James Cook University
James Cook University Armorial Ensigns.png
Coat of Arms of James Cook University
Former names
University College of Townsville (1961-70), James Cook University of North Queensland (1970-98)
MottoCrescente Luce
Motto in English
Light ever increasing
ChancellorBill Tweddell
Vice-ChancellorSimon Biggs
Undergraduates13,098 (2021)
Postgraduates5,193 (2021)
Location, ,


19°19′40″S 146°45′30″E / 19.32778°S 146.75833°E / -19.32778; 146.75833Coordinates: 19°19′40″S 146°45′30″E / 19.32778°S 146.75833°E / -19.32778; 146.75833
CampusSuburban and regional
Logotype of James Cook University.svg

James Cook University (JCU) is a public university in North Queensland, Australia. The second oldest university in Queensland, JCU is a teaching and research institution. The university's main campuses are located in the tropical cities of Cairns and Townsville, and one in the city state of Singapore. JCU also has study centres in Mount Isa, Mackay, Thursday Island[2] and Rockhampton.[3] A Brisbane campus, operated by Russo Higher Education, delivers undergraduate and postgraduate courses to international and domestic students. The university's main fields of research include environmental sciences, biological sciences, mathematical sciences, earth sciences, agricultural and veterinary sciences, technology and medical and health sciences.[4]


James Cook University, Cairns
James Cook University, Cairns

In 1957, Professor John Douglas Story, vice chancellor of the University of Queensland, proposed a regional university college be established to cater to the people of North Queensland. At that time, the only higher education providers were located in the state capital, Brisbane. On 27 February 1961, the University College of Townsville was opened.

After being proclaimed as an Act of Queensland Parliament, the University College of Townsville became James Cook University of North Queensland. The official opening of the university was conducted by Queen Elizabeth II on 20 April 1970.[5]

In 1970 Queen Elizabeth II, The Duke of Edinburgh and Her Royal Highness Princess Anne toured Australia including Queensland. The Queensland tour began on Sunday 12 April when the royal yacht Britannia entered Moreton Bay at Caloundra, sailing into Newstead Wharf. After visiting Brisbane, Longreach and Mount Isa the Royal Family travelled to Mackay. The royal party had a leisurely cruise to Townsville, taking four days to arrive after their departure from Mackay. On the morning of April 20, they were met by The Deputy Mayor of Townsville Mr. T. Aikens, M.L.A. and Mrs Aikens and Mr W.W. Shepherd, Chairman of the Townsville Harbour Board and Mrs Shepherd. The day’s program began with a cavalcade of progress at the Townsville sports reserve. The grounds were filled with crowds and children waving their Australian flag. It was a spectacle for the royal visitors and the local community who came out on the day.

Following lunch on board Britannia, the royal family were driven to the site of Queensland’s newest university, the James Cook University, Townsville campus. In the presence of many dignitaries, HRH Queen Elizabeth II formally granted autonomy to North Queensland’s new educational institution. In 2020, James Cook University celebrated its 50th anniversary with a Treasures exhibition, showcasing 50 collection items from Special Collections, Eddie Koiku Mabo Library, James Cook University, Townsville.

The rare collection item – ‘James Cook University Development: Pimlico to the First Chancellor archival footage, 1960 – 1970’ was one of the Treasures selected for the anniversary year. The 12min film preserved on NQHeritage, the University Library’s Special Collections online repository, shows footage of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II arriving at the official ceremony and being introduced to the official party.[6] Their Royal Highnesses first appear in the film at 6:06 minutes.[7]

The namesake is British sea captain James Cook, who is best known for being the first European to explore the eastern coast of Australia. A year after JCU's proclamation, Cyclone Althea struck the Townsville region. This, together with the destruction caused by Cyclone Tracy in Darwin 1974, prompted the establishment of a cyclone research facility.[5][8] The Cyclone Testing Station started out as a small project of Professor Hugh Trollope and began its operations on 1 November 1977 as James Cook Cyclone Structural Testing Station.[8] Its name was later changed to The Cyclone Testing Station in 2002.[9] The Cyclone Testing Station operates as a self funded unit of the College of Science, Technology and Engineering.

On 1 January 1982, JCU amalgamated with The Townsville College of Advanced Education located adjacent to the main campus in Douglas.[10] The university established a campus in Cairns in 1987 which moved to its current location in the suburb of Smithfield in 1995. On 1 January 1991, the School of Art and Design of the Townsville College of TAFE was transferred to JCU.[11] The current name of James Cook University became official on 1 January 1998.[12] In 2003 the university opened an international campus in Singapore. The university further expanded its presence by establishing another campus in Brisbane, Queensland in 2006.

