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From Ferranti to Faculty: Information Technology at Monash University, 1960 to 1990

Chapter three

Balancing acts

Sarah Rood

This chapter addresses the continuing development of the Department of Electronic Data Processing and the Department of Computer Science as they each struggled to balance internal consolidation and institutional change. The first section – The Seeds of Discontent – focuses on structural change, governance, inappropriate resources and the frustration that resulted. Mounting tension as a result of these challenges made the environments at Caulfield and Clayton ripe for change. It is this change that will be explored in the second section – Scenes Set for Change. The final section – Challenge and Negotiation – examines how, once the wheels of change were set in motion, each department faced the challenge of negotiation and of making sure that the needs of their discipline, staff and students were met in an increasingly unstable environment.

The Seeds of Discontent

The 1970s were characterised by increasing frustration for both departments. At Caulfield, changes in leadership, governance and structure had unavoidable implications for Electronic Data Processing. The political environment within the institution had changed and the department struggled to cope. Over at Clayton, resources were low and tension between the Department of Computer Science and the Faculty of Science began to compromise course development and research activity. Although the strong culture and identity of the department had acted as a protective barrier, tension continued to mount.

A Shift in Authority

The Victoria Institute of Colleges Act of 1965 changed the face of technical tertiary education in Victoria. At first, the effects of the Act were barely perceptible. But by the end of the 1960s the legislated changes had swept through Caulfield Institute of Technology. A restructured college greeted the new decade, ready, at the direction of its new principal Hartley Halstead, to expand and adapt to the changing tertiary environment. The adolescent Department of Electronic Data Processing, still struggling for recognition within the Institute, had no choice but to change with it.

One of the first major changes to affect the Department of Electronic Data Processing was the decision to designate Caulfield Institute of Technology as a centre of computing within the Victoria Institute of Colleges system. The intention was to physically link several VIC affiliated colleges to a new, more advanced computer located in the Computer Centre at Caulfield. The new machine, an ICL 1903A, was installed at Caulfield in 1969 and as a result of its broadened responsibilities, the Computer Centre was removed from the auspices of the Department of Electronic Data Processing and made an independent service unit complete with a newly appointed manager. Although no longer part of the department, Electronic Data Processing students and staff reaped the benefits of the new centre. Not only did they have access to a more sophisticated machine, but they benefited from a general increase in the awareness of computing that came as the Computer Centre began to service other areas of the Institute and VIC affiliated colleges.

Despite the creation of the Computer Centre, the effect of the VIC legislation on the structure of Caulfield Institute was initially minimal. However, by the end of 1970 things had changed drastically. Each department within the Institute was placed into one of four schools: General Studies, Industrial Studies, Engineering, or Applied Science. Heads of school were introduced within each of the four units. The direct reporting lines that were a legacy of Education Department governance were extinguished as the once small technical school began to mirror the more complex internal structure of Melbourne’s two universities. These internal changes positioned the Institute well for the introduction of VIC endorsed degree courses.

Halstead had a clear idea of the institution that he wanted Caulfield to become. He set to work encouraging the newly established schools to put forward new degree and course proposals. As Halstead had anticipated, increasing numbers of students were enticed by these new degree programs in computing, marketing and engineering. The appeal of Caulfield Institute broadened. As it did so, the traditional divide between universities and technical colleges, and the different styles of education offered by each began to lessen.

The pressure to introduce new degree courses had a positive effect on the department. Demand for its courses increased dramatically after the introduction of the degree and Programmer in Training courses in 1972. By 1975, there were over five hundred students enrolled in full or part time courses in data processing. There were also several hundred additional students studying individual data processing subjects.1 The profile of the Department of Electronic Data Processing soared alongside the increasing popularity of the new courses – both the place of the department within the Institute and its contribution to technical education were beginning to be more widely accepted.

Paradoxically, despite the positive effects of the new courses and the revamped Computer Centre, Jack White and his colleagues were becoming increasingly wary of the new Caulfield Institute of Technology. The internal restructure had seen the department placed, against its will, in the school of Applied Science alongside the departments of Mathematics, Applied Physics and Chemistry. Members of the department feared that being a part of a school that was made up of science based disciplines would dwarf the highly commercial focus of the department. This concern proved valid as increasingly, those external to the school made the assumption that the department taught technical computing or computer science.

Halstead had a strong background in computing. But his experience had centred on mathematical, not commercial data processing. The previous principal Austin Lambert had a similarly technical approach and his engineering background influenced his approach to computers and their applications. But, under Lambert, White had felt that he had been given the freedom to steer the department in the direction of commercial data processing. He had also enjoyed a significant influence over staff appointments to the Department of Electronic Data Processing and related areas. While final authority always rested with Lambert, White’s advice and recommendations appeared to guide the principal’s decisions. When the position of manager of the Computer Centre was readvertised in 1970, shortly after Halstead’s arrival, White had expected to have the same kind of influence.

Ray Newland had been the Computer Centre manager since March 1969. But his position had to be re-advertised when Halstead successfully convinced the Victoria Institute of Colleges to reclassify it to a higher level.2 Halstead had argued that the sophistication of the new computer system, the services that the Computer Centre provided to other colleges, and the introduction of remote terminals to networked colleges, required ‘a superior level of knowledge of computer hardware and software as well as of computer centre administration and operation’.3

White saw no reason why Newland should not be re-appointed to the newly classified position. After all, Newland had set up the new Caulfield Computer Centre and had been lecturing data processing at the Institute since the early 1960s. As far as the department was concerned, Newland was the ideal candidate – he had the practical and managerial skills as well as a solid grounding in commercial data processing. Accordingly, White made his support of Newland clear. But when an external candidate by the name of John Dann was appointed the new manager of the Computer Centre, it was clear that White’s opinion had been overlooked. Although Newland was almost immediately promoted, it did not disguise the reality that White’s input had been disregarded. The selection of Dann over Newland was the first signal that White’s authority had been eroded. He no longer had the autonomy or influence that he had previously enjoyed. In addition, while Dann was clearly qualified to manage the Computer Centre, his computing experience had come from mathematics and engineering.4 Not only had the department’s preferred candidate been overlooked and White’s authority compromised, but it was now faced with a Computer Centre manager whose expertise was not in commercial data processing.

Within the School of Applied Science the friction between the departments of Electronic Data Processing, Mathematics, Chemistry and Applied Physics that hailed from the Education Department days was ever present. Strong leadership from the soon to be appointed head of the School of Applied Science would be necessary if these traditional rivalries were to be broken down. A good relationship with the new head of school was imperative for the department as authority had clearly shifted from the heads of department to the newly established heads of school. It was they who would now liaise with the principal. If the new head of school understood the department and discipline of electronic data processing then maybe he or she could be relied upon to represent its best interests to Halstead. But when Eric Hemingway took up the position in February 1971, it was almost immediately clear that he was not the leader that the Department of Electronic Data Processing had hoped for.

Eric Hemingway was a mechanical engineer originally from the United Kingdom. He had extensive experience in both practical engineering and the tertiary environment. His research interests included elastohydrodynamics and tribology and he had lectured mechanical engineering at the University of Sydney and the University of Western Australia. But his experience brought little solace to Electronic Data Processing staff who greeted the news of his appointment with trepidation. Like Halstead and Dann, Hemingway’s contact with computing had occurred in a highly technical context. The new head of school had not had any exposure to commercial data processing.5 Perhaps because of their difference in perspective, the relationship between White and Hemingway was strained from the outset – and while the popularity of courses in electronic data processing increased, their relationship steadily deteriorated.

Deep Divisions

Instability had characterised the beginnings of the Department of Computer Science at Monash University. Uncertainty about the new discipline and how it would relate to other departments within Monash, including the already established Computer Centre, delayed the appointment of a Foundation Professor from when the idea was first conceived in 1963 until 1968. There was also underlying concern about how the teaching and research of the new department would differ from the computing activity already well underway at the University. Inadequately addressed and never fully resolved, these issues continued to plague the Department of Information, and later Computer Science.

