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Sancta Sophia College, or simply Sancta, is a Catholic residential college at the University of Sydney. The college admits female undergraduate and male and female postgraduate students. The Principal Dr Marie Leech has governed the College since 2008.


Sancta Sophia College was founded in 1925 as a residential college for Catholic Women.

The first steps to establish a residential college for Catholic women at the University of Sydney were began as early as 1910 when social changes meant it was expected that more women from rural as well as urban centres would enrol at the university. In November 1923 the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Michael Kelly and the Bishops of New South Wales issued a pastoral letter that drew attention to the advantages of university education for the Catholic community and announced that a Catholic Women’s College would be built. The College was to be administered by nuns from the order of the Religious of the Sacred Heart, which had been founded in France in 1800.

The foundation stone of the Hall of Residence was laid on 26 March 1925, and the name ‘Sancta Sophia’ was chosen. Archbishop Michael Kelly was appointed Visitor of the College and, in due course, the newly elected Council of eighteen members appointed Reverend Mother Margaret MacRory (sister of Joseph MacRory) as the first Principal.

The first students moved into the Hall in its current location on Missenden Road, on 15 March, 1926. Three years later, in 1929, the Hall was raised by Act of Parliament to the status of a College within the University of Sydney. It remained under the administration of the Religious of the Sacred Heart until December 1991 when the first lay Principal, Mrs. Janice Raggio, was appointed..


Sancta Sophia is a combination of Latin and Greek words meaning "holy wisdom" and also commemorates the founder of the Society of the Sacred Heart, Madeleine Sophie Barat, who was canonised in 1925.

Student Life

The College's Quadrangle


Being a University College academia is the main focus of Sancta Sophia. A program of organised tutorials exists for students. These are organised within the College and students can also attend tutorials at the other colleges.

The Chancellor's Dinner is an auspicious annual event at which the College community recognises the academic excellence of College scholars of high achievement. Prizes are awarded.


Each year the college holds an Informal and a Formal event. The main financial purpose of the Informal is to raise the money to fund the Formal. The Formal is a black-tie event held in second semester. It is common for college students to attend the Informal and Formal events of other colleges.


Student life at Sancta Sophia is very culture rich. The students can participate in the college's choir or perform at after formal dinner performances. Sancta also competes in the Intercol Performing Arts Challenge (also known as the Palladian Cup) in the fields of instrumental, vocal and drama. Each year Missenden Players (the students of Sancta and the neighbouring college, St John'smarker) perform a play. Examples from the past few years are Noel Coward's Present Laughter and Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Sancta also competes in the Intercollegiate Debating Cup, which the College won in 2004.


Sancta competes in the wide range of Sydney University Intercollegiate sporting events, which for the women is the Rosebowl Cup. The Rosebowl sports are played throughout the year amongst the colleges and include: rowing, swimming, netball, hockey, tennis, basketball, softball and athletics. There are also social soccer and social touch football competitions.


Each Sunday night there is an Mass held in the College Chapel at 5:30pm. The celebrant is Father John Baron, a Dominican Friar. Students of the College are regularly involved in the Masses by providing readers, music, altar servers and Eucharistic Ministers.

Formal dinners

Each Monday evening the College celebrates Formal Dinner. The dinner is a three-stage process which begins with pre-dinner drinks in the College's Lower Common Room where members of the college can mingle with the evening's speaker and the leaders of the college. The dinner is a two course meal followed with a speech by the guest speaker. After dinner there are after dinner drinks and a musical performance in the Lower Common Room. Traditional formalities are observed and the students wear academic dress which comprises formal shoes, a skirt and an academic gown.

Each year an Archbishop's Mass and Dinner is held at the College. Every second year the successful candidate of the Archbishop's Scholarship is announced. The scholarship is granted to a Sancta Sophia College student displaying outstanding academic achievement and involvement within the Catholic Church.

Other special occasion dinners include the Alumnae Dinner and the Mother and Daughter and Father and Daughter dinners.

College Governance

House Committee

Every student of the College is a member of the Sancta Sophia Students' Club and the Students' Club is run by a student-elected House Committee. The House Committee is responsible for planning activities on behalf of all the students. It is also responsible for liaising with the other colleges and carrying out general activities and business of the Students' Club. The members of the House Committee convene each week to discuss student matters of the College.

The positions of the House Committee are as follows:

(The first three positions comprise the executive.)

  • Senior Student
  • Honorary Secretary
  • Honorary Treasurer
  • Social Secretaries (x2)
  • Cultural Secretary
  • Sports Secretary
  • Liturgical Secretary
  • Senior Intercollegiate Representative
  • Sophomore Intercollegiate Representative
  • Senior Year Representative
  • Sophomore Year Representative
  • Fresher Year Representatives (x2)

House Committee 2009

Senior Student Philippa Garner

Honorary Secretary Katy Boustead

Honorary Treasurer Misa Han

Social Secretaries Sarah Lewis, Josephine Walsh

Cultural Secreatary Emily King

Sports Secretary Katie Weir

Liturgical Secretary Clare Young

Senior Intercollegiate Representative Rachael Rodney

Sophomore Intercollegiate Representative Elizabeth Jones

Council and Principal

The College is governed separately from the University of Sydney, with its own board of directors consisting of the principal and 15 other members. Membership of the council is by election for a term of service of 7 years.

Sancta Sophia College welcomed Dr Marie Leech to the role of Principal in January 2008.

Dr Leech has a PhD in Social Policy from the University of Sydney and a Masters of Science and Society from the University of New South Wales. Her business achievements were recognised as a NSW Finalist in the 2005 Telstra Business Women’s Awards.

Marie was appointed to the Federal Government’s Stronger Families and Communities Strategy Partnership, was a member of the Board of Directors of the Australian Institute of Family Studies; and served on the Boards of Families Australia and City West Housing; and on a number of Committees, including Working Groups of the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY). Voluntary work has included the development of strategies to provide access to education for disadvantaged girls and women, especially Aboriginal women.

Previous roles include the position of General Manager, Community Services, at Mission Australia, and Senior Policy Advisor at Uniya, the Jesuit office for social justice research. Prior to her career in social policy and research, Dr Leech taught senior chemistry and biology at Kincoppal Rose Bay and was an educator at TAFE and university levels.

Notable Alumnae


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