australia and one of the top 200 in the world.”