When word spread throughout the University that there was to be a new department specialising in information science, there were few outside of the faculties of Science and Engineering who had any knowledge of this new discipline. What they did know however, was that it had something to do with computers. By this time, Cliff Bellamy, the high profile manager of the Computer Centre, had become synonymous with all things computing at Monash. The assumption followed that if this new Department of Information Science had anything to do with computers it must also have something to do with Bellamy. Even those within the science based areas of study had trouble extracting Bellamy from the new discipline.

The perception that Bellamy was heavily involved in the Department of Information Science led to the belief that the two areas were similar, if not the same. As a result, well before Chris Wallace arrived at Monash University, the department and the Computer Centre were intertwined in the minds of many. By the time Wallace actually did arrive, the perceived similarity between the department and the Computer Centre must have seemed inescapable.

Demarcation between the Department of Information Science and the Computer Centre was problematic. Although the Computer Centre was not an academic department, some of its staff had been teaching since the early 1960s. This teaching activity began out of necessity as there was no academic department of computing or computer science at the time. However, it continued after the establishment of Information Science, blurring the boundaries between the two. Bellamy’s status fuelled the ambiguity. He was neither purely academic nor wholly administrative. As the head of a service unit he had managerial and administrative responsibilities. But he was also involved in teaching, research and external consulting.6 To confuse matters further, in 1970 he was elevated to professorial status, a title usually reserved for the heads of academic departments. Although technically not an academic member of staff, Bellamy was now on equal standing with all professors within the University, including Professor Wallace. Bellamy’s new status also gave him membership of the Professorial Board – the prime decision making body within the University.7

There seemed to be no simple way to delineate the Computer Centre and the department in the eyes of the general Monash community. The actual differences between them were lost because of the assumption that computing and computer science were one and the same. Confusion about the discipline was compounded by ongoing discussion about which faculty should house the department. By the mid 1960s, engineering, mathematics, physics, chemistry and even economics students were beginning to be exposed to computers and the associated technology. As a result, when the establishment of the new department had been discussed, several faculties could have been in the position to support a department of information science.

In September 1966, Professor Lampard of the Department of Electrical Engineering wrote to Vice-Chancellor Matheson to express his department’s direct interest in the then vacant Chair of Information Science. Lampard anticipated that there would be an important relationship between the new Chair and the Department of Electrical Engineering and he offered his assistance in the recruitment and interview process.8 He hinted that he and perhaps his department felt that information science could have been a part of the Faculty of Engineering. Less than a month later, he urged the Professorial Board to consider the relocation of information science to the Faculty of Engineering.9

Professor Lampard’s suggestion was not taken on board. Perhaps it was because of the pre-existing relationship between the academic staff of the Computer Centre and the Department of Mathematics, or between professors Westfold and Bellamy, or perhaps it was because science seemed the most appropriate discipline for the Department of Information Science, but in any event the new department remained within the Faculty of Science. However, the issue of the department’s location was far from resolved. In fact it resurfaced several times throughout the 1970s and 1980s.10

Common ground between the discipline of computer science and other departments such as mathematics, physics, electrical engineering, chemistry and economics meant that there were definite areas of overlap in teaching and research. However, short staffed and under funded, the department did not have the resources to explore or exploit this common ground.

Resources were a fundamental issue for the department. The steady course and subject development of the 1970s was not matched with an expansion in its staff numbers and the allocated equipment funds were insufficient to support the department’s undergraduate and postgraduate students, let alone the increasing number of research grants being received by academics. Despite the repeated pleas from the department to increase the number of academic and technical staff and to provide funds for additional equipment that were made throughout the 1970s, the Faculty of Science did not respond to the satisfaction of the department.

Both internal and external factors influenced how funding and resources were allocated to the Department of Computer Science. Within the Faculty of Science and the University, perceptions of computer science interfered with requests for additional staff and equipment. The centrality of computers and technical equipment to teaching and research within the department was often overlooked or simply not understood. As a result, requests for additional equipment and technical support were not prioritised.

Internal politics were also at play. Relationships between Computer Science and other departments of the Faculty of Science and particularly with its dean, Professor John Swan, were often strained.11 While the strong shared identity and culture that had emerged within the department was extremely positive and productive for its staff and students, it also acted as a barrier that kept the Department of Computer Science segregated from the rest of the faculty. This in turn influenced how the department was perceived by others within the Faculty of Science and how additional funds were divided between the departments.

External funding models also influenced the resource issues that the department faced. Like other Australian universities, Monash received funds from both the State and Federal Governments. In order to advise on the financial management of universities across Australia, the Federal Government had established the Australian Universities Commission (AUC) in the late 1950s. Increasingly, the Government relied upon the AUC to advise and direct the distribution of federal funds to universities.12 The Commission used a system of discipline classifications to guide the Government on its allocations. According to the AUC, which was replaced by the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission in 1977, computer science was a low technology discipline, with low technical and equipment needs. Despite its reliance on machines and technology, computer science was grouped with disciplines like mathematics, which had virtually no laboratory or technical support requirements.

The department found that unlike departments of engineering and chemistry, its high technology needs were simply not catered for in the federal funding model. Any additional resources had to come through special allocations from the Faculty of Science, with whom relations were increasingly strained and pressured. As the 1980s approached the department grew more and more unstable. Federal budget cuts that had begun in the mid 1970s were beginning to be felt across the entire University.13 By the end of the 1970s morale within the department was at an all time low. The unresolved issues of definition, perception and location were interfering with the department’s activities and stifling its development.

Scenes Set for Change

Change was in the air at both Caulfield and Clayton. Sweeping structural changes were being implemented in the coordination and governance of technical education. The days of single reporting lines under the auspices of the Education Department were getting harder and harder to recall as a more complicated system of governance, reporting, and discipline groupings was established. Although these changes were initially external to Caulfield Institute of Technology, it was not long before Director Hartley Halstead decided to replicate them within the Institute. These changes would have a lasting impact on Electronic Data Processing.

The Department of Computer Science at Clayton had been poised for change for years. But the catalyst was unexpected and came from the highest level – the Vice-Chancellor of Monash University himself. With the attention of the Vice-Chancellor finally captured, the department pushed its long-standing issues of poor funding, insufficient resource allocation, and a general lack of understanding to the attention of the University. The scene was set for change.

The True State of Computing Education

Misconceptions about computer science had a highly tangible effect on the Department of Computer Science at Monash. It constantly struggled with resources, staffing and student numbers. Unfortunately, these problems were not necessarily visible to those outside the department until, at a Professorial Board meeting in late November 1981, a comment was made that gave Professor Wallace the impetus to force the issues his department faced onto the University’s agenda.

At this meeting of the Professorial Board, the Vice-Chancellor Ray Martin commented that ‘computer science education in [the] university was in a pretty healthy state’ with around 4,000 students each year receiving some sort of computer science education.14 His words – which are likely to have been unremarkable to most – immediately raised the ire of Professor Wallace and Professor John Crossley from the Department of Mathematics and struck at the core of the unrest within the department. While 4,000 may have been an accurate representation of the number of students who had come into contact with computers, it was far from an indication of the number of students who had studied computer science.15 Staffing shortages and University imposed quotas had kept this figure to a mere 120. Once again, it was a problem of definition and understanding. In one sentence, the Vice-Chancellor of the University had revealed that he too was unaware of the fundamental difference between computing and computer science.

As far as Wallace and Crossley – the latter of whom was soon to become an integral part of the Department of Computer Science – were concerned, the Vice-Chancellor had confirmed that all was far from healthy with the state of computer science education. Here, finally, was a practical expression of how poorly computer science was understood within the University community. Martin’s comment and the years of misunderstandings it represented spurred Wallace into action.

