James Cook University

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 and Thursday Island. A Brisbane campus, operated by Russo Higher Education, delivers undergraduate and postgraduate courses to international students. The University’s main fields of research include marine sciences, biodiversity, sustainable management of tropical ecosystems, genetics and genomics, tropical health care, tourism and engineering.

James Cook University
Coat of Arms of James Cook University
Former names
University College of Townsville (1961-70)
MottoCrescente Luce
Motto in English
Light ever increasing
ChancellorBill Tweddell
Vice-ChancellorSandra Harding
Undergraduates15,776 (2014)
Postgraduates4,645 (2014)
Location, ,


19°19′40″S 146°45′30″E
CampusSuburban and regional


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 on 20 April 1970 as an Act of Queensland Parliament, the University College of Townsville became James Cook University of North Queensland on 29 April 1970.[2] The official opening of the university was conducted by Queen Elizabeth II.[3] 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.[3][4] 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.[4] The Cyclone Testing Station operates as a self funded unit of the College of Science, Technology and Engineering, and serves as an advising member to the Australian Standards committee in areas of structural design, specifically wind actions.[5]

On 1 January 1982, JCU amalgamated with The Townsville College of Advanced Education located adjacent to the main campus in Douglas. The university established a presence in Cairns in 1987 and 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.[2] The current name of James Cook University became official on 1 January 1998.[6] 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. The Hon. Tony Abbott MP, Prime Minister of Australia officially opened the new JCU Singapore campus at 149 Sims Drive on 28 June 2015.

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. Russo Higher Education delivers JCU courses at its Brisbane centre on behalf of the University. The University also operates study centres in Mackay, Mount Isa and Thursday Island. These study centres provide programs and support for students living in rural and remote areas.

Cairns Campus

The Cairns Campus of James Cook University 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. Also located on the campus grounds are Queensland Tropical Health Alliance (QTHA) facilities, Australian Tropical Herbarium (ATH), the Australian Tropical Forest Institute (ATFI), JCU Dental, and The Cairns Institute. Over 4,000 students study at JCU Cairns, including about 385 international students.

Townsville Campus

JCU's Townsville 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. Over 13,000 students study at JCU Townsville, including over 1,100 international students. Adjacent to the university is the Townsville Hospital and Tropical North Queensland Institute of TAFE.[7] Originally located in the suburb of Pimlico, the University moved to its current site in 1967. The Discovery Rise[8] project was announced in September 2007.[9] The $1 billion project is aimed at redeveloping the University's Townsville campus.[10] The project was completed in 2015.[11] A second campus, JCU Townsville City, opened in 2015 and is located in Townsville's CBD. The campus delivers a diverse range of progressive facilities and services for the university, business and community organisations.

Singapore International Campus

James Cook University's Singapore campus (JCUS) was opened in 2003. In February 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. In 2018 there were over 3,000 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.[12] 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 given a "Edutrust Star" rating by EduTrust in 2015, the first private school to attain this benchmark.[13]

Other facilities

JCU Brisbane, operated by Russo Higher Education, delivers undergraduate and postgraduate courses in business and information technology to international students, on behalf of James Cook University.

JCU’s study centre in Mackay is called the Mackay Education and Research Centre (MERC) and is located at the Mackay Base Hospital. It accommodates the teaching of the Bachelor of Social Work and Bachelor of Nursing Science (pre registration) as well as providing facilities for medical and dental placements.

The Mount Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health (MICRRH) provides training, development and support of the rural and remote health workforce and the management of key health issues in the rural and remote setting. The Centre offers the Bachelor of Nursing Science with a special emphasis on rural, remote and Indigenous health care.

There is also a study centre is 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 2015, the JCU Townsville City campus was opened in the heart of Townsville City, Flinders Street. The campus provides a unique and progressive blend of teaching and study space, as well as meeting, networking and consultation facilities, where advanced design, technology and ongoing support services on-site all add to the quality of the environment and study experience. The Cairns City campus, located in Shields Street, provides similar facilities and opportunities as those available at the Townsville City campus.


The university serves as a catchment area for students from this region and beyond. In 2017, JCU’s student population was at 21,975, which includes 6,639 International students.[14]

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 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; science, including marine biology and environmental science; and veterinary science. Some courses are available externally.

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.

School of Law

The School of Law is the only regional law school in Queensland. The JCU Law School offers a comprehensive course that provides entry to the legal profession. The first-year experience has four compulsory non-substantive courses and two substantive courses designed for a staggered introduction to the LLB.

The establishment of the School of Law was championed by Sir Joseph Kneipp.[15]

Organisational structure

The James Cook University (JCU) Academy is structured into six Colleges and one Centre, nested within two Divisions. The Academy is supported by three enabling Service Divisions.

