The University of Melbourne was founded within two years of the official discovery of gold in Victoria, and the subsequent dramatic increase of population and wealth.
The University can be seen as a direct product of the gold rushes. It was made possible by the wealth of gold and was a demonstration of how important Victoria now saw itself. It was a conscious move by the raw and young community to cloak itself with some of the culture and sophistication of the parent country, and to assert its equality with Sydney whose university opened in 1852. Like other cultural institutions including the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne's University was also intended to be an agency of civilisation - to improve the moral character of the colony.