He began by sending a memo to the Vice-Chancellor.16 It was courteous and considered, well thought out and concise. But his typed words carried with them the anger and frustration that had been building within the department over the previous decade. In just over three pages Wallace revealed what he believed to be the true state of computer science education at Monash University. He set out the major issues – enrolment quotas, staffing and resources – all of which were symptomatic of the lack of understanding of computer science and the apparent reticence of some members of the Monash community to recognise it as a valid academic discipline.

The department was unable to escape confusion about the nature of computer science. It seemed that this confusion, combined with a hesitance to recognise computer science as an academic discipline, translated to a negative attitude towards the department and the subjects and courses it offered. The department met with great resistance from the Faculty of Science as it attempted to introduce additional subjects in Computer Science. Consequently only limited options were available to students who wished to study the new discipline. Although the first subject had been introduced in 1969, students were unable to major in computer science until 1977. Even after Computer Science 203 was introduced, enabling students to complete a major, there was still no computer science at first year level. So the department focussed on getting approval for a first year subject. If approved, there would be an option at each year level for those who wished to study computer science.

While the department put its proposal together for the first year subject, Computer Science 101, a wave of conservatism surfaced within the Faculty of Science. With it came a renewed emphasis on the basic sciences. The Bachelor of Science was restructured to require two of four first year subjects to be chosen from biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics.17 Although the Department of Computer Science was clearly marginalised by this focus on the traditional sciences, it went ahead with the proposal for CS101.

The Board of the Faculty of Science was divided by the proposal. First year was for physics, chemistry, mathematics and biology, not computer science. But then again, computer science had become popular with students at a time when interest in the traditional sciences was waning. It seemed certain that the vote would be tied. But, before the vote was taken, the student representative to the Faculty Board declared that although he himself did not see the value of computer science at first year level, he had been approached by a great number of students who did. He stated that his vote would therefore represent the wishes of the student body rather than his own. His decision had a huge impact on the Department of Computer Science as the proposal was passed by a single vote.18

Computer Science 101 attracted 150 students in its first year. It was a resounding, but short-lived victory for the department as an imposed quota ensured that enrolments were capped at the 150 that it had so easily achieved. Unfortunately this pattern of intervention and limitation was all too familiar to the department. A similar situation had occurred after the diploma in Computer Science was introduced in 1976. The postgraduate, coursework based Diploma was directed at industry professionals and it aimed to bring practitioners in the computing field up to date with computer science. The course was immediately popular and it responded directly to a demand that had been expressed in industry circles.

Despite its popularity with students and computer science professionals, the Diploma in Computer Science attracted suspicion and criticism within the University. The prerequisites for entry were a combination of practical experience and formal education and, in some cases, industry experience alone was sufficient. Concern was voiced about how the quality of the students would be ensured, and the academic validity of the course was questioned.19

In 1980, the Diploma in Computer Science did not take any new enrolments. The reason, according to the Faculty of Science Handbook, was staffing shortages within the department. However, when resources were requested to allow the course to reopen, Professor Wallace was informed that the diploma was not a priority. Not that there were no resources available, but that it was not a priority. The fact that there was now ‘no advanced course available in Australia for professionals seeking to bring themselves up to date with the computing theory and techniques’ was not the University’s concern.20 The style of education provided by the Diploma in Computer Science was considered to be the domain of the technical institutions, the Australian Computer Society, and industry, not Monash University.21 Wallace was told in no uncertain terms that the priority of the department should be the stabilisation of its undergraduate student numbers.

The directive to focus on the undergraduate numbers was a further slight on the department. Well aware that high student numbers were taken to be a sign of a healthy department and a well established discipline, the department had striven to increase its enrolments. But, at the same time quotas, which limited the number of students permitted to enrol in a given subject, forced the department to turn students away and impinged on its ability to meet the high industry and government demand for graduates of computer science.

Quotas were a long standing problem for the department. Although demand for computer science had been high since the early 1970s, quotas consistently held enrolments back. In 1971, 150 students enrolled in the newly introduced Information Science 205. In theory, they could then move on to study information science at a third year level, raising the cumulative total of students studying computer science. But, the year after, enrolments in IS303, the follow on subject for students of IS205, were limited to 75.22 Only half of the second year students would be able to continue their studies in computer science. In his memo to the Vice-Chancellor that followed the November meeting of the Professorial Board, Wallace raised the issue of quotas and student demand. As an example, he pointed out that ‘every year that [CS101] has been offered we have had more than twice as many qualified applicants as we have been able to accept’.23

It is important to acknowledge that in one sense, the department relied on quotas. As it did not have the staff, equipment or technical support to accommodate a limitless number of students, quotas helped to keep the ratio between staff and students at an appropriate level. But the quotas also kept the department’s student numbers on an artificial plateau. How could the size of its student body increase if quotas limited the number of students it could enrol?

The imposed quotas had a direct relationship to staffing levels in the department. Within Monash, and also within other universities, student staff ratios were used to gauge teaching load and staffing levels across the institution. They were looked to as a way of assessing the balance between the number of staff and the number of students. The optimal ratio for each department depended on the nature of the discipline and the type of teaching required. High technology or laboratory based departments like Chemistry and Physics had a lower staff student ratio – that is, fewer students per staff member – due to the practical, experiment based style of teaching. Conversely, a higher student staff ratio was considered appropriate for departments whose teaching activity was mostly lectures and tutorials and did not involve laboratory sessions.

The department argued at various stages in its development that it was not appropriately resourced in terms of the number of staff or allocated equipment.24 But, by the end of the 1970s, the department’s teaching load was bordering on the unmanageable. Lecturers were struggling to meet the needs of their students. Repeated requests were made for additional staff but there was little result. At this time, increasing budget cuts to universities across the country meant that measures like student staff ratios, and discipline classifications were relied on more heavily to guide resource allocation. The Department of Computer Science found itself in a difficult position. It could not argue for more staff on the basis of imbalance in the student staff ratio as quotas kept the number of students enrolled artificially constant – the number of students was clearly not rising. Nor could the department argue for a lowering of its student staff ratio, as computer science was not classified as a high technology discipline and its experimental nature was yet to be understood or acknowledged.

Meanwhile, the department’s research activity began to suffer. Research was a highly important component of university life. The research activity of a department was seen to reinforce its academic validity within the University community. Although the department did actively engage in research and attracted several research grants throughout the 1970s, it was heavily criticised for its poor research output.25 This criticism fuelled the doubt that already existed about the validity of computer science as an academic discipline and its place in the university environment. Once again resources, inappropriate staffing levels and poorly informed perceptions held the department back. Demanding teaching loads left little time for research. Because of its classification as a low technology discipline, the research activity that did occur was unable to be supported by appropriate equipment or technical staff.26 As there was no technical support, staff were forced to spend valuable time developing software and constructing hardware rather than engaging in their own research.27

The Department of Computer Science was caught up in a cycle that it could not seem to break. The discipline was poorly understood and its academic validity was questioned. In response, the department tried to expand its teaching activity and increase its student body. But, any advances that were made in terms of the subjects offered to students were immediately constrained by quotas on student enrolments. Quotas made sure that the student body remained stable and that the staff student ratio remained balanced. While computer science remained classified as a low technology discipline this ratio could not be lowered, and equipment funding and support remained inadequate. The high teaching demands and poor technical support translated to a low research output for which the department was criticised and which compelled many to question computer science as a discipline. And so the cycle continued, until the Vice-Chancellor’s comment about the apparent well being of computer science education at Monash, gave Wallace the ammunition to try and break it.

Although the definition and understanding of the nature of computer science underpinned his memo, Wallace’s arguments were intensely practical. He included a table that presented the recurrent funding allocated to all departments within the Faculty of Science. He pointed out that ‘the department received far less support than any other practically-oriented department’.28 Computer Science was funded at approximately the same level as Mathematics which ‘does not have laboratory classes, is not involved with education and research concerned with computing hardware, and which does not operate and maintain computing equipment’.29 He argued that there seemed to be no relief ahead. The department faced 1982 with a reduction in maintenance funds and the termination of four fixed term staff appointments. With poor career prospects and high teaching demands, morale within the department was low and the future of the department was once again in question. Fortunately Wallace’s memo succeeded in drawing attention to the difficulties that Computer Science faced.

