Part I: Beginnings, 1949 - 1967

When the Navy and the Army decided in the mid-1960s to have its junior officers educated to degree standard to promote greater professionalism, the Vice-Chancellor of UNSW, Professor Sir Philip Baxter, offered to assist. An agreement signed in July 1967 provided for the delivery of UNSW undergraduate courses at the RAN College (RANC), Jervis Bay and the creation of the Faculty of Military Studies at the Royal Military College (RMC), Duntroon. The RAAF Academy at Point Cook had earlier negotiated an affiliation with nearby Melbourne University.

The relationship between UNSW and Defence was initially intended to be short-term. The Army hoped that Duntroon would be an autonomous degree-granting institution within ten years. Opposition to these arrangements within UNSW reflected anti-Vietnam war sentiment and concern that the spirit of intellectual inquiry so important to tertiary education could not co-exist with the ethos of military discipline and compliance. The Australian National University (ANU) had earlier declared that it was not interested in hosting uniformed students or delivering an undergraduate education at the Service colleges for much the same reason. The UNSW leadership thought otherwise.

Explaining the need for officers to have university degrees, the Minister for the Army, Malcolm Fraser, remarked on 1 April 1966:

Today’s senior commander in war must be not only a military tactician but must also be prepared, and have the intellectual capacity, to deal on equal terms with allied commanders, diplomats, politicians as well as leaders of commerce and industry. The impact of scientific advances in recent years has brought to the Services an acute awareness of the need for higher intellectual attainment so that their members may deal with sophisticated and complex equipment and techniques now available and being developed.

Malcolm Fraser (centre), Professor Rupert Myers Vice-Chancellor of UNSW, (right).