Choosing a location

Ormond College occupies 10 acres of land adjoining the University of Melbourne. The land was allocated to the Presbyterian Church by the University in 1853 for the establishment of a residential college ‘of and within the University of Melbourne’, and under the auspices of the Church. However, it was not until 1877 that the Church, with Alexander Morrison Headmaster of Scotch College, convened a committee to plan for the establishment of the College.


A great benefactor

The group attracted the interest of Francis Ormond, a wealthy Western District farmer with a passionate belief in the importance of education, who wanted young men from pastoral backgrounds to be able to access the benefits of the University. He initially contributed £3,000. However his vision for the College grew as did his level of philanthropy and he is credited with eventually underwriting the entire project (including the later addition of the Dining Hall which was completed in 1893) at a cost of approximately £40,000, or $67M in today’s terms. His later testamentary dispositions increased the total of his benefactions to the College to nearly £100,000.


Grand plans

The architect was the renowned Joseph Reed, designer of many of Melbourne’s important public buildings, and the brief was to create a striking and elegant College that would be a lasting and significant landmark in Melbourne. It combined those elements of British academia (as exemplified through the architecture of Oxbridge), of Scottish baronial grandeur, and of the ecclesiastical tradition on which the College was based. The imposing Clock Tower, at over 50 metres, is visible from some distance while its melodious bell tone has served as the time piece for the University since the early days.

Ormond College was originally surrounded by cow paddocks. Over the years, and with input from visionary Masters and talented gardeners, the grounds were transformed into the extensive gardens with mature trees that provide the Ormond community today with a rare privacy and peace, so close to the busy main road. 

Francis Ormond’s interest in the College was not confined to the buildings. He saw it developing organically, with the ‘handsome and scholastic’ buildings, the endowments, and the scholarships and bursaries combining to attract men of the highest intellectual and academic calibre. A case in point was the appointment as first Master of John MacFarland, a brilliant mathematician from Ireland who went on to become the Chancellor of the University, and who was to encourage the tradition of endowments to the College through his own generous benefaction.


Humble beginnings

The College was formally opened by His Excellency the Governor, the Marquis of Normanby on 28 March 1881 with 20 students in residence. Further additions to the Main Building enabled the number of residents to grow to 100 by the end of the First World War. It was not until the 1960s however, under the Mastership of Davis McCaughey, who oversaw the construction of two new residential buildings on the site, and the acquisition of four houses in Parkville, that the Ormond community was able to accommodate the more than 350 students and tutors which it comprises today.


Forming the College ethos

From the outset the College practised a policy of open entry and encouragement of its members to aspire to the academic heights that would enable them to take their place in the outside world as leaders in their chosen fields. Conditions of admission were those of ‘good character’ and adequate scholarship and the emphasis, which still remains today, was on creating a community in which differences were recognised and accepted, and personal and intellectual growth celebrated. It was the first men’s college to open its doors to women when it became co-residential in 1973.

The College is committed to providing an outstanding residential and learning experience for members of the University of Melbourne. Ormond is committed to Community, Learning, Integrity, Diversity and Heritage as its core values.

The publication Ormond College: Centenary Essays (ed. S Macintyre, MUP, 1984) is a very readable and informative history of the College. It can be purchased from the College’s Reception Office:

T: +61 3 9344 1100 or E: enquiries@ormond.unimelb.edu.au

Masters of the College

  • John Henry MacFarland (1881-1914)
  • David Kennedy Picken (1915-1943)
  • Stanley Lewis Prescott (1946 – 1953)
  • Brinley Newton John (1954 – 1958)
  • John Davis McCaughey (1959 – 1979)
  • David Henry Parker (1980 – 1989)
  • Alan Gregory (1990 – 1993)
  • Hugh Norman Collins (1994 - 2008)
  • Rufus Edward Ries Black (2009 - )