About JCU History

History of JCU

Born of the traditional model of excellence in teaching and research, James Cook University has become a modern and dynamic university of truly global standing.

Our graduates hold top-level positions around Australia and the world, and our research has earned us a world class reputation.

JCU is Queensland’s second oldest university. We offered our first courses in Townsville in 1961 as an annex of the University of Queensland. Since then we have become a dynamic, multi-campus university with a total of 17,500 students. Our main campuses are located in Townsville and Cairns, and we have international campuses in Singapore and Brisbane.

After a decade under the stewardship of the University of Queensland, JCU became a university in its own right on 20 April 1970. The proclamation was signed by Queen Elizabeth II at a special ceremony in Townsville, which took place 200 years, to the day, after the University’s namesake, explorer Captain James Cook, first sighted Australia. Read a brief history of JCU spanning 1957 to 2008.

James Cook (1728-1779)

"I had the ambition to not only go farther than man had gone before, but to go as far as it was possible to go."

James Cook was a remarkable navigator and explorer, whose legacy is still with us. His three voyages across the Pacific had profound influence on many areas of human endeavour: astronomy, marine surveying, cartography, geography, natural history and anthropology.

Cook was the first to map the coastline of eastern Australia, New Zealand and many islands of the Pacific. He sailed further south than any explorer before him. Amongst Cook’s great achievements was his ability to navigate with a chronometer to calculate longitude. This transformed mapping. He was also a remarkably humane commander, concerned for the health of his crews and the prospects of the indigenous peoples he encountered.

Born in Marton in Yorkshire, the son of a farmer, James Cook was apprenticed as a teenager to a seafaring family, before volunteering for the Royal Navy. In a time when sons of the working class were rarely considered for promotion, Cook’s talents spoke for themselves and he rose through the ranks to command three great voyages; become an accomplished astronomer, navigator and surveyor; and the world’s foremost explorer of his age.

Connection with our region

On his first Pacific voyage and under royal orders, the then Lieutenant James Cook, aboard HM Bark Endeavour, observed and recorded the transit of Venus at Tahiti then sailed on and charted the coast of New Zealand, the east coast of Australia and part of the southern coast of New Guinea.

During this voyage the young officer set foot on Australian shores only twice; the first at a landing point he would name Botany Bay; the second two months later when the Endeavour grounded on a reef off the north east coast of the country. The ship was successfully beached in sheltered waters on a river mouth while it underwent repairs. This location was 260 kilometres north of Cairns, and the settlement there became Cooktown. Many coastal features in our region were named by Cook, including Green Island, Cape Tribulation, Dunk Island and Magnetic Island, to name just a few.

Continuing in his footsteps, James Cook University aims to encourage and support world-class research and exploration to provide the knowledge and understanding needed to meet the challenges facing northern Australia and the tropics worldwide.

James Cook University is about people and place. As we enter our fourth decade we continue to offer our students a comprehensive range of courses and opportunities. We will adopt new methods, new approaches and new technologies to help our students develop the skills, abilities, knowledge and intellectual curiosity they need to succeed and make a difference, just as Captain James Cook did 200 years ago.

JCU history timeline 1957 to 2008

 

1957

Professor J.D Story, Vice Chancellor of the University of Queensland proposes a regional university college be established.

11 October

1958

University of Queensland Senate recommends a regional university be established.

12 October

1958

The Hon Jack Pizzey, Queensland Minister for Education, announces in Cairns that the Queensland government will open a University College in Townsville.

February

1960

The North Queensland University Association was formed to raise £50,000 to establish two residential hostels, scholarships and to provide library facilities.  Donations came from Cairns, Mackay, Cardwell, Innisfail, Charters Towers, Bowen and from a number of local firms and clubs in North Queensland.

19 May

1960

State Cabinet announces that a University College will be established at Townsville under the auspices of the University of Queensland

21 May

1960

Foundation stone laid at Pimlico site by Hon JCA Pizzey, Minister for Education.  This is now the Barrier Reef Institute of TAFE Pimlico campus.

August

1960

The Queensland government negotiated with the Federal government for the Stuart Migrant Centre to be used as a hostel for 35 male students. ‘Duncragan’ on Melton Hill was made available by the state government for 20 female students.

1 January

1961

Dr Frank Olsen commences as Warden of the University College of Townsville.