JCU Singapore moved campuses in February 2015.[13] The Hon. Tony Abbott MP, Prime Minister of Australia officially opened the new JCU Singapore campus at 149 Sims Drive on 28 June 2015.[14] In 2015, JCU opened the JCU Townsville City campus.[15] In 2017, JCU opened the JCU Cairns, Bada-jali campus in Cairns CBD.[16]

JCU celebrated its 50th anniversary on 20 April 2020. To honour Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ continuing contribution to the university, JCU gave Indigenous names to a number of its locations:

Indigenous language names will also be announced for JCU's Mackay and Thursday Island campuses.

In the early hours of 4 April 2019, a large fire broke out in the A Wing of University Hall requiring the evacuation of over 200 students.[20] There were no serious injuries, although several students were treated for smoke inhalation.[21] Immediately following the fire, the university rushed to find emergency housing for the residents affected. The renovation of the closed Clark Wing at St. Mark's College and construction of the new 'The Village' housing precinct began, and provided replacement housing for all residents from the A and B Wings of University Hall.[22]

Coat of Arms

As a corporate body, James Cook University bears arms comprising four main elements – shield, crest (Captain James Cook's ship, HMS Endeavour, in full sail), supporters (a pair of brolgas with open wings), and motto.

The university motto is Cresente Luce, which means light ever increasing. This motto was first proposed by Professor Frederick Walter Robinson (Doc Robbie), professor of English at the University of Queensland, in 1962 for the then University College of Townsville. The university college was established as a college of the University of Queensland. Adopted in 1963, the motto remained unchanged after James Cook University of North Queensland was established and incorporated in April 1970, and later became James Cook University.

Campuses and other facilities

James Cook University operates three main campuses, located in the tropical cities of Cairns and Townsville in Australia, and the international city of Singapore. JCU's Brisbane campus offers courses for international and domestic students. The university also operates study centres in Mackay, Mount Isa, Thursday Island and Rockhampton. These study centres provide programs and support for students living in rural and remote areas.

JCU Cairns, Nguma-bada Campus, Smithfield

JCU's Cairns, Nguma-bada campus is located 15 kilometres north of the Cairns central business district, in the suburb of Smithfield. JCU moved to this location from its original inner-city site in 1995. About 3,000 students study at JCU Cairns, Nguma-bada campus, Smithfield, including 335 international students. Located on the campus grounds are the Australian Tropical Herbarium, JCU Dental and The Cairns Institute.[23][24] [25]

The JCU Ideas Lab was completed in July, 2020.[26] The $30M eco-friendly building brings together students, staff and community entrepreneurs to progress Internet of Things Engineering and data science.

A second campus, JCU Cairns, Bada-jali campus, is located in Cairns' CBD. The campus delivers a diverse range of progressive facilities and services for the university.

JCU Townsville, Bebegu Yumba Campus, Douglas

JCU's Townsville, Bebegu Yumba campus is the university's largest campus and is located on 386 hectares in the suburb of Douglas, near the army base and the lee of Mount Stuart. Originally located in the suburb of Pimlico, the university moved to its current site in 1967. Over 10,000 students study at the JCU Townsville, Bebegu Yumba campus, including over 1,300 international students. Adjacent to the university is the Townsville Hospital.

The Discovery Rise[27] project was announced in September 2007.[28] The $1 billion project, aimed at redeveloping the university's Townsville campus, was completed in 2015.[29][30] The Eddie Koiki Mabo Library (built in 1968 and extended in 1990) has received the 25 Year Architecture Award presented by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects – Queensland Chapter.[31] It also has been recognised as one of Australia's ten most iconic buildings alongside structures as the Sydney Opera House and the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.[32][33]

In 2015, the JCU Townsville City campus was opened in Townsville's CBD on Flinders Street. The campus delivers a diverse range of progressive facilities and services for the university, business and community organisations.

Construction of the Technology Innovation Complex (TIC) began in March 2021. The 94m, 9,400sqm facility "will be the centrepiece of an innovation hub in which undergraduate and post-graduate engineering and IT students, industry partners and researchers will converge and collaborate".[34]

TropiQ, Townsville's Tropical Intelligence and Health Precinct, is “a community dedicated to helping the world access, understand and benefit from breakthroughs and solutions in health and tropical science".[35] Located on the Bebegu Yumba campus at JCU Townsville, it was developed in partnership between JCU, Townsville Hospital and Health Service and Townsville City Council.[36]