Division of Tropical Health and Medicine

  • College of Medicine & Dentistry
    • Medicine
    • Dentistry
    • Pharmacy
    • Physician Assistant
  • College of Healthcare Sciences
    • Occupational Therapy
    • Psychology
    • Sport and Exercise Science
    • Speech Pathology
    • Nursing and Midwifery
    • Physiotherapy
  • College of Public Health, Medical & Veterinary Sciences
    • Biomedical Sciences
    • Medical Laboratory Sciences
    • Veterinary Science

Division of Tropical Environments & Societies

  • College of Arts, Society & Education
    • Humanities and Creative Media
    • Social Sciences
    • Social Work
    • Education
  • College of Business, Law & Governance
    • Law
    • Business
    • Conflict Management and Resolution
  • College of Science & Engineering
    • Engineering
    • Environmental Management
    • Geoscience
    • Information Technology
    • Marine Biology and Aquaculture
    • Physical Sciences
    • Zoology and Ecology

Division of Research and Innovation

Division of Student Life

Division of Services and Resources

Centres of Excellence - National Research Hubs

  • ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
  • ARC Research Hub for Advanced Prawn Breeding
  • ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage


Research Centres

  • Anton Breinl Research Centre for Health Systems Strengthening
  • Centre for Disaster Studies
  • Centre for International Trade and Business in Asia (CITBA)
  • Centre for Macroalgal Resources and Biotechnology (MACRO)
  • Centre for Molecular Therapeutics
  • Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture
  • Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Sciences (TESS)
  • Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER)
  • Economic Geology Research Centre (EGRU)
  • Language and Culture Research Centre
  • Queensland Research Centre for Peripheral Vascular Disease (QRC-PVD)

Research Enablers

  • Advanced Analytical Centre
  • Boating and Diving
  • eResearch Centre
  • Marine and Aquaculture Research Facility


University rankings
James Cook University
QS World[16]377
THE-WUR World[17]201-250
ARWU World[18]201-300
USNWR World[19]273
CWTS Leiden World[20]151
Australian rankings
QS National[16]20
THE-WUR National[21]9=
ARWU National[22]9-14
USNWR National[23]10
CWTS Leiden National[20]6
ERA National[24]28[25]

JCU is ranked 138th (sixth in Australia) in the CWTS Leiden ranking.

As of 2019, JCU has been awarded five stars for job success by the Good Universities Guide. 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.

JCU was ranked within the top 300 academic universities worldwide in 2018, and has consistently ranked in the top 400 since 2010, as measured by the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU)[26] JCU achieved position 367 in the QS World Rankings in 2016.[27] For 2018, JCU ranked in the top two percent of universities in the world by ARWU. In 2017, JCU was ranked No. 1 in the world for Marine & Freshwater Biology and No. 2 in the world for Biodiversity Conservation

In 2018, JCU was ranked 28th of the world’s universities aged 50 years or under .

In the Commonwealth Government's Excellence in Research for Australia 2015 National Report, JCU research received the highest ranking of 'well above world standard' (rating 5) in the areas of environmental sciences, geology, physical geography and environmental geoscience, ecology, plant biology, medical microbiology, and neurosciences.[28] The University also received an 'above world standard' (rating 4) ranking for research in the areas of Earth Sciences, Biological Sciences, and History and Archaeology.

Residential colleges

James Cook University's Townsville campus, situated in the suburb of Douglas, has six on-campus residential halls and colleges, which can accommodate 1,231 students. Services offered by these facilities vary from self-catered to fully catered. James Cook University's Cairns campus, situated in the outer northern suburb of Smithfield, has one on-campus self-catered residential hall which can accommodate 300 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.[29] Saints Catholic College provides fully catered accommodation to 298 students.[30] 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.[31] The John Flynn College was established in 1968 and is named after Australian Presbyterian minister John Flynn.[32] The college provides fully catered accommodation for more than 200 students.

Halls of Residence

James Cook University manages three non-denominational halls in Townsville for 621 students. University Hall was the first residence to be established at the University in the 1960s, and is at present the largest of the student residences with 291 fully catered rooms.[33] 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. George Roberts Hall opened in 2002 with 250 residents in unit style fully catered accommodation.[34] Rotary International House, containing 80 self-catered beds, was established in 1990 with the assistance of Rotary Clubs. 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 300 students in self-catered accommodation with plans to expand to accommodate 1000 students.[35]


Reports of on-campus sexual harassment and assault

The 2017 Australian Human Rights Commission's national survey on campus abuse surveyed 833 JCU students, and showed that the university had the 2nd highest reported proportion of students sexually harassed by a staff member (4.6%), and the 6th highest reported campus sexual harassment overall (25%).[36] Under a 2016 FOI request, JCU had previously said that between 2011 and 2016 there were 9 officially reported cases of sexual abuse and harassment on campus, resulting in no expulsions, no suspensions and 1 person removed from a college. This included a report in 2015 where three males attempted to gang-rape a female student.[37]

In 2015 the university promoted a staff member from research officer to academic adviser after he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a student. The acting vice-chancellor claimed "there has been a failure of our internal processes"[38] and “if senior management had been aware that (the staff member had) pleaded guilty he would have been immediately dismissed”. News Limited published findings contradicting the university's claims alleging that senior management, including the Vice-Chancellor and the University Secretary, were made aware of the guilty plea at the time and prior to the perpetrator's promotion.[39]

University Hall fire and housing crisis

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.[40] There were no serious inuries, although several students were treated for smoke inhalation.[41] 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 are set to provide replacement housing for all residents from the A and B Wings of University Hall.[42]

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.

