The first student with links to Indonesia was Charles Campbell, a surgeon and botanist to the East India Company at Sumatra. He studied Arts at the University in the 1760s, and went on to contribute his expertise to William Marsden’s History of Sumatra (1783), the first comprehensive account of the island's natural history.

The University’s earliest Indonesian-born student was Charles William Young, son of a merchant born in Batavia, modern day Jakarta, around 1813, who began his studies in 1831.

Other student connections during the mid-nineteenth century included George Maurice Drummond, who was the Vicar at the Episcopal Church at Batavia from 1855-57.

Between 1858 and 1965 a further sixteen Indonesian-born students attended the University; of them twelve were born in Java (five in Batavia, three in Suabaya, and one in Djombang) and four in Sumatra. The majority of students were the children of British, Dutch and Chinese business people involved in sugar and tobacco manufacture.

The first student to come from an independent Indonesia arrived in the 1960s to do research in Chemistry with Professor Norman Grassie.