Singapore International Campus

Main article: James Cook University Singapore

James Cook University's Singapore campus (JCUS) was opened in 2003. In January 2015, James Cook University Singapore relocated to a new campus at 149 Sims Drive, ceasing operations at its previous campus on Upper Thomson Road, where it had been operating since July 2008.[37] In 2020 there were 3644 students studying with JCU Singapore. Courses offered include business, education, information technology, psychology, environmental science, and tourism and hospitality, to international and domestic students. All degrees awarded are accredited by JCU Australia.[38] Unlike its parent institution in Australia, James Cook University Singapore is classified as a private institution under the Ministry of Education's Private Education Act and is accredited by both EduTrust and the Council for Private Education. JCUS was awarded two consecutive "Edutrust Star" ratings by EduTrust in 2015 and 2019, the first private school to attain this benchmark.[39][40]

Other facilities: Brisbane, Mackay, Mount Isa, Thursday Island, Rockhampton

JCU Brisbane, operated by Russo Higher Education, delivers undergraduate and postgraduate courses in accounting, business, education, hospitality and tourism and information technology to international and domestic students.

JCU's Mackay Education and Research Centre (MERC) is a study centre located at the Mackay Base Hospital. It offers the Bachelor of Nursing Science (Pre-Registration) and provides facilities for medical and dental placements.

JCU's Mount Isa, Murtupuni campus provides training, development and support of the rural and remote health workforce and the management of key health issues in rural and remote settings. The centre offers the Bachelor of Nursing Science with an emphasis on rural, remote and Indigenous health care.

JCU Rockhampton is located in a modern high rise building in the city. Postgraduate students can access the facilities as part of JCU's GP Training Program. The JCU GP Training Program "provides clinicians the opportunity to expand their scope of practice through working in private clinics and in hospitals where they will gain experience treating a range of conditions in low-resource settings".[41]

There is also a study centre located in the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) building on Thursday Island, providing teaching and learning facilities for nursing, education and diploma of higher education students in the Torres Strait region, including the northern tip of Australia. The Thursday Island study centre opened in 2003.


In 2021, JCU's student population was at 17,001, which includes 4,289 International students.

In 2001 the university took in its first medical students in its newly formed School of Medicine. An undergraduate veterinary degree was added to the university for the first time in 2006 and in 2009 the Bachelor of Dental Surgery commenced. Today the university offers undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in science, including marine biology and environmental science; arts, humanities and social work; business, law and governance; creative media; education; engineering and planning; healthcare, rehabilitation and psychology; medicine, dentistry and pharmacy; public health; and veterinary science. Many courses are available online.

In 2007 James Cook University became a member of Innovative Research Universities Australia (now called Innovative Research Universities). Innovative Research Universities (IRU) is a network of seven comprehensive universities committed to conducting research of national and international standing.

The library at Douglas Campus
The library at Douglas Campus
University Drive at Douglas Campus
University Drive at Douglas Campus


University rankings
James Cook University
QS World[42]462
THE World[43]201-250
ARWU World[44]201-300
US News World[45]287=
Australian rankings
QS National[42]25
THE National[46]13=
ARWU National[47]16-22
US News National[48]19
ERA National[49]22

In 2015, JCU Singapore earned the distinction of being the first private education institution to attain the EduTrust Star quality mark from the Singapore Government.

In 2022, JCU was ranked within the top 300 academic universities worldwide by the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings. JCU has consistently ranked in the top 400 since 2010, as measured by the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU).[50] In 2017, JCU was ranked No. 1 in the world for Marine & Freshwater Biology and No. 2 in the world for Biodiversity Conservation by the Centre for World University Rankings (CWUR).

In 2020, JCU was ranked 29th of the world's universities aged 50 years or younger in the Times Higher Education (THE) Best Young Universities in the World.[51]

JCU was awarded five stars for full-time employment, undergraduate and postgraduate starting salary, learner engagement and social equity by the 2022 Good Universities Guide.[52]

In the Commonwealth Government's Excellence in Research for Australia 2018 National Report,[53] JCU research was rated world-class or above in 83% of research fields evaluated, up from 78% in 2015. This included the highest possible rating of well above world standard in 8 research areas and world standard in another 30 research areas.

Residential colleges

St Marks' College
St Marks' College
University Hall
University Hall

James Cook University's Townsville, Bebegu Yuma campus, situated in the suburb of Douglas, has five on-campus residential halls and colleges, which can accommodate 1,158 students. Services offered by these facilities vary from self-catered to fully catered. James Cook University's Cairns, Nguma-bada campus, situated in the outer northern suburb of Smithfield, has one on-campus self-catered residential hall, John Grey Hall, which can accommodate 287 students, and one off-campus, fully-catered student lodge for 221 students.


