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History

Swinburne began with a simple premise: to offer technical education to people in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. We’re now an internationally-recognised provider of quality education, an institution with a rich legacy of industry collaborations and a reputation for high-impact research.


The early years

George Swinburne arrived in Australia as a migrant in 1886 and quickly established himself as a businessman and civic leader. He was also a practical visionary. In 1907 he proposed the establishment a technical college in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. He had a clear mission in mind: to provide technical education to a sector of society that was otherwise denied further education. At the time he said: “I see no other method of giving equal opportunity than by increasing the facility of education." It was a commitment to universal education which continues to underpin everything we do. George Swinburne’s vision and passion saw the Eastern Suburbs Technical College established on the 8 July 1908. Eighty young men and boys enrolled in classes for the 1909 school year.  Subjects represented the interests of the time, including carpentry, plumbing and gas fitting. In 1913 the college changed its name to Swinburne Technical College to commemorate the man who had worked tirelessly for its inception.


From technical college to university

Reforms post-WWII saw Swinburne develop towards the institution we know today. The curriculum expanded to include mechanical and electrical engineering, chemistry, television and film, and computer programming. A Student Representative Council was formed in the 1950s, and in 1960 the first international transition course was established in response to the increasing numbers of overseas students. This course set a benchmark for other institutions. ‘Sandwich’ courses were also introduced, initially in the Civil Engineering degree. They combined academic study with industrial experience and were the precursor to Swinburne’s highly emulated Industry-Based Learning program, which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2013.

But it was an education revolution in the late 1980s which quickly propelled Swinburne towards university status. In response to a number of Federal Government reforms of the education system, Swinburne moved to position itself as an inter-sectoral university of technology with a high research profile.

Swinburne University of Technology was proclaimed a university on 1 July 1992. In 1998 Swinburne expanded its reach into Melbourne’s eastern suburbs by amalgamating with the Outer Eastern College of TAFE. In 2000 Swinburne expanded internationally, opening an additional campus at Sarawak, Malaysia.

As a result of further government policy changes in 2012, leading to intense competition between universities for students, Swinburne's enrolments grew rapidly as our reputation for high quality teaching was confirmed.

Confirming our reputation for innovation, 2012 also was the first full year of operation of Swinburne Online, which creates educational opportunities for students for whom campus study is not possible.

That same year Swinburne was confronted with new challenges arising from State Governments policy chanes, forcing vocational education providers to adopt new practices. Swinburne responded by consolidating and strengthening its vocational and higher education delivery at its Hawthorn, Croydon and Wantirna campuses.

In 2014 Swinburne's design courses return to Hawthorn in the new Advanced Manufacturing and Design Centre, creating new opportunities for collaboration between design and Swinburne's strengths in engineering, ICT, business and the social sciences.

In recent years, Swinburne has become one of the world's leading universities, ranking as one of the top 400 in the world, as assessed by the Academic Ranking of World Universities, and one of the top 100 in the world in physics.

We rate highly in student surveys for graduate satisfaction, teaching quality, staff qualifications and employment skills.


Swinburne in the 21st Century


What began as a local technical college in Hawthorn has grown to serve communities from not only the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, but from across Victoria, nationally through Swinburne Online, and internationally through our presence in Southeast Asia.

With a record of pioneering innovation, Swinburne is well positioned for the 21st Century. We have always been a forward thinking institution and that hasn't changed. The values on which we were established remain relevant today. George Swinburne's vision of education as a path to equal opportunity continues to help us meet the changing needs of society and the challenges of the future.