Sean Brawley in front of Macquarie LighthouseWho designed the lighthouse I am standing in front of in this picture? Many of you would recognise it as the Macquarie Lighthouse (aka “the South Head Upper Light”), which returned to our branding in 2014 with much popular support. If you answered the famous colonial architect Francis Greenway I’m afraid that you are incorrect. Greenway did design the original “Macquarie Tower” whose light was first lit in 1818. But the image I’m standing in front of, and the image which graces our branding, is the second Macquarie lighthouse, which was officially lit for the first time in 1883. And yes I think the original MQ branding was based on the first lighthouse and not the second!

The architect of the second lighthouse was James Johnstone Barnet. If we wish to see Barnet’s legacy in Sydney today we need only look around us. The “Colonial Architect”, as he was known, was responsible for many great public works which survive to this day. Examples include: the GPO, Customs House, the Medical School at Sydney University, Darlinghurst Court House, the Mortuary Railway Station, Callan Park Asylum and the Department of Lands Building. He also designed some of the city’s early defences including the fort on Bare Island at La Perouse.

In the late 1870s Greenway’s original lighthouse was deemed no longer fit for purpose. The age of the electric light had dawned and the old lighthouse simply did not hold the capacity to accommodate a new electric light and its associated generators. But Barnet knew how much Greenway’s lighthouse was loved by the people of Sydney. He could have built a lighthouse to any style he wished but instead he paid homage to Greenway’s original design.

When NSW Premier Sir Henry Parkes laid the first stone for the new lighthouse in March 1880 he told the gathered crowd:

“It is in renewing this light by the introduction of the improvements of modern science that we set an example for enlightened enterprise in every walk of life. We set the example by replacing the old light with the best that can be procured … by our care to preserve the light for its great and beneficent purpose … and it seems to me that we double our wisdom in making the erection of this new light to take the place of the old one an occasion for some review in thought, and for some contemplation extended into the future which lies before this rich country.”

Of course it was from Parkes’ speech that we took the phrase “Renewing the Light” as the name for our recent undertakings in curriculum architecture. Parkes’ words do resonate as we consider a renewal of our curriculum architecture.

Reflecting on the life of the first lighthouse and looking to the future, Parkes concluded that few could “forecast the future of the country during the next sixty-four years”. In modern parlance the Premier was considering how Barnet’s design was future proofing the needs of Sydney. The keys to such attainment he suggested were a “powerful imagination … with a remarkable fervour.”

Barnet’s homage to Greenway is clearly obvious in the image of the two lighthouses side by side. This said, Barnet’s “gift of foreknowledge” ensured that the new lighthouse would accommodate a number of technological innovations in the decades that followed including the automation of the light in 1976.

In May 2017 when I was first asked by the Vice Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor to lead a team and start looking at our curriculum architecture and associated processes, the first thing I did on my first day in a new office was secure a copy of Bruce Mansfield and Mark Hutchinson’s Liberality of Opportunity: A History of Macquarie University 1964-1989. Still a somewhat recent arrival, I wanted to better understand what was MQ’s curriculum DNA. As we steadily went about our work in 2017 (identifying issues around fitness for purpose and benchmarking against national and international best practice, and starting to share ideas notably around the Academic Program Lifecycle and Vertical Double Degrees), Barnet remained an important touchstone and one I often shared with colleagues as we discussed this work and our purpose. Perhaps not surprisingly, given I will always be, first and foremost, a Historian, I also went back into the institutional archives — in the same way Barnet went back to Greenway’s original drawings as a point of inspiration. It was surprising how many of the ideas we have discussed in the last year had been thought about previously and solutions offered.

As colleagues consider the recommendations around our principles of curriculum architecture and complete the survey, my own reflection is that from its beginnings MQ has constructed students as co-creators of their learning (though not in so many words), and we continue to affirm that belief (see Framing of Futures and Learning for the Future, the L&T strategic framework). The curriculum architecture principles we have offered the university for discussion speak to that idea. While today we work in an environment of quality assurance and standards that by its nature drives tighter curricula, I hope we still offer students choices, and with those choices opportunities to be co-creators.


The Project Team would like to thank the extended community for their support with the curriculum architecture work currently underway, and in particular for encouraging your teams to offer feedback around the draft principles. We’re pleased to let you know that the comments so far have been largely positive, and we look forward to sharing a more comprehensive overview of key themes in the coming weeks.

To ensure we meet important milestones policy development must commence from 20 June, which as you know is the date we have communicated to staff for completion of feedback.  However, through ongoing conversations with the University community we’ve learned that a number of individuals who, due to a need for them to focus their time and energy on student exams over this period, will find it difficult to provide their feedback by this date.

It’s important we hear from everyone at this crucial stage, so have

extended the deadline for completion to 25 June.

As mentioned, we must maintain the current momentum we have around this work and start policy development work on 20 June. However, we will incorporate all feedback that is submitted up to and including 25 June.

Please communicate this extended completion date to your colleagues and teams as soon as possible.

Here again are the links to the proposed changes and feedback forms.

The MQ Model Undergraduate Working Paper >

The MQ Model Postgraduate and MicroCourse Working Paper >

Undergraduate draft principles feedback form >

Postgraduate draft principles feedback form >

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