Clever! Sydney University dumbs down its image

A Latin motto is dignified and a mark of interest in scholarship but U. Syd would rather be "modern". They claim to be aiming at making themselves stand out but in fact have just joined the common herd. It is a long time since I graduated from U. Syd but if I were a recent graduate I might well feel that my degree had been devalued -- that I had graduated from an ordinary university rather than a distinguished one. But I guess that the Left who dominate academe these days despise all traditions -- even a tradition of high scholarship. Perhaps they suspect -- probably rightly -- that they are not up to the standard of their predecessors

After 150 years the University of Sydney has abandoned its status quo, dropping the Latin motto from its redesigned coat of arms and logo. Students and scholars have turned to the new technology of social networking to launch a campaign calling for the reinstatement of the Latin inscription.

The university spent almost $750,000 on the research and redesign that axed the motto: "sidere mens eadem mutato" - a reference to Sydney following the traditions of universities in the northern hemisphere. A further $500,000 was spent replacing marketing material such as banners and street signage, the university said.

The motto - most commonly translated as "the constellation is changed, the disposition is the same" - has been part of the university's coat of arms since 1857. As a first-time astronaut, Greg Chamitoff, a former university staff member, even took a patch of the crest into space on the shuttle Discovery in 2008.

Marian Theobald, the university's external relations executive director, said market research, overseen by the Chicago-based firm Lipman Hearne, had found the university relied too heavily on its sandstone heritage and something "bolder, more energetic and more modern" was needed. "The opinion of thousands of students, academics, alumni, donors and business groups was canvassed, and we discovered the university was struggling to differentiate itself from other elite Australian institutions, in the domestic and international market place," she said. "We needed to engage better with the outside world. The removal of the Latin motto during the joint design work by Lipman Hearne and the Australian firm Moon Design was purely practical. It's hard to reproduce and read online. It was impossible to read when reduced in size. "The motto will still be used by the university and will be maintained for more formal purposes, such as on testamurs."

Ms Theobald said suggestions that between $5 million and $13 million had been spent on the branding project were ridiculous. Costs had been kept to a minimum by allowing supplies of old stationery stock, publications and merchandise to exhaust naturally.

Emily Matters, president of the Classical Language Teachers Association, said the removal was hugely disappointing. "I think this goes against everything what universities stand for where one generation hands over its culture to the next," she said.

Anthony Alexander, president of the Classical Association of NSW, who also teaches Greek and Latin at the University of Sydney, said the deletion was far from a dumbing down of the university or a denigration of Latin. "What matters is what we teach, what we actually do in the classrooms," he said. "I don't think it compromises Latin, which is stronger than ever."

Elly Howse, president of the University of Sydney Students' Representative Council, said rebranding or a new logo was a failed approach at modernising the university's image. "The money should have been spent on teaching and learning facilities," she said.

A Facebook page titled "Bring back the old USYD crest" calls for reinstatement of the Latin motto, saying the new design was better suited to a primary school.

The University of NSW, meanwhile, said it had no intention of removing its Latin motto, "manu et mente" (with hand and mind) from its coat of arms.

The university adopted its new logo and the styling of its coat of arms with a soft launch in mid-January. The coat of arms mantling and the shape of the escutcheon (shield) have changed and the motto scroll is removed. The mane and fur of the lion have been changed, along with the number of lines in the open book and the coloration.


Posted by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see TONGUE-TIED. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here


  1. As a proud graduate of the University of Sydney, I am appalled at the dropping both of the university's Latin motto and the cahnge of the logo. Not only was the logo beautiful, the motto showed that the university intended to carry on the academic traditions of Oxbridge. Changing the logo of Australia's oldest university is akin to changing our flag to make the university more 'relevant'. John Cochrane (MA Hons 1st class)

  2. AEnone McRae-Clift, Melbourne.January 9, 2012 at 5:05 PM

    Why do people insist on change for change's sake? Upon the advice of a firm based in the USA and in a headlong rush to "modernise" something that has served admirably for the last 153 years, the Sydney University now has a logo that looks like a cartoon representation of its former self.
    As a genealogist of 55 years standing and an keen student of Heraldry, I would like to know whether the proper permission was sought from the Lord Lyon before changes were made to the Coat of Arms.
    Granting of a Coat of Arms is a serious and legal event and one not to be lightly tampered with. It carries heavy penalties if abused!!!

  3. Correction: Sorry, I apologise for my slip in the previous post. I meant to say that I hoped the proper permission was sought from the College of Arms before changes were made! The Lord Lyon pertains only to Scottish heraldry - my lapse is no doubt due to the fact that I work mostly in the Scottish areas of my genealogical research and my brain was apparently locked in to that.


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