Between November 1981 and early February 1982 it appeared that a conscious attempt was made to address the issues that Wallace had raised with the Vice-Chancellor. Dialogue commenced between Wallace, Martin, and Swan, and by the end of 1981, steps were clearly being taken to address the department’s grievances.30 A plan for the Department of Computer Science for 1982-1983 was put forward to the Vice-Chancellor that detailed reduced quotas and additional teaching positions.31 It seemed that, at the very least, short-term solutions were being sought and that the effects of a decade of misunderstanding and suspicion were finally being sorted out. However, by mid February 1982, any progress that had been made ceased almost as quickly as it had started.

The cause of conflict was interference in the teaching program that was to be offered by the Department of Computer Science. By the end of 1981, the Department of Computer Science was severely understaffed. The department faced 1982 with the knowledge that it did not have the staff or resources to support an increase in its student body. When the quota on enrolments for the first year subject Computer Science 101 (CS101) was discussed, Wallace stated strongly that the department could not shoulder an increase from 150 to 200. The situation was ironic – Wallace was forced to argue against an increase in the number of students who could enrol in computer science. But his department simply could not handle the extra teaching load. So when Wallace, in early February 1982, was made aware that Martin had approved the quota of 200 for CS101, his displeasure was tangible.

Furious that their counsel had been overlooked but aware that the enlarged quota could not be reversed, staff of the department decided that they would balance the additional teaching load by offering one, rather than two third year major sequence subjects. But the Dean of Science, John Swan would not approve of this approach. Conciliatory words disappeared as once again tension between the department and the Faculty of Science mounted. Wallace and Swan had reached gridlock.

At the end of February 1982 Vice-Chancellor Martin wrote to Professor Wallace. He believed that in light of recent circumstances ‘it would be timely to establish a small committee of review to provide advice on such matters as enrolment targets, staff and equipment requirements etc., which would be appropriate for our Monash department for the future’.32 Wallace’s response to the Vice-Chancellor’s statement back in November of 1981 had finally resulted in the outcome that the department had needed for so long – a formal review of computer science and its place within Monash University.

The Tides of Professionalism

The change in leadership between Austin Lambert and Hartley Halstead ushered in a period of increased professionalism at Caulfield Institute of Technology. Halstead embraced the changes that were brought about by the Victoria Institute of Colleges and strove to replicate them at the Caulfield Institute. He encouraged his schools and departments to follow suit.

The VIC rapidly established an intricate committee structure, which acted as an intensive compliance and quality control mechanism. Major discipline groupings were constructed and each was represented by a Course Development Committee and a Schools Board.33 Perched above the various Schools Boards was the Board of Studies, which acted on matters of policy and direction. At the highest level was the VIC Council, which was chaired by the organisation’s President. Any proposal for a new course had to commence at the appropriate Course Development Committee and progress up through the hierarchy before it could be introduced. Once the course was established, periodic curriculum reviews were conducted to ensure ongoing conformity with VIC standards and regulations. Although more complex than the Education Department system that it replaced, the VIC committee structure was relatively transparent. And most importantly, it sent a clear message of its authority to the affiliated colleges.

Halstead took many of his cues from the Victoria Institute of Colleges. The four new schools he established followed the discipline groupings of the VIC School Boards and a similar committee structure soon followed within the Institute. Course Advisory Committees made up of representatives from private industry, the government sector, and the universities were set up for every course that was offered by the Institute.34 School Boards were introduced, comprising the head of school, heads of department and elected staff and student representatives.35 Caulfield Institute’s Board of Studies, like the VIC committee it emulated, drew the various School Boards together on matters of policy and direction and in turn reported to the Institute’s Council. After the introduction of a Business Manager and a Registrar to oversee the Institute’s administration, the Caulfield Institute of Technology’s internal structure essentially mirrored that of the VIC.

In March 1973, Halstead’s title changed from principal to director. It was a simple but bold change that symbolised the professionalisation of Caulfield Institute of Technology.36 The Department of Electronic Data Processing was being pushed the same way. Halstead was well aware of the growing appeal of electronic data processing and he encouraged the introduction of the VIC degree course and the transfer of the Programmer-in-Training Course to the Institute. The introduction of the Bachelor and Diploma of Applied Science (Electronic Data Processing) saw elements of theory become part of the curriculum for the first time and lecturers began to teach at a more specialised level.37 The transfer of the Programmer in Training Course to Caulfield consolidated and cemented an already strong relationship with the government and private sectors. Following Halstead’s petition to the VIC for additional staff to teach the PIT course, it also strengthened the department with three additional lecturers, Anne Brookes, Helen Smith, and David Stickels, who were experienced in commercial data processing.38

Despite these positive changes, the transformation within the Institute and the push for professionalism left the department shaken and unsteady. The introduction of schools had altered the political landscape and, as neither Halstead nor the new head of Applied Science, Eric Hemingway, had first hand experience of the commercial applications of data processing, the department feared that its interests were unrepresented. The reality was that since Lambert’s departure, head of department Jack White had felt his authority and influence slip away. But then again, he and his colleagues had successfully worked with Halstead and Hemingway to raise the profile of the department and its teaching standards. In what may well have been a final attempt to regain some political ground and reassert the interests of his department, Jack White requested a promotion.

White’s request was about more than promotion. It was an effort to win back some of the authority and recognition that White felt he and his department deserved. And so, it was all the more devastating when his request was not approved. For White, it was the final incident in a chain of events that left him feeling marginalised and frustrated. He expressed his disappointment clearly on 5 June 1972, when he tendered his resignation from the College. In September that year, he left Caulfield to take up a more senior position at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education – and so Jack White, one of the founding fathers of electronic data processing in the technical college environment, stepped quietly away from Caulfield Institute of Technology.

With its autonomy perceived to be in jeopardy, its focus seemingly misunderstood and differences in opinion with Hemingway rife, White’s resignation was a further blow to the teetering department. Nevertheless, the vacancy presented a timely opportunity for both Halstead and the department. For Halstead, it was an opportunity to replace White with someone who could work constructively with Hemingway and, if he selected the right candidate, further increase the academic profile of the Caulfield Institute. For the department there was the possibility that the new head of department would help them adjust to the politics of the Institute and represent its interests at the school level.

Between White’s resignation in early June 1972 and the advertisement of the vacancy in early July, the VIC received a request from Halstead to reclassify the head of department position.39 He argued that reclassification would help attract a candidate with ‘the highest level of qualifications and experience in as broad a range of computer theory and practice as is possible’.40 The request was approved and the position was advertised at the level that Halstead had requested. Although the appointment was highly anticipated, the timing of the reclassification – immediately after White’s request for the same had been denied – did not go unnoticed by staff of the department.

One of Halstead’s main aims was to increase the academic credibility of the Caulfield Institute. His push for the introduction of degree courses in all of his schools was motivated by the same drive to broaden the appeal of the institution and strengthen its reputation. The new courses, the more complex committee structure and the renaming of his own position all fed into the new image of the Institute. So when Hartley Halstead received Trevor Pearcey’s application for the reclassified head of department position in July 1972, Halstead may well have considered his search over. Pearcey was precisely the sort of candidate that Halstead had hoped to attract.

Trevor Pearcey surfaced previously in this history when he applied for the Monash University Chair of Information Science in 1965. His name and influence is intricately woven into the history and development of computing in Australia. Originally from the United Kingdom, his first contact with computing resulted from his research into radar development and antennae theory.41 In 1946, he commenced what was to be a long association with the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Two years later, his division began an investigation of automatic computing devices. This new project eventuated in CSIRAC, Australia’s first, and the world’s fourth, electronic computer. Pearcey was its main system designer. In addition to his ground-breaking work at CSIRO, he lectured in computing and numerical methods at the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne. His career was also littered with practical experience in the private sector, with time spent in Minneapolis working with Control Data Corporation, and in Australia with its subsidiary, Control Data Australia.

