Names of Universities

Just a quick follow-up data post to Arnold Zwicky’s Language Log post about university names.

Australian Universities have a couple of patterns.

Some universities have variable placement of the name. So for example Melbourne University is also known as the University of Melbourne. The official name is the second one. That corresponds to the pattern that Arnold identified for universities such as Oxford and Cambridge. I might add that there is a very common are the abbreviation that one would never find with Oxford and Cambridge — that is, to abbreviated University to Uni. “I go to Melbourne Uni” is absolutely fine, but I cannot imagine a context where anyone would say “I go to Oxford Uni”, even an Australian who otherwise has fully productive clipping of this word.

Other universities named after places have this pattern is well in Australia. So, it’s the University of Sydney/Sydney University (note, e-mail abbreviations for these two universities are unimelb and usyd respectively). There is one exception though: the University of Canberra is never Canberra University (often abbreviated to UCan).

Universities whose names are based on states rather than cities do not show this pattern – they are always prepositional. So it’s the University of New South Wales, University of Queensland, University of South Australia, University of Western Australia, and never Western Australian University, or New South Wales University. These universities are usually abbreviated to their initials, so we have UNSW, UQ and UWA.

Finally, most of the rest of the 36 or so universities in Australia are either named after people, or have some other descriptive name. Under this category are Charles Darwin University, Charles Sturt University, Edith Cowan University, and James Cook University. Under the second category are the Australian National University and Southern Cross University. Before it became Charles Darwin* University, it was Northern Territory University, and thus an exception to the other universities named after states/territories in that it’s attributive rather than prepositional.

*Me voice recognition software got the name right the first time, but the second time heard “Charles Stalin University”.


14 responses to “Names of Universities

  1. > the Australian National University
    Actually The Australian National University (I was copy-edited on this a few years ago!).
    Maybe some of the others have a thing about their article, officially at least.

  2. I stand corrected, but I have no respect for my alma mater since they changed their mtto from a perfectly reasonable Latin verse (from Lucretius) to a squishy “first(,) to learn the nature of things”

  3. Well you’ll pleased to know that our alma mater still has (bears?) ‘The Arms of the University granted in 1954’ along with this description:

    “The motto `Naturam Primum Cognoscere Rerum’ is from the
    poem De Rerum Natura (III, 1072) by Lucretius, Roman poet,
    philosopher and scientist. It is translated by Cyril Bailey (1946)
    `first to learn the nature of things’; an alternative, following
    Rolfe Humphries 1968 translation of De Rerum Natura, would
    be `above all to find out the way things are’.”

    — p.4 of 2005 Undergraduate Handbook

    The arms (with Latin motto in admittedly tiny print) are incorporated in the vigorously promoted ANU logo.

  4. i think okay to say ‘queensland uni’ for UQ, though probly only in pretty casual speech.

  5. David, I thought they abolished the Latin version in about 1997 (about the time they tried to clse classics, and when they did the School of Music renovations and put the crest and English motto on that wall you see as you walk down University Ave from the bus stop.

    Wäwa, it sounds a bit funny to me but I googled it and got 15,900 hits, as opposed to 338 for Western Australia uni (and all of them that I looked at were citations of the form Western Australia: uni-versity…. That’s an interesting exception.

  6. Yo, love the Charles Stalin idea. It works. A culture of grandiose-personal-fantasies meets gosh-where-did-that-idea-come-from meets unresourced-five-year-plans meets will-I-be-next …

    Yes. It all makes sense now. Here was me thinking it was just provincial academia.

  7. Your reference to VR software and unviersity names got to me. My experience is here:

  8. I am intending to enter one of the university in Australia to do nursing course there .so please give me one of the names of the universities in Australia

  9. If I may quibble on a couple of points here: I’m at UQ which is Queensland Uni in casual speech, and University of Queensland in officialese (although both show up as destinations on the City Council transport pages). I’ve also been a student at the University of Canberra, shortened to UC more often than UCan when I was there, and also frequently referred to as Canberra Uni – although not, so the legend goes, when the netball team are around.

  10. I didn’t know the University of Canberra had a netball team :) That’s interesting – when were you there? When I was at ANU (roughly 95-98) it was only ever UCan.

  11. Interesting indeed, because I was there 96-97, and I only ever heard it referred to as UCan by ANU students! ;-)

  12. There must have been a dialect boundary running along Barry Drive …

  13. When I was at ANU in the 90s, we simply referred to UC derisively as “the teacher college” because, well, that’s all it will ever be – a jumped up TAFE.

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