Forwarding University of Sydney student email

Update: Thank you to all who have contributed to the discussion below. For the impatient, here is a summary of what you might like to do:

  • If you hate Sydney Mail, fear not: you have options.
  • To redirect your Sydney Mail email to another email account, you can either a) use a “redirect” rule in Sydney Mail or b) get your email client (such as Gmail) to pick it up via POP3 (for this, see the main post below). Both a) and b) do the job.
  • To send email from within Gmail as if you were sending it from Sydney Mail, add your Sydney Mail address under the Addresses tab in Settings in Gmail.
  • However, some recipients, such as those using Outlook, may see that the sender of your email is “ on behalf of”. If you don’t like this, you can fix this by getting Gmail to send email via SMTP. To find out the address of the SMTP server, see these instructions.

“Sydney Mail is a new and significantly improved student email service,” announced the email from the university proudly.

The truth is that the university has delivered something that’s better, but is rather deficient in its own right: they’ve outsourced email to Microsoft so it’s all now run off Outlook Web Access. I could go on and on about why I would never use it, but I’ll just show you how to avoid using it.

The existing email system allows you to forward to a personal email address, and the university provides instructions for how to do it on the new system. Don’t follow those instructions! It is true that email will be forwarded from Outlook to your personal email but what happens is that the emails are literally forwarded! If Bob sends you an email, when it pops up in your personal email, the From field will show your university email as opposed to Bob, which is incredibly inconvenient.

The solution? Get your mail client to retrieve mail from Outlook via POP3. If you’re using Gmail like me, go to Settings > Accounts. Look for the “Get mail from other accounts” section and click the “Add a mail account you own” link. A window will then pop up; try the following settings:


Email sent to your university email won’t get forwarded instantly like it used to, but it’s a much better solution than the one offered by the university.

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  1. Tommy Chen’s avatar

    Wow, that’s dumb (the forwarding mechanism). You need to publicise this more. Publish it in the Gavel?

  2. Dan’s avatar

    Yes, we will distribute this pearl of wisdom. I can’t see why they can’t have outsourced this to Google instead of Microsoft.

    1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

      It might have been partly due to the integration of SkyDrive, which lets you store and share documents. Google has Google Docs, but that doesn’t preserve formatting 100%.

    2. Georgina’s avatar

      I hear that one of the reasons the university didn’t go with gmail (like Macquarie Uni did) was that google wouldn’t (or couldn’t) guarantee that student data wouldn’t be stored in Singapore.

      The accounts are hosted in the US.

      1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

        That’s interesting – what’s wrong with Singapore?

        1. Georgina’s avatar

          I really don’t know. I’d like to think that whatever committee is responsible for this change carefully considered US privacy / anti-terrorism laws and stuff, but considering ICT really didn’t consult anyone from faculties… meh. You’re the law student. I’m going to maths.

        2. Martin’s avatar

          Not just what’s wrong with Singapore but what’s wrong with Singapore that’s worse than what’s wrong with the US. (Likewise for what’s better, of course.) There’s a lot more about the deal that I would like to know.

          I would have been happy if usyd mail had just added some storage space.

          1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

            Actually, one additional problem is solved. People sometimes (stupidly) used their uni email as their primary email, which caused all kinds of hassles once they left uni. Since this is for life, it’s arguably better than the uni hosting the email itself.

            1. Martin’s avatar

              Once you leave uni they’ll chase you the rest of your life for donations. Alumni magazines will turn up everywhere you go. A uni-provided lifetime email would only help that.

              Hmm. Actually not much of an argument since whether it is external or internal they’ll know the email address.

            2. Nate’s avatar

              Thank god for this or I’d never have found how to get connected! Way to go one step forward two steps backwards. I would have been just happy if USyd mail had added maybe a couple of megabytes of storage space… I just use my personal email for attachments and such.

            3. Nate’s avatar

              So how do I access USyd email via POP3 on campus? I’m using the SIT cache if that’s of any help.

              1. Enoch Lau’s avatar


                I’m not sure if it’s possible to access it directly if you’re on the IT network (or even if you’re on the main uni network), because none of those ports would be accessible via the proxy.

                If you have a computer outside the uni that you can SSH into (e.g. one at home) and that computer has unfettered access to the internet, then you could use:

                ssh -L

                That will create a tunnel where is accessible via localhost:995

                That should work, but I can’t test it.

                1. Nate’s avatar

                  That’s another thing, don’t they block ssh out at the uni?

                  1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                    If you are on the School of IT network, you have unfettered SSH access out. If you’re just on the uni wireless, unless you’re connected via VPN using the !10 option (for an external IP address) then you can’t SSH out; but with this option, you have to pay for the data used…

                  2. Anon’s avatar

                    This isn’t a solution, it’s a hack. Pulling from gmail via pop just to forward it to another account? Bah!

                    And the solution they provide doesn’t actually work, at least not in Firefox.

                    Goddam sellout. Someone needs to be shot for this debacle.

                    1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                      Yes, implementing such a big change in the middle of semester – what were they thinking?

                    2. lewis’s avatar

                      Agreed with middle of semester, this is causing havok!

                      Also, can anyone else confirm that the uni’s (new) solution link doesn’t work in firefox? Takes me to a broken page.

                    3. Jake’s avatar

                      I went to the settings and redirected all mail sent to my Sydney Mail account to my account. 8 Hours later, 7000 emails in my Sydney Mail account and rising!

                      So yeah. don’t try that one.