27 February

1961

University College of Townsville officially opened by Premier of Queensland, Hon GFR Nicklin.  There were 105 students.

June

1961

Prime Minister, Rt Hon. R.G. Menzies visits the Pimlico campus.

21 June

1962

Townsville City Council decided to offer the state government by way of gift through the University of Queensland, an area of approximately 400 acres of land on the southern side of the Ross River to be used exclusively for University purposes. Council also recommended that CSIRO by way of gift be offered approximately 50 acres of land owned by the Council in the same way.

March

1966

Townsville City Council offers the state government a gift of 50 acres as a site for Teachers Training College.  Council’s preference was for this to be in close proximity to University and CSIRO to foster collaboration.

8 December

1962

Dr Ken Back appointed Warden.

 

1965

CSIRO research station opens near the proposed site of the Douglas Campus.

29 July

1966

Hon. Harold E Holt, Prime Minister of Australia laid the foundation stone of Uni Halls

 

1967

First buildings occupied at Douglas Campus.

February

1969

Townsville Teacher’s College commences operation.

10 December

1969

Qld Parliament passes James Cook University of North Queensland Bill 1970.

20 April

1970

James Cook University of North Queensland proclaimed by Queen Elizabeth II at the Douglas Campus, Townsville.

Tom Priestley elected Chairman of University Council.

Dr Ken Back appointed Vice-Chancellor.

15 April

1971

Tom Priestley retires.

16 April

1971

Sir George Fisher elected Chancellor.

24 December

1971

Cyclone Althea hits Townsville.

 

1972

Research Vessel  RV James Kirby launched.

13 June

1973

AIMS established at Cape Ferguson.

15 April

1974

Sir George Fisher retires.

2 May

1974

Sir George Kneipp elected Chancellor.

8-13 August

1977

JCU holds first Open Week.

 

1978

Orpheus Island Marine Research Station established.

 

1978

Fletcherview purchased as Tropical Veterinary Science Field Station.

 

1980

Pimlico campus vacated.

 

1982

JCU amalgamates with Townsville College of Advanced Education (Townsville Teachers College).

 

1982

Sir George Fisher Centre for Tropical Marine Studies established.

31 January

1986

Professor Ken Back resigns as Vice-Chancellor.

18 July

1986

Professor Ray Golding appointed Vice-Chancellor.

 

1987

Cairns Campus opens.

 

1987

Establishment of JCU's Tropical Health Surveillance Unit

 

1988

Name of Tropical Health Surveillance Unit changed to the Anton Breinl Centre for Tropical Health and Medicine

 

1990

Institute of Advanced Education disbanded.  School of Education formed within James Cook University. Institute’s buildings become Western Campus.

 

1992

Mackay Campus opened.

15 February

1993

Sir George Kneipp dies.

4 March

1993

John Williams appointed Chancellor.

April

1993

Sir George Kneipp Auditorium opens.

 

1995

Cairns Campus relocates to current Smithfield site.

25 July

1996

Professor Ray Golding retires as Vice-Chancellor.

25 July

1996

Dr Martyn Forrest appointed Vice-Chancellor.

14 January

1997

Dr Martyn Forrest resigns as Vice-Chancellor.

4 April

1997

Professor Ken McKinnon appointed Interim Vice-Chancellor

15 December

1997

Professor Bernard Moulden appointed Vice-Chancellor.

December

1997

Parliament passes James Cook University Act 1997.

 

1998

Name changed to James Cook University.

 

1998

Funding announced for Medical School.

7 March

1999

John Williams retires as Chancellor.

23 March

1999

Lt-Gen John Grey AC appointed Chancellor.

 

2000

James Cook University Medical School opened.

 

2003

Thursday Island campus established.

 

2003

JCU commences operations in Singapore.

August

2003

JCU named in the top 500 Universities in the World according to the Shanghai Jiao Tong world ranking.

March

2006

JCU Brisbane campus opened.

17 December

2006

Professor Bernard Moulden resigns as Vice-Chancellor.

15 January

2007

Professor Sandra Harding commences as Vice-Chancellor & President.

21 May

2008

JCU launches its Reconciliation Statement and names the library the “Eddie Koiki Mabo Library”.

September

2008

JCU Singapore relocates to Upper Thompson Road site.