Not only did Pearcey have a solid grounding in academic science and extensive research experience, but he had just been awarded a Doctor of Science in Computing Science by the University of Melbourne. Pearcey’s application was successful and he joined the department in January of 1973. It was without doubt a shrewd appointment. Through Pearcey, Halstead forged an important alliance between the Caulfield Institute and a more identifiably academic form of computing. Pearcey’s integral role in the development of computing in Australia raised the profile of the department and the Institute by association. But despite all of this, Pearcey was initially received with great reserve by his electronic data processing colleagues whose loyalties still firmly rested with Jack White.42

Several factors worked against the new head of department. His well established research profile set him apart from the majority of the department’s staff who focussed on high quality training and the employability of their graduates. His quiet, uncharismatic lecturing style was not favoured by students and his scientific approach often left them behind.43 He was perceived to be aloof and to show little interest in the established social culture and mores of the tightly knit department. It was also clear to staff that he was not in good health.44 Although Pearcey was recognised as an exceptional computer scientist, there was concern within the department as to whether he would be able to provide them with the leadership they desired and so desperately needed.

It seemed initially that the differences between Pearcey and the department outweighed the similarities. But, he was gradually accepted into the Caulfield data processing community. It was Gerry Maynard, a long standing staff member of the department, who was largely responsible for his integration. Maynard took on board many of the administrative duties that would normally have fallen to the head of department. Pearcey’s reputation was positive for the profile of the department and he clearly had Halstead’s favour. And so Maynard entered into a silent and perhaps unspoken partnership with Pearcey in which he supported and directed the new leader. With Maynard’s backing, Pearcey pointed the department in the direction of increasing professionalism.

Course and curriculum change gained momentum under Pearcey’s leadership. After their introduction in 1972, the Bachelor of Applied Science (Electronic Data Processing) and the Diploma of Electronic Data Processing became the main entry level courses for computing students. They had been carefully planned and structured. Diploma and degree students studied a common first year after which they were separated into diploma and degree streams. The diploma students would go on to complete one additional year of study, and the degree students two. Flexibility was encouraged and students had the opportunity to change from diploma to degree and vice versa. Most significantly, these two courses enabled the department to cater for traditional technical college students and to appeal to those more interested in a university style degree.

The diploma and degree courses extended the department’s repertoire and broadened its appeal. New courses were on the horizon. But first, the existing courses had to be consolidated in order to reduce teaching duplication. Accordingly, after the introduction of the degree and diploma, the Diploma of Information Processing and the Diploma of Business Studies (EDP), running since 1964 and 1967 respectively, were closed to new students and gradually phased out. Teaching at the undergraduate level became streamlined to maximise teaching resources. But there was still room for improvement in the post diploma area. As well as the highly successful Programmer in Training course, there was the Diploma in Electronic Computation for the technically focussed, and the Associate Diploma in Accountancy (Data Processing) for the business oriented student. Although each course had a particular emphasis, there was considerable curriculum overlap. So, in 1972, a proposal was made to the VIC to amalgamate all three of these courses into the Graduate Diploma in Data Processing.

The proposed graduate diploma would be similar in content to the newly commenced degree course as it was also an introduction to data processing. The major difference was that it would be taught in a more concentrated format to post diploma students with a tertiary qualification in accounting, engineering or another discipline.45 Like the degree and diploma courses, if approved, the graduate diploma would initially introduce a common core of programming and systems analysis subjects for all students and later, facilitate the specialisation that each of the three previous post diploma courses had offered.46

The Graduate Diploma in Data Processing was approved and, in 1973, a new look Department of Electronic Data Processing offered a culled and streamlined suite of four courses. With its teaching activities consolidated, the department moved on to enticing students with additional new courses and flexible programs. One of these, which is more likely to have been instigated by the School of Applied Science than the Department of Electronic Data Processing, was the computer science stream of the Bachelor and Diploma of Applied Science (Multidiscipline). The course was introduced in 1972 and ran for two years before the computer science component was introduced at a first year level. The specialisation was intended to prepare students for a technical career in science and computing science and as such was not a traditional area of teaching for the Department of Electronic Data Processing. It was around this time that a new staff member, Dr Milton Pine, joined the departmental staff to lecture in computer science.47

While computer science had never been the focus of the department, the introduction of the new strand of the multidisciplinary degree signified the diversification of teaching activity that followed the introduction of degree courses. Indeed, they had become so popular that in 1975, the department introduced a conversion program which enabled students to upgrade a previous diploma level qualification, completed at Caulfield or elsewhere, to a degree. As the department continued to support more dynamic programs, like the computer science stream and the conversion program, it moved further and further away from the traditional technical college courses that it had originally offered. This reality was reflected in 1976, when the Certificate of Electronic Data Processing (Operators and Coders), a stereotypical technical college course and once one of the department’s flagship courses, was transferred to the TAFE area of Caulfield Institute of Technology.

As the earlier courses continued to be phased out, the professionalisation continued. Caulfield Institute of Technology was declared a ‘centre of data processing excellence’.48 At the same time ideas began to circulate within the Institute about the development of a combined degree in data processing and business studies. First mooted in response to student demand, the idea moved steadily from working group to course proposal stage before being formally submitted to the VIC in February 1977. The degree followed the now characteristic pattern of common core subjects in first year with options for specialisation in later years, and led the successful candidate to the qualifications of Bachelor of Applied Science (Electronic Data Processing) and Bachelor of Business (Accounting). After the combined degree was approved by the VIC, it seemed that the department’s course expansion was almost complete with degree, diploma, post diploma, multidisciplinary, conversion and double degree options. But it was not quite so. There was still perceived to be a gap in the postgraduate area.

As the 1970s drew to a close it was agreed within the department that the major shortfall in the offerings of data processing courses at the Caulfield Institute was that there were ‘no higher level (post) graduate courses which would provide further education facilities for graduates of the degree and graduate diploma courses’.49 Caulfield offered no further study options to graduates of the Bachelor of Applied Science (EDP) or the Graduate Diploma in Data Processing. Many of these students, as well as professionals from the computing industry, had expressed the desire to continue their education in this area. Backed by concerns expressed by the Australian Computer Society and other government and industry representations, a proposal was put forward for the (Post) Graduate Diploma in Computing and Information Systems. Not only would this course provide further training for graduates and professionals, it could potentially act as a stepping stone for students wishing to go on to a research degree at another institution. The course was approved for introduction in 1979. With this milestone achieved, the department slowed the rapid course expansion that had dominated the 1970s.

The appeal of the Institute had expanded. Steadily increasing student numbers testified that the course developments had been well received. The department saw the rising enrolment figures as positive, but the employability of its graduates remained the ultimate measure of success. As the student body swelled, links with industry and the practical elements of the department’s teaching had to be formalised to ensure that the quality and immediate employment of graduates remained paramount.

Challenge and Negotiation

The Department of Electronic Data Processing and the Department of Computer Science were accustomed to being buffeted around by external change. But as time went on, both departments had become more able to assert their needs and push for change in a way that would foster the development of their teaching and research activities.

A spotlight had finally been shone on the state of computer science education at Monash University. With review activity underway the Department of Computer Science was faced with a new challenge. Negotiation. Senior University staff took a great interest in the form and structure of the review. It seemed that everyone was suddenly interested in the plight of the Department of Computer Science. The department had to find a way of making sure that its voice was heard. Internal divisions were also threatening Computer Science. Finding this voice and negotiating within the institution while struggling with serious internal tension became the department’s new challenge.