Notable alumni

Recipients of honorary degrees include:

  • Tommy George, Awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters for his work in ecology
  • David Hudson, Aboriginal musician
  • Silma Ihram, pioneer of Muslim education in Australia
  • George Musgrave, awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters for his work in traditional law
  • Percy Trezise, Awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters in recognition of outstanding service to the community of Far North Queensland

Notable faculty and staff

  • Alexandra Aikhenvald, member of the Australian Academy of the Humanities
  • Robert M. W. Dixon, professor of linguistics at the Cairns Institute and member of the Australian Academy of the Humanities
  • Terry Hughes, member of the Australian Academy of Science
  • Rhondda Jones, former professor of zoology and member of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE)
  • William F. Laurance, biologist, recipient of the Australian Laureate Fellowship and member of the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  • Leonard Francis Lindoy (adjunct), chemist, professor emeritus and member of the Australian Academy of Science
  • Eddie Mabo, indigenous community leader and human rights activist, was employed at JCU as a gardener/groundsman between 1967 and 1971[50]
  • George Kneipp, Chancellor (1974–1993)

See also


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  2. On reverse side of all JCU official Statement of Academic Record sheets printed after January 1998.
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  4. "Cyclone Testing Station". Archived from the original on 23 October 2007. Retrieved 17 October 2007.
  5. Structural design actions, Part 2: Wind actions. Sydney & Wellington: Standards Australia & Standards New Zealand. 2005. ISBN 978-0-7337-4473-0.
  6. "Higher Education Legislation 1998". Archived from the original on 11 September 2006. Retrieved 18 October 2007.
  7. "TAFE Queensland North - TAFE Queensland North". Archived from the original on 14 November 2016. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  8. "Discovery Rise". Archived from the original on 27 February 2015. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  9. "Discovery Rise Media Release". Archived from the original on 2 September 2007. Retrieved 18 October 2007.
  10. "ABC News: James Cook Uni plans Townsville campus facelift". Abc.net.au. 30 August 2007. Archived from the original on 19 February 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  11. "Discovery Rise Timeline". Archived from the original on 8 September 2007. Retrieved 18 October 2007.
  12. "James Cook University (JCU)". sguni. Archived from the original on 2 January 2014.
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  23. "U.S. News and World Report Best Global Universities in Australia/New Zealand". U.S. News and World Report.
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  27. "QS World University Rankings®". Top Universities. Archived from the original on 23 March 2019. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
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  33. "University Hall | Townsville Campus Accommodation | James Cook University". Archived from the original on 16 April 2019. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  34. "About Us - JCU Australia". JCU Australia. Archived from the original on 15 May 2018. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
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  36. Bagshaw, Eryk (2 August 2017). "'We should all be shocked' leader of university with worst results comforts students". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 5 August 2017. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
  37. Funnell, Nina (10 October 2016). "Full list of universities exposed by sexual assault investigation". News Limited. Archived from the original on 2 August 2017. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  38. Chen, David (24 January 2017). "Uni staffer promoted after student rape charge". ABC News. Archived from the original on 1 August 2017. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  39. Funnell, Nina (25 January 2017). "Exclusive: James Cook University knew Douglas Steele was guilty of rape". NewsComAu. Archived from the original on 1 August 2017. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  40. "Update: overnight fire at JCU Townsville campus". James Cook University. 4 April 2019. Archived from the original on 16 April 2019. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  41. Garvey, Cas (4 April 2019). "'We thought it was a drill': 200 students in fire emergency". Townsville Bulletin. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  42. "Townsville campus fire update: permanent accommodation arrangements". James Cook University. 9 April 2019. Archived from the original on 16 April 2019. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  43. "Paul R. Amato". Penn State. Archived from the original on 10 July 2015. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  44. "Dr Rose Evaster-Aderolili". Archived from the original on 21 October 2013.
  45. "Dr Colin Grant" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 February 2014.
  46. "Philippines typhoon: UK doctors speak from storm-hit country". 17 November 2013. Archived from the original on 30 November 2013. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
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  49. "Professor Ian Young". Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  50. "Edward Koiki Mabo 1936 - 1992". www.racismnoway.com.au. Archived from the original on 28 July 2016. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
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