Affiliated colleges

Saints Catholic College, first founded in 1964 and run by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Townsville, was formed in 2011 with the amalgamation of the Catholic Colleges of St Raphael and St Paul and the addition of a third wing, St Mary MacKillop Wing, in honour of Australia's first Saint.[54] Saints Catholic College provides fully catered accommodation to 296 students.[55] Saint Mark's College, run by the Anglican Diocese of North Queensland, accommodated 154 male and female students until its closure in 2017 due to financial difficulties.[56] The John Flynn College was established in 1968 and is named after Australian Presbyterian minister John Flynn.[57] The college provides fully catered accommodation for more than 253 students.

Halls of Residence

James Cook University manages three non-denominational halls in Townsville for 771 students. University Hall was the first residence to be established at the university in the 1960s and currently offered 241 fully catered rooms. University Hall opened for student accommodation in 1967 as a co-educational hall of residence and lays claim to being the first co-educational university hall of residence in Australia. University Hall officially closed at the end of the 2021 academic year. George Roberts Hall opened in 2002 with unit-style, fully-catered accommodation for 250 students.[58] Rotary International House, containing 118 self-catered beds, was established in 1990 with the assistance of Rotary Clubs. Burralga Yumba is set to open its doors at the beginning of the 2022 academic year. The new building will contain 403 self-catered beds. Western Halls and Western Courts, former Halls of Residence colleges, closed in 2008 and 2018 respectively.


John Grey Hall

John Grey Hall, named after Lt. Gen. John Grey, opened in 2018 to meet the need for on-campus accommodation in Cairns. The residential hall, which is managed by UniLodge, accommodates 287 students in self-catered accommodation with plans to expand to accommodate 1000 students.[59]

Cairns Student Lodge

The Cairns Student Lodge is located directly through the underpass across the highway and is an eight-minute walk to the JCU Cairns, Nguma-bada campus. The lodge provides fully-catered accommodation for 221 students.


Peter Ridd sacking

In November 2017, marine physicist Peter Ridd commenced proceedings in the Federal Circuit Court against the university alleging that by censuring and eventually dismissing him from his employment, JCU had breached the intellectual freedom provision in its enterprise agreement, in violation of the Fair Work Act. Ridd was a long-term professor who had been the head of the physics department from 2009 to 2016, and head of the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at JCU for 15 years. He had been critical of the accuracy of studies by the JCU marine studies centre.[60][61] JCU maintained that "it had never sought to silence Ridd, and his sacking was due to 'serious misconduct' and breaches of the university's code".[62]

Following a hearing, the Federal Circuit Court found that that the university's actions were unlawful,[63] and in September 2019 ordered JCU to pay $1.2 million in compensation to Ridd.[64] The Court found that JCU had failed to respect the rights to intellectual freedom under its enterprise agreement.[65]

In July 2020, a Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia overturned the Federal Circuit Court's decision, finding that JCU's actions did not breach the Fair Work Act and that the enterprise agreement did not give Ridd an “untrammelled right” to express professional opinions beyond the standards imposed by the university's code of conduct.[66] In February 2021, the High Court of Australia granted special leave to Ridd to appeal the decision. The High Court heard the matter in June 2021.[67][68]

On October 13, 2021 the High Court unanimously dismissed the appeal brought by Ridd.[69][70] Although the Court found that some of the University's censures of Ridd were in breach of its enterprise agreement, Ridd ran his case on an "all or nothing" basis, and the High Court found that the termination of his employment was ultimately justified in relying on 18 findings of serious misconduct which were not protected by the university's academic freedom clause.[69]

Sexual harassment and assault

Nine cases of sexual abuse or harassment were reported officially on campus between 2011 and 2016, resulting in one person being removed from a college. These included an allegation of a 2015 incident in which three unidentified males tried to gang-rape a female student.[71]

In 2015 the university promoted a research officer to academic adviser despite his having pleaded guilty to raping a student.[72][73] The then acting vice-chancellor said there was a failure of internal processes and that the staff member would have been dismissed immediately if senior management had been aware that he had pleaded guilty.[72] However, whistleblowers said there had been a cover-up and that senior management, including the vice-chancellor and the university secretary, had been told of the guilty plea prior to the perpetrator's promotion.[73]

The university began a review in 2017 which led to revised policies, mandatory online training for students and staff, first responder training for staff, and counselling for victims.[74][75][76]

Notable alumni and staff

This is a list of alumni and former faculty and staff of James Cook University, including preceding institutions such as Townsville University College and Townsville College of Advanced Education.


Honorary degrees

Recipients of honorary degrees include:

Faculty and staff

See also


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