The Department of Electronic Data Processing found itself in a period of expansion and consolidation. Its reputation was growing and its graduates were becoming increasingly sought after in industry. A challenge lay ahead – as numbers continued to swell and the profile of computing grew, the department had to think of creative ways to deliver computing education and ensure that students had practical career focussed training – a challenge that became harder and harder as the department grew and expanded.

Rising to the Challenge

First hand access to computers and data processing applications was a defining element of the Department of Electronic Data Processing’s teaching. Practical exposure to machines, how they operated and how they were used in a commercial context was as imperative for students of the one year Certificate of Electronic Data Processing (Operating and Coding) as it was for those of the three year Bachelor of Applied Science (Electronic Data Processing). This kind of experience was perceived as crucial in ensuring that that students’ knowledge and skills were effectively and immediately transferable to the workplace environment. In the early days of computing education at Caulfield, this type of contact with computers was easier to incorporate into the curriculum. The college’s machine and the Computer Centre serviced only the department and its small number of staff and students. Smaller class sizes made it feasible to take students on site visits to companies or government departments so that they could see computing technology being applied. Staff could, and did, organise vacation placements for individual students, which gave them further insight into real data processing operations. The need for this type of practical exposure and contact remained, but the growing student body made it more difficult to facilitate.

After the Computer Centre began to provide services for the whole Institute as well as for several affiliated colleges it became less and less possible for data processing staff and students to be given the access to the computers that they required. The introduction of multi-tasking terminals at the Computer Centre caused an additional problem for the department. The terminals, which students used to interface with computers, effectively masked the basic levels of machine operation.50 These operations were crucial for data processing students to see and experience if they were to gain a command of machine architecture, function and operation. Realising that it would be unable to produce appropriately trained graduates without increased access to machines at the most basic level, the department made a case for the purchase and operation of its own machine. Despite resistance from some areas of the Institute and some tension with the Computer Centre, two machines, a Data General C330 and a PDP, were installed. A parallel computer centre, run by the department for the practical education of its students was established.

While the majority of the department’s staff had experience as data processing practitioners, the longer they stayed at Caulfield, the less familiar they were with the constantly changing uses and applications of computing. It was clear that the most appropriate place for students to learn about the latest data processing applications was amongst current computing practitioners, in industry. In the past, staff relied on industry links – in many cases their own previous employer – to find vacation placements. But it was no longer so simple. There were too many students. Instead, a formal case study program was developed and began to appear as a component of many of the department’s courses. Small groups of students carried out organised, single semester or full year projects with and for actual companies. They designed systems for factories, warehouses, local councils, supermarkets and even at one stage a hotel chain.51 They were given practical exposure to data processing as well as an insight into the type of work that they, as data processing professionals, would be required to carry out.

With larger numbers of students to place in case study projects, the profile of the department within industry circles became more important. Foundations had already been laid thanks to Austin Lambert and Jack White who continually encouraged close links with industry and government groups. Throughout the course expansion of the 1970s staff nurtured and expanded these links, establishing a strong and vast professional network. New lecturers continued to be recruited from practical data processing backgrounds – Murray Robinson from the Victorian Railways, Doug Burns from the Commonwealth Public Service, Peter Torokfalvy from Philips and David Goble from Telecom, to name just a few. Existing staff engaged in consulting work in addition to their teaching load. Industry secondments were introduced and encouraged. John White took part in what was perhaps the first of these schemes when he was seconded to IBM’s Remote Computer Services Section in 1971.52 Similar arrangements with other companies followed. The professional and social interaction that resulted from both industry secondments and consulting work was highly beneficial for the department. It strengthened the department’s reputation as a centre of commercial data processing education and expertise to the point that when increasing numbers of students needed to be placed, commercial groups were willing to take them on.

The department was also ideally placed to interpret industry’s data processing needs. In touch with how computers were being applied in the commercial world, lecturers could train their students accordingly. They could also identify any additional training needs of the commercial sector. It was the assessment of these needs for additional training that led to the establishment of the Pearcey Computing and Data Processing Bureau in 1976. Run by the Department of Electronic Data Processing, the Pearcey Bureau provided short courses, seminars and workshops for the private sector and government groups. It was also intended to coordinate conferences and employment services, and to provide research facilities for staff and students of the Caulfield Institute.53 Although financially and administratively it was part of Electronic Data Processing, it was hoped that the Bureau would eventually become financially independent and raise funds for its own activities and those of the department.

The creation of the Pearcey Bureau sat neatly with the consolidation and professionalisation that was taking place throughout the department and the Institute. It represented an attempt to coordinate the business activities of the department and formalise the consulting, training and problem solving services that it had always provided. The Bureau quickly established a presence in the public and private sector. In its first year of operation it ran short courses for Telecom Australia, Australia Post, the Melbourne Stock Exchange and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.54 The success of these courses confirmed the department’s ability to identify and respond to industry needs. As well as strengthening its professional network and profile, the activities of the Bureau added a further dimension to the type of education and training provided by the Institute.

The department worked hard to maintain the focus on its traditional aims during a period of continued change and expansion. The steps taken to emphasise practical computing and data processing contributed to the employability of graduates. Several offers of employment were often made to each graduate. A survey revealed that of the 105 students to graduate between 1972 and 1974, all gained employment on completion of their studies. The new graduates were taken on by 41 different employers.55 Pleasant Friday Afternoons became a feature of the department’s calendar. Companies would come to Caulfield and deliver presentations to the students about their own applications of computing and data processing.56 Colloquially known as PFAs, the more ‘pleasant’ part of the Friday afternoon came when invitees would meet and talk with students and staff over drinks. Students were subtly presented as potential employees while networks were quietly built. Towards the end of each academic year formal showcase days were organised. Retail companies, banks and other private industry representatives would come to the Institute to interview the soon-to-be graduates – most received offers of employment before they had completed their final year.57

The high number of graduates employed suggested that the department was indeed meeting its original aims. But if Caulfield graduates were to continue to be highly sought after, their skills had to be transferable to their workplace environment and the course content had to ensure this. Gauging how employers perceived their new employees and their data processing abilities was the key to assessing the curriculum. The course advisory committees, required by the VIC for all accredited courses, became crucial in this context. These committees could easily have been dismissed as a bureaucratic imposition and not taken seriously. However, they had both government and industry representation and were instantly recognised as an invaluable forum for direct and immediate feedback on the department’s graduates.58 In addition, members of the course committees were provided with a platform from which to express their data processing needs. The department could adjust course content accordingly. The course committees became an important gauge of how recent graduates were received and the skills that future graduates would need to have.

The growing profile of the Department of Electronic Data Processing and the commitment of staff to course development, industry liaison, and training data processing professionals was acknowledged both internally and externally. The Australian Computer Society (ACS), the association of computing professionals, was one of the first outside the Institute to formally recognise the qualifications of Caulfield’s data processing graduates.59 Graduates of the Bachelor and Diploma of Applied Science (EDP) were granted entry into the ACS at the ‘member’ level and Diploma of Electronic Data Processing graduates at the ‘associate’ level. It was important recognition. Many of the department’s staff had been involved in the ACS and its Victorian branch since its inception, holding both general committee and office bearing positions. The accreditation of the CIT courses was an important stamp of approval on the professionalism that the department had achieved and the quality of its graduates. The Australian Public Service Board followed suit, declaring the bachelor degree, diploma, and graduate diploma as suitable training for their Cadet Computer Systems Officers.

