Two of the city’s oldest and most-iconic institutions have signed a memorandum of understanding, with future collaboration planned in areas as diverse as student engagement and research. 

The agreement between the University of Melbourne and the Melbourne Football Club will initially focus on international student engagement, in a bid to make Aussie rules more accessible to the University’s more than 16,000-strong international student population.

“We are both borne from this city, our futures are tied to this place” said Professor Ian Anderson, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement).  “At the core of this partnership is our shared commitment to Melbourne the city.  We are seeking ways in which we can enrich the experience of Melbourne, and in turn, look at how we can make this the best city in the world for students.” 

Both the club and the University agree that such an undertaking can only benefit the city more broadly, which in 2014 was ranked second behind Paris in the QS rankings for most student-friendly city. 

“Football is one way to enrich the student experience, and we want to prove international students with an experience that will make their time in Melbourne truly memorable,” said Professor Anderson. 

“Sport is integral to the life of the University and our contribution to our community, a part of our commitment to excellence in a holistic sense.  With the Melbourne Football Club we have a common passion in supporting the development of a sport that is the heart and soul of the Australian experience in Melbourne.”

Melbourne Football Club CEO Peter Jackson indicated 2015 was about developing the Club’s long-term strategy and today’s agreement reflects its future direction.

“We are the only AFL club that carries the name Melbourne, and we will take every opportunity to engage with, and celebrate the City that shares our name.

“The University of Melbourne is an excellent partner to explore opportunities to build deeper links, connections and activities with Melbourne that we hope provides benefits to both parties and enhances the City’s sporting and education capabilities. In many ways, it makes perfect sense to create a formal relationship between two iconic institutions that reflects Melbourne’s world class qualities in education and sport.”

This new agreement builds on more than four years of work between the club and the University’s Indigenous Eye Health Unit, lead by Professor Hugh Taylor.

Melbourne Football Club players have been official ambassadors for the Unit’s ‘clean faces, strong eyes’ anti-trachoma program since 2010.

The agreement also paves the way for future work together on research topics of mutual interest, and elite sporting opportunities for University of Melbourne students.

Director of Melbourne University Sport, Mr Timothy Lee, said the agreement builds on the two organization’s long history in Aussie rules football. “The approach from the Melbourne Football Club is timely as 2015 marks the 100 year anniversary since University left the VFL, and a perfect fit historically, geographically and emotionally.

University Football Club shared the MCG with the Melbourne Football Club during the VFL era and most of the University players not fighting in Europe or Gallipoli transferred across to the Club including the great Roy Park and the famous Cordner brothers, including Brownlow Medallist Don Cordner.”

Mr Lee said the University, an Elite Athlete Friendly institution as verified by the Australian Sports Commission, was pleased to further its sporting credentials. 

“The University is justifiably proud of the sporting achievements of its student athletes, teams and clubs. The link between sport and leadership is also well documented with many fine examples of our student athletes who become leaders in their chosen field, captains of industry and important community leaders.”

“Current Melbourne Football Club players Jay Kennedy – Harris and Tom McDonald are both students at the University and the relationship with the Club will provide further opportunities to align both brands to promote the importance of education.”