In 1908, the Honourable George and Ethel Swinburne founded Swinburne (then known as the Eastern Suburbs Technical College) with a simple premise in mind: to provide technical education to a sector of society otherwise denied further education. The first students enrolled in classes including woodwork, science and mathematics. In 1963, Swinburne led the way with one of the first industry-based learning programs and from the 1970s offered degrees in engineering, accounting, chemistry and arts. On 1 July 1992, by an Act of the Victorian Parliament, Swinburne gained university status. 

Throughout our history, we have demonstrated our ability to be innovative and responsive to change. We continue to focus on emerging technologies, industry engagement and flexible learning options. We ensure we adapt and evolve with the times and deliver relevant education for our students — today and tomorrow.

1908

Year founded

1992

Gained university status

7

Teaching locations worldwide

George and Ethel Swinburne

Our founders, George and Ethel Swinburne, were people of strong ideals. They arrived in Australia as migrants in 1886 and George quickly established himself as a businessman and civic leader. In 1908, they established the Eastern Suburbs Technical College in Hawthorn, which later became Swinburne Technical College. Students studied a range of subjects that represented the interests of the time, such as carpentry, plumbing and gas fitting.

  • "I see no other method of giving equal opportunity than by increasing the facility of education."

    George Swinburne , Founder of Swinburne University of Technology

Our evolution

The curriculum expanded after the Second World War to include mechanical and electrical engineering, later adding chemistry, film and television, and computer programming also. The first international transition course began in 1960 to cater for the arrival of increasing numbers of overseas students. Our highly regarded Industry-Based Learning program started in 1963, combining academic study and industrial experience. In response to Federal Government reforms in the 1980s, Swinburne became an inter-sectoral university of technology, providing TAFE education and higher learning. We gained university status on 1 July 1992 and began operating from Wantirna campus and Croydon campus in 1998.

  • Students and their cars in front of the Art School, 1962.
    Students and their cars in front of the Art School, 1962.
  • Students in a drawing class in the early 1930s.
    Students in a drawing class in the early 1930s.
  • Engineering students at a ball in the early 1920s.
    Engineering students at a ball in the early 1920s.
  • 'The Founders' Vision' by L. Scott Pendebury. Used on the Swinburne Christmas card in the early 1960s.
    'The Founders' Vision' by L. Scott Pendebury.

Since 2000, Swinburne has undergone a process of rapid change and development. Continuing to focus on innovation, industry engagement and high-quality, personalised teaching has secured us a position in the top 400 universities in the world. 

  • Rankings and ratings

    Our standing in prestigious world academic rankings reflects our commitment to high-quality teaching, research and graduate outcomes.

Designing the future

Our commitment to increasing access to tertiary education builds on George and Ethel Swinburne’s original vision of equal opportunity education. We established Swinburne Online to help us engage with a more diverse range of students. In 2000, the introduction of our Malaysia campus has enhanced our student base across South East Asia. 

The completion of the Hawthorn campus’ state-of-the-art Advanced Manufacturing and Design Centre in 2014 also means new opportunities. It fosters collaboration between design and Swinburne's existing strengths in engineering, ICT, business and the social sciences.

Year
Event
1908
Eastern Suburbs Technical College founded 
1909
Classes began at Eastern Suburbs Technical College
1911
Commenced offering vocational education to women  
1913
Renamed Swinburne Technical College
1934
McPherson Engineering School building completed and opened 
1945
Curriculum expanded to include science streams
1949
Swinburne Chemistry School opened 
1956
Students' Representative Council established
1960
Entered international education market with first courses catering to overseas students  
1963
Commenced Industry-Based Learning program, one of the first in Australia
1966
Council approved the first Swinburne-specific forms of academic dress 
1968
Purchase of Swinburne's first computer
1975
Completion and opening of the Business and Arts Building 
1992
Gained university status
1998
Commenced operating from campuses at Croydon and Wantirna 
1999
Established the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA), Prahran campus
2000
Opened campus in Sarawak, Malaysia 
2006
Created Swinburne College as pathway provider for international students
2010
Named as one of the world’s top 500 universities by Academic Ranking of World Universities 
2011
Opened $140 million Advanced Technologies Centre, Hawthorn campus
2012
Launched Swinburne Online, a new provider of online degrees as joint venture with Seek Limited 
2012
Named as one of the world’s top 400 universities by Academic Ranking of World Universities
2014
Opened $100 million Advanced Manufacturing and Design Centre, Hawthorn campus 
2015
Named as one of the world’s top 100 universities for Physics by the Academic Ranking of World Universities
2015
Swinburne Law School established. 
2016
Swinburne partnered with the Richmond Football Club to establish the Richmond Institute of Sports Leadership
2017
Celebrated 25 years of university education 
2017
Named as one of the world’s top 350 universities by Academic Ranking of World Universities
2017
Relaunch of the Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship  
2017
First university in Australia to achieve ‘Elevate status’ for our second Reconciliation Action Plan
2018
Launch of the Swinburne Innovation Precinct 
2018
Opening of MindSphere Centre in partnership with Siemens
2019
Our business programs achieved accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International. 
2019
Swinburne launches in Sydney, offering a suite of postgraduate programs in Parramatta, New South Wales
2019
Swinburne becomes Australia’s first Adobe Creative Campus

Swinburne coat of arms

A link between Swinburne's founders and their family endures through the modified version of his family's coat of arms. The coat of arms offers an intriguing insight into the foundation, values and motto of the university:

  • The arms — the colours of red and white and the cinquefoils on the shield commemorate the arms of the Swinburne family, and the four mullets in the cross symbolise the Southern Cross.
  • The crest — the demi-boar and the cinquefoil perpetuate the Swinburne connection, as the book is symbolic of learning.
  • The motto — the College of Arms’ translation of the motto is 'achievement through learning'.
     
  •  The motto: The College of Arms’ translation of the motto is 'Achievement through learning'.
    The motto: The College of Arms’ translation of the motto is 'Achievement through learning'.
  • The crest: the demi-boar and the cinquefoil perpetuate the Swinburne connection; the book is symbolic of learning.
    The crest: the demi-boar and the cinquefoil perpetuate the Swinburne connection; the book is symbolic of learning.
  • The arms: the basic colours of red and white, and the cinquefoils on the shield commemorate the arms of the Swinburne family. The four mullets in the cross symbolise the Southern Cross.
    The arms: the basic colours of red and white, and the cinquefoils on the shield commemorate the arms of the Swinburne family. The four mullets in the cross symbolise the Southern Cross.

Explore more of our history

The Swinburne History Collection contains over 8,000 items featuring the people, places and events that are significant to Swinburne University. This includes photographs, videos, audio, speeches, maps and building plans.

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