Internal recognition of the department’s growing professionalism came in the form of changes to its staffing structure. In its early days the Department of Electronic Data Processing existed with a simple academic structure and hierarchy. Despite the fact that distinct areas of expertise had begun to emerge, all staff, other than the head of department, were lecturers and remained on the same general level of classification. It was not until 1970 that the first senior lecturer in data processing was appointed. Gerry Maynard remained the department’s first and only senior lecturer until 1973, when two other staff members, Milton Pine and John White were promoted to the same level. As the courses developed and began to reflect areas of specialisation within the discipline, the structure of the department became more complex. Each senior lecturer had a defined area of expertise – information science, computer science, information processing – that was listed in the course handbook for all to see.60

By 1975 the Department of Electronic Data Processing had five senior lecturers, nine lecturers, three senior tutors, one instructor and two support staff.61 The formalised hierarchy reinforced the professionalism that the department had embraced. Course development coupled with the consolidation of industry connections through consulting, student placements and curriculum advice established a continuing cycle that fed the reputation of electronic data processing at the Caulfield Institute. It was as a result of this cycle that the department found its voice and the confidence to demand independence from the School of Applied Science.

The expansion that had taken place within the department had been mirrored across the institution. Although positive, the rapid growth highlighted problems within the Institute’s infrastructure. Aware of these issues, Director Hartley Halstead began to make structural changes. At around the same time, criticism of the organisation, decision-making processes, and patterns of communication within the Institute was mounting. To address these issues, a series of meetings, seminars and working parties commenced in 1976 and culminated in an official report that was released in March 1977.62 The report contained thirty recommendations for the reorganisation of the Caulfield Institute including increased autonomy from the VIC, altered lines of reporting to the director and the replacement of heads of school by deans. Most significant for the department was the creation of several new schools including the School of Computing and Information Systems. Arguing that the existing structure had placed disparate teaching areas within the same school purely for administrative convenience, the disquiet of Electronic Data Processing at being placed in the School of Applied Science was finally heeded. The proposed structure would see a new school established. It would have a dean, a Faculty Board and most importantly, independence.

The report of the Steering Group was distributed to staff and the various recommendations made their way to the Institute’s Council for final approval. An operating account for the new School of Computing and Information Systems had been set up by September 1977, but its actual creation was stalled for some time. In August 1979, on the request of Ron Cumming who had just replaced Hartley Halstead as director, the soon to be dean, Trevor Pearcey, submitted a document in support of the new school. His arguments – a succinct précis of the rapid development of the department – echoed the sentiments of the Steering Group’s report and of staff who had been had been battling to establish data processing as a discipline in its own right. The establishment of the School of Computing and Information Systems would improve the visibility of electronic data processing as a discipline. No longer aligned with Applied Science, the perception that data processing was a solely science based discipline would cease to dominate the perceptions of potential students, employers, industry and the wider community.

By the end of that year Council had decided. The School of Computing and Information Systems would be operational from 1 January 1980. Initially, the school would comprise one department, Electronic Data Processing, with Gerry Maynard as head. Plans were also revealed to set up a department of Digital Technology and Robotics within two to seven years. Dr Pearcey was appointed dean and the Department of Electronic Data Processing saw that its discipline received ‘the status for which they [had] worked hard over [so] many years’.63

Many Interests, Many Voices

Looking back, the review of computer science at Monash Clayton called by the Vice-Chancellor at the end of 1981 was inevitable. Internal pressure had reached a peak and rumours of the conflict had begun to circulate in the non university computing community. The Vice-Chancellor had little choice but to initiate the review. Over the following two years the Department of Computer Science remained in relative limbo as the review process slowly took its course. The department watched as options for its future were canvassed and explored. Influential University figures once again became involved in the department, uncovering internal divisions. Morale plummeted as the staff exodus from the troubled department continued.

By the early 1980s, the pressure to focus on the treatment of computer science within Monash was no longer purely internal. External lobbying began to add to the tension that was building within the University. The Vice-Chancellor and the Registrar received numerous letters which questioned whether appropriate resources were being allocated to the Department of Computer Science and reiterated industry’s need for more graduates. One such letter, from the Chairman of the Victorian branch of the Australian Computer Society, requested an explanation for the high number of resignations within Computer Science and sought reassurance of Monash’s commitment ‘to the continuation of a viable and vigorous Computer Science Department’.64 Many of the letters that were received referred to rumours of subject and course cancellations, staff resignations and a possible dissolution of the Department of Computer Science.

Martin’s call for a university wide review was just as much a response to external pressure as it was to the internal unrest. To industry and government groups, the review activity would be seen as a proactive step towards resolving a serious internal issue that had repercussions in the non university community. But the review would also address internal concerns. The review process would give the Department of Computer Science a forum to express its grievances, and give other departments within the University the opportunity to provide feedback on the structure, location and activities of the department.

After announcing the review, Martin began to gather feedback on the scope of the inquiry and how it should proceed. He approached Wallace, head of the Department of Computer Science, and Swan, dean of the Faculty of Science. But Martin also looked more broadly for opinions and feedback. His search led him to two individuals – Cliff Bellamy and Kevin Westfold – who were already familiar to the Department of Computer Science and to most of the Monash community. Bellamy and Westfold became intrinsically linked to the review and by default, to the future of the department.

Bellamy’s involvement began informally in early 1982. On a series of loose leaf pages, he commented on the problems faced by the Department of Computer Science and suggested the structure and scope for an enquiry into computer science. The handwritten notes were never formally distributed but they clearly shaped the format of the review as the process that unfolded followed the direction that he recommended.65 The two stage review process that eventuated took the format and focus that Bellamy had suggested.

The similarities between Bellamy’s informal notes and the review process continued. Bellamy suggested that a submission be called for from the Department of Computer Science in which aims for the future would be outlined. He also proposed interviews with a selection of staff from the department. Bellamy’s notes were dated 16 March 1982. A few days later, on 18 March, Wallace received a memorandum requesting a submission from his department specifying its aims for the development of computer science as a discipline within the University and requesting permission to hold talks with individual members of the department.66 Although clearly informed by Bellamy, the memorandum came from Kevin Westfold, who was now the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, and signalled the beginning of his involvement in the review process.

Westfold, along with Mal Logan, Pro Vice-Chancellor, was to coordinate the initial phase of the review. He would hold talks with departmental staff and seek submissions from the department and other members of the Faculty of Science. He and Logan would then prepare a written submission, which would recommend the direction that the University should take in addressing the future of the Department of Computer Science.

The involvement of Westfold and Bellamy in the review made a certain amount of sense. Each had been pivotal to the establishment of the Computer Centre and to the creation of the Department of Computer Science. They both held positions of leadership within the University and were longstanding, respected members of the Monash community. Martin’s logic in seeking their involvement seems clear. But there is another side to consider. The review was the result of ongoing confusion about the difference between computing and computer science and questions over the placement of the department in the Faculty of Science. In this context consider the involvement of Bellamy and Westfold. Bellamy was the charismatic and popular head of the area of the University that the department was struggling to differentiate itself from; Westfold was the Dean of the Faculty of Science at the time that the department was established. Were Bellamy and Westfold going to be able to adequately critique and review the state of computer science at Monash given their longstanding involvement and the perspective they each came from?

It seemed that even before the review commenced, the balance was tipped slightly away from the Department of Computer Science. Add to this the fact that Professor Wallace was about to depart for the United Kingdom to carry out research, and would be away from the University while the review was underway. Despite this potential unbalance, members of the department embraced the opportunity for review. Terms of reference for the inquiry were set and the first stage of the review commenced with Tony Montgomery as acting head of department in Wallace’s absence.

Individual submissions to the review panel were invited and staff were encouraged to air their grievances. Many of the individual and group submissions reaffirmed the complaints of the lack of understanding of computer science, insufficient funding, imposed quotas and inadequate technical equipment and support that had dominated the dialogue leading up to the review. But hints of an internal division also began to emerge. Some argued that it was not poor resources or a lack of understanding that was responsible for the department’s woes. They suggested that the real problem was a closed minded attitude to research and research development that was translating to division within the department.

