On 25 February 1978, 170 students graduated from Griffith University’s four foundation Schools.

Debra Cunningham from the School of Australian Environmental Studies was our first Bachelor award recipient and the first person to graduate from Griffith University with a degree in science.

Two people, one in a red robe and the other in a blue robe, shake hands surrounded by on-lookers.

Debra Cunningham receiving her degree from Sir Theodor Bray our foundation Chancellor. Image from the Griffith Archive collection.

Our first Doctorate was awarded to David Doddrell from the School of Science at this ceremony.

While the University had awarded degrees in prior years, this cohort was the first to receive a graduation ceremony at Griffith.

Interdisciplinary learning and teaching has been the cornerstone of Griffith since its conception, with students being exposed to many fields of knowledge no matter their level of study.

Students were encouraged to apply their multidisciplinary knowledge to come up with solutions to existing social and community problems rather than applying their knowledge to hypotheticals and theories.

While this teaching philosophy was a move away from most conventional university teaching practices of the time, early Griffith graduates were generally well received by employers as they entered the workforce equipped with a more varied and comprehensive Bachelor qualification.

Of the first graduating students, over half chose to go on to further study; most of these graduates decided to continue their studies at Griffith.

A row of students in blue robes are sitting down.

Graduates from the School of Science were distinguished from other School graduates with a red sash. Image from the Griffith Archive collection.

The graduates who chose not to complete further study left to pursue employment. Further research into our foundation job seekers revealed only six per cent of our original graduates had not secured employment during their first year after graduation.

Interestingly, one government report of the time suggests that even our foundation Bachelor recipients pursuing work were subject to a job market that had an oversupply of university graduates—a problem increasingly faced by graduates of today.

More than 40 years on, graduates of Griffith University continue to make strides in their careers. You can find more information about Griffith Archives and view our digital exhibitions at the Griffith Archive web page.

An audience of people in graduation robes.

The first graduation ceremony was held in the Undercroft between what is now the Willett Centre (Library) and Macrossan. Image from the Griffith Archive collection