Robert Forster.
Robert Forster.
21 July 2015

Forty years after starting his degree, international musician and singer-songwriter Robert Forster has finally attended a graduation ceremony at The University of Queensland.

Mr Forster, one of the founding members of iconic Brisbane band The Go-Betweens, was awarded an honorary doctorate – Doctor of Letters honoris causa – from his former university at a graduation ceremony on Tuesday.

It was a significant moment for Mr Forster on many levels.

“The Go-Betweens grew out of my time at university. I met Grant here, whom I formed the band with, and it took me away from this,” he said.

“I tried to come back and study for a semester in 2004 but, again, commitments to the band took me away.

“To be able to come back now after so many years is a wonderful closing of the circle.”

Robert studied English and drama at UQ in the mid-1970s and met Grant McLennan in his drama classes.

The two formed The Go-Betweens, releasing their first single in 1978. Robert didn’t finish his degree.

The B-side of the single was a track called Karen, which Robert admitted was written as an ode to UQ’s library staff.

"There was kindness in the library but then you walked out of the library into the harsh real world," Mr Forster said.

The Go-Betweens were based in the UK for most of the 1980s and released six albums before going their separate ways in 1989.

Their biggest chart success was Streets of Your Town, but it was their single Cattle and Cane which was named an all-time top 30 Australian song and added to the Sounds of Australia Registry at the National Film and Sound Archive.

“The recognition for Cattle and Cane was not expected,” he said.

“We were not a well-known band at the time and the song itself was quite adventurous which does not always get rewarded.”

Following the breakup of the band, Robert based himself mostly in Germany working as a solo artist. He released four albums before the band reconvened in 2000.

Over the next six years the Go-Betweens toured, recorded a further three albums and won an ARIA in 2005 for their album Oceans Apart.

In 2006, Grant McLennan died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 48.

Robert had ventured into a parallel career of music critic in 2005 and although new to the profession he won the 2006 Pascall Prize for Australian Critic of the Year.

“I found it quite easy to make the transition from songwriting as I had been trying to do other types of writing when I was asked to be a music critic,” he said.

“But the discipline of shaping a piece comes from my background and training at UQ.”

Robert published a collection of writings on music in 2009 and is currently finishing his memoir.

His first album in seven years will be released in September.

In 2010, Brisbane’s Go Between Bridge, named in the band’s honour, opened to traffic.

An expected 4706 students are graduating from UQ in July 2015, with more than 3000 expected to attend graduation ceremonies from July 20 to 25.

More than 225,000 students have graduated from UQ since it was officially founded in 1910, with graduates in more than 170 countries primed to make a change in their world through knowledge leadership.

The University of Queensland is consistently ranked well within the world’s top 100 on the major university rankings.

Media: Gillian Ievers on +61 7 3346 1633, 0406 510 668 or; UQ Communications on +61 7 3346 0561 or