University seal
University seal

The University of Queensland Act 1909 established the University of Queensland as a corporate body and provided for the University to have a Common Seal. Following the tradition of universities since at least the fifteenth century, the University of Queensland seal bears its coat of arms and is used to authenticate documents in the University’s name being affixed to testamurs, deeds, contracts and agreements. The University Senate lays down rules about the seal’s custody and delegation.

The origins of the University’s seal, coat of arms and motto are closely associated with the birth of the University of Queensland and contemporaneous debate about the institution’s purpose. Discussions about the form and content of the seal commenced in 1910, at the same time as the newly formed Senate was establishing the University’s academic and administrative frameworks. The seal’s inscription became the subject of considerable debate amongst Latin scholars as to the translation of “Queensland” into Latin. The Chancellor, William MacGregor, having examined a number of seals from different universities, proposed that its size should mirror that of the State’s Great Seal and put forward the legend TERRAE REGINAE UNIVERSITAS, 1910. Both proposals were approved by the Senate on 13 March 1912.

The Queensland Agent General in London placed an order for the University seal, a hand press and two locks with the Herald Painter and Designer to the Knights of the Garter and Artist to the College of Arms who manufactured them. The seal arrived in late 1912 on the steamer SS Orama. The hand press and seal are still in use today.

The Senate’s approval of the University motto, Scientia ac Labore (By means of knowledge and hard work), followed considerable debate amongst University staff and students, and the public. Numerous suggestions were received in the months April and June 1911. However, while the source of the motto and the reasons for its selection remain unknown, a 1912 memorandum of the Chancellor suggests that the motto reflected the pragmatic and progressive ethos expressed by Premier Kidston at University’s inauguration.

By mid-1911, the University’s request for a coat of arms was submitted to the Herald’s College (later the College of Arms) in London through the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The College proposed including an open book as a device common to universities in Great Britain. The final design provided by the University to the College has not survived, however, correspondence suggests that it featured a cross identical to the cross in the State Badge located on the Queensland Flag, an open book on a shield and the motto Scientia ac Labore. The University coat of arms was granted by letters Patent on 27 June 1912.

This version of the arms was carved in 16 places on the internal columns of the foyer of the Forgan Smith Building which was the first constructed on the St Lucia campus. However, variations to the coat of arms have occurred both before and since 1912. For example, its first known appearance was in The Magazine of the University of Queensland, in 1911 – before the arms had been granted. Subsequent variations can be seen in the Senate Annual Report of 1934 and after 1991 with the adoption of the University of Queensland Corporate Identity Program.