Reference was made to a rift within the department. The split seemed to follow the lines of a conflict that arose some years earlier over the department’s VAX 11780 computer. After a long and drawn out battle with Cliff Bellamy to have the machine located in the department rather than the Computer Centre, a debate followed within the department over which operating system the new machine would run. The computer came with an operating system called VMS. However, some believed that the UNIX operating system offered more flexibility. The department was divided into two camps, those in favour of VMS and those in favour of UNIX. It was a straightforward conflict, but it resulted in a highly volatile situation, as neither the VMS nor UNIX camps were prepared to compromise. Eventually, Wallace intervened with a democratic, but labour intensive solution. One operating system would run in the morning and the other in the afternoon. At lunch time each day the operating system, which was stored on a removable hard drive, was changed from VMS to UNIX.67 It may have been a workable solution, but it certainly did not resolve the conflict. The tension continued and the department remained divided.

While the point of argument had changed, the lines of loyalty drawn during the operating system conflict transferred to the first stage of the review. On one side there were those who argued that external issues of perception and funding were responsible for the current problems and, on the other, there were those who suggested that indeed the problems resulted from internal divisions, power struggles, and ineffective leadership.

Armed with written submissions and details of internal conflict, Westfold and Logan made their recommendations in the form of a preliminary report. The report was delivered in August 1982, five months after the review was first suggested. This preliminary report recommended the establishment of a formal committee of review, comprising Westfold, Logan, the Dean of the Faculty of Science, the head of the Department of Computer Science, and the director of the Computer Centre. The department would be requested to submit yet another report, this time called a discussion brief. The committee would review the discussion brief and comments on it would be invited from other heads of department within the Faculty of Science. The committee would also be responsible for assessing whether the equipment needs of the department were being met. The classification of computer science within Australian universities and the funding that it received as a result were also put on the review agenda.

The formal phase of the review would focus on staffing, equipment and the discipline’s classification. However, by the time the preliminary report had confirmed that a formal review would follow, a further five staff members from the department had resigned, citing poor career prospects and uncertainty as the major reasons. Of the 13.5 academic staff within the department, seven had resigned before the preliminary report was released.68 And, other than a fleeting reference to low morale within the department, none of the internal issues that came to light in the first phase of the review were addressed in the preliminary report.

Although some concessions had been made to the department while the preliminary review was underway, the situation had not improved. The stream of resignations had taken the staffing situation to the point of crisis. Acting head Professor Tony Montgomery pointed out that if the current rate of resignations continued, there would be two staff left in the department by the end of 1982.69 To add to the upheaval, in April of 1982, Professor Wallace suffered a major heart attack while on study leave in the United Kingdom. His return to the department was unconfirmed. Soon after, Montgomery resigned as did Keedy, the Acting Deputy Head, leaving the department without two of its most senior staff. Michael Georgeff was convinced to step in to fill the gap of acting head with Gopal Gupta alongside him as acting deputy head. But even this was a short term solution as Georgeff was set to leave Monash at the end of 1982.

Despite the turmoil, the formal review committee did not meet until February 1983. But review activity did continue. Georgeff and Gupta prepared the department’s formal submissions – a general discussion brief and a document on the equipment needs of the department. In the meantime, the University invited Murray Allen, a high profile professor of computer science from the University of New South Wales to visit Monash to act as a consultant for the review.

The visit was arranged for January 1983. Allen would visit Monash’s Department of Computer Science to conduct a seminar with staff. While he was there, it was also hoped that he would agree to help Monash lobby the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee, and ultimately the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission, for the reclassification of computer science from a low to a high technology discipline. The increase in funds that would result were looked toward as the solution to the resource problems that were so central to the review.

Professor Allen’s visit went as planned. In early February, Vice-Chancellor Martin sent a telex to the Secretary of the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee. He stated that it had become apparent that the discipline of computer science was indeed, as Wallace and the department had argued for so many years, high technology and that its resource requirements were closer to those of engineering and experimental sciences.70 Martin argued that it would be of benefit to the entire University community for the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Committee to acknowledge computer science as a laboratory based discipline and fund it accordingly. He proposed that a working group be appointed to investigate the issue with the aim of making a formal recommendation in time for the 1985-1987 triennium.

While the University waited for a response to Martin’s telex, Professor Allen submitted a report, summarising his visit, to the review panel. He pointed out that while there was ‘general support for a strong Department of Computer Science there [was] also strong resistance to the notion that this requires a substantial transfer of resources from within the faculty’.71 If the Vice-Chancellors’ Committee responded positively to the request for reclassification, the internal transfer of resources would not be an issue as the faculty would enjoy an increase in funds. However, if it did not, then the resistance that Allen had flagged would become problematic. For this reason, discussions about the location of the Department of Computer Science resurfaced.

A general trend had been observed in Australian universities – departments of computer science that were located in faculties of engineering typically experienced funding at a level that supported its research and technical requirements, while departments that were located in other discipline groupings, like economics and science, struggled with inadequate resources. From the perspective of resources alone it is probable that the Department of Computer Science at Monash would have been in a stronger position had it been placed in the Faculty of Engineering. It was hypothetical scenarios like these that the review committee could not ignore. Depending on the reply from the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee, the review committee would have to address whether the Faculty of Science was the best place for the department.

In early March 1983 Martin received an answer to his telex. The Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee did not see the need to request reclassification from the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission. There would be no working party and certainly no increase in funds for departments of computer science. Any allocation of additional funds to Monash’s Department of Computer Science, which was likely to be a result of the formal review, would have to come from a redistribution of internal funds. Where the Department of Computer Science was located became all the more pressing.

Conveniently, the formal meetings of the review committee had commenced in late February 1983. As well as assessing the written submission that had been outlined in the preliminary report, the review committee provided a forum for discussion about the location of the Department of Computer Science. A charged written submission was lodged by representatives of the Department of Electrical Engineering. They suggested that the Department of Computer Science could easily have had a place within the Faculty of Engineering. They argued vehemently that it was purely ‘a matter of history’ that the Department of Computer Science was located in the Faculty of Science as there was ‘little or no discussion of this matter’.72 Professors Lampard and Brown from the Department of Electrical Engineering were invited to attend a review committee meeting to discuss the relationship between the departments of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.

Surprisingly, the review committee seemed certain that the Department of Computer Science should remain in the Faculty of Science. The discussion with Lampard and Brown did not address a relocation of the department, but rather looked at the potential for future collaboration between the two areas and ways that their relationship could be improved. Similarly, when Professor Hastings from the Department of Econometrics and Operations Research, and Professor Officer from the Department of Accounting and Finance, attended a committee meeting several weeks later the discussion focussed on increased collaboration between these areas and the Department of Computer Science. It seemed that a silent consensus had been reached – the department would remain in the Faculty of Science.

The review had arrived at a turning point. The committee had already agreed that the department must ‘function as an integral part of the University … [taking] into account … other departments’ and areas’ capacity and interests in catering for the University needs for teaching and research in computing and computer science’.73 But the willingness of other departments to explore areas of collaboration with the Department of Computer Science meant that the department might actually be able to take on the role that the committee agreed it should.

The review process accelerated as optimism about the future of computer science at Monash began to grow. Professor John Crossley was now heavily involved with the formal review. Originally from the Department of Mathematics, it was Crossley, along with Wallace who had taken issue with Martin’s inaccurate comment about computer science at Monash way back in November of 1981. Now, Crossley was head of the Department of Computer Science, seconded from the Department of Mathematics to assist Computer Science and to sit on the review committee while Wallace recovered from his heart attack. Crossley’s involvement coincided with, and perhaps contributed to the increased sense of optimism.

With the location of the department seemingly settled and its roles more defined, the focus of the review team became noticeably practical. Crossley put forward a proposal for a second Chair of Computer Science. The equipment needs of the department were reviewed and plans for an increase in staff and the rolling back of enrolment quotas were discussed. It was agreed that a special application would be made to the Vice-Chancellor for additional funds so that the proposed expansion of Computer Science would not have to be subsidised too heavily by other departments within the Faculty of Science.

In order to define the parameters of the department’s expansion and to explore the financial implications, Professor Swan, Dean of the Faculty of Science, prepared a report. In a