                      Also I think this was a terrible decision by whoever decided it, and terrible timing.

                      1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                        Oh wow, so they… redirect to each other, and there’s nothing to stop that?

                        1. Matthew’s avatar

                          A redirect loop happens ’cause Microsoft stupidly remove/rewrite all the headers in the email when it’s forwarded, so loop detection doesn’t work. The other server doesn’t see it’s own trail in the message headers so thinks it’s a new message and dutifully forwards it again.


                          Have they fixed ‘forward’ now ?. Last time I tried ‘Please contact your system administrator’.

                          1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                            Wow, this is completely unreliable. I just tried adding the rule again, and the pop up window never managed to finish load…

                          2. Ben’s avatar

                            This is awesome. Want to hear more.

                          3. Danny’s avatar

                            Forwarding from sort of works, but doesn’t preserve To: header (it rewrites it to be the forward address) nor any Received: headers before arrival at

                            This could make tracking down problems – e.g. with mailing lists – rather difficult.

                            1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                              I’m sure Microsoft has lots of bright people. Where are they?

                              1. Matthew’s avatar

                                Working on the Exchange server back end. It’s a large clustered database with multiple ‘data stores’ on each node and some how it all has to stay in sync, but with quite short response time as there are 1000s of users clicking on buttons and expecting ‘instant’ response.
                                The fact that such a complex system can work as well as it does means some one has a group of clever systems/database people working on it.

                                I suspect the OWA UI is rather low down the list of priorities – especially since the system is basically designed around Office Outlook as the client.

                                1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                                  So the Exchange server where the mail is kept is actually at the University and not managed by Microsoft?

                                  1. Matthew’s avatar

                                    No, the exchange servers and OWA front end appear to be in Seattle. It’s not related in anyway to the Exchange service Usyd runs for it staff.
                                    It just ‘happens’ that the student service was outsourced to Microsoft who naturally run it on their own products.

                                    Student Email has been one of the largest and most visible outsourcings at Usyd to date.

                                  2. Donna’s avatar

                                    Thanks Enoch! why can’t that just be listed on the sydney mail site and save everyone tons of grief – until I found your site I never came accross the pdf for using other mail servers:


                                    Another problem with outlook redirection is that mail appears as being sent to gmail rather than the, so when you press reply in gmail it sends it from gmail – not a good look if you are doing a phd and have a bit of external emailing – our email address is our ‘business card’.

                                    1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                                      What you do is set up Gmail to send from your address.

                                      Go to Settings > Accounts, and under “Send mail as”, add your address. Follow the instructions to get it verified, and you’ll be able to send messages from Gmail as if you sent it from

                                      Also, under “When receiving a message”, select “Reply from the same address to which the message was sent” – that way, when you click Reply on a message sent to, your reply will by default appear as though sent from

                                      Yes, that PDF took a lot of searching to find; I have no idea why they hid it away.

                                      1. Matthew’s avatar

                                        My testing showed that ‘Reply from the same address to which the message was sent’ won’t actually work if you use the ‘forward’ filter on as Exchange rewrites the message header to the address you are forwarding to, so there is no immediate way to tell that any particular message was forwarded.
                                        If you use the POP download approach, it will of course work as above.

                                        1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                                          Good point (although really, Exchange shouldn’t be rewriting headers)

                                          Looks like the POP approach is the preferred option.

                                        2. Bell’s avatar

                                          Thanks soo much dude. I’ve been pulling my hair out for the last half hour trying to work out how to do this. In the end I figured that with a uni the size of USYD, there must be at least ONE person who was in the same boat as me, but with much much more tech know-how. I thank you for being that person 😀

                                          Note no shortage of info on how to redirect mail TO outlook eh…

                                          1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                                            You’re welcome

                                          2. John Jiang’s avatar

                                            Hey Enoch,

                                            Any idea on what the smtp server for is? Trying to get rid of “on behalf of” in gmail.

                                            1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                                              See my comment on 12 May at 1:27 PM. I really should go and refactor this post.

                                              When I send an email using Gmail pretending to be my uni email, a recipient on Outlook sees “on behalf of”… is this what you mean? If so, I know of no way to fix it.

                                              1. John Jiang’s avatar

                                                Cheers, the gmail team actually fixed the “on behalf of” issue by allowing you to specify the smtp server to use when sending out emails.


                                                1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                                                  Aha. Although the instructions to find out the SMTP server seem rather bothersome… and although it doesn’t display properly, I’ve never had a problem, say, emailing a lecturer from Gmail…

                                                2. John Jiang’s avatar

                                                  Neither, but it’s just comforting to know that the emails are being delivered the way you want it to

                                                3. Jimmy’s avatar

                                                  Just wanted to say:
                                                  Thanks mate!

                                                4. Daniel Yeo’s avatar

                                                  This was all the help I needed. Thanks!

                                                5. Michelle’s avatar

                                                  I have tried either ways: a) forwarding emails from uni mail to gmail and b) importing emails from the gmail end, boths ways didn’t work!!!

                                                  For a), I tried sending myself an email to my uni mail, my uni mail received it but didn’t forward it to gmail!

                                                  For b), it says ‘Could not validate this combination of email address and password’

                                                  Any idea?

                                                6. Michelle’s avatar

                                                  Sorry, please ignore my last messenge, I’ve solved the problem!

                                                  Thanks so much!! Great post!

                                                  1. Razza’s avatar

                                                    How did you solve it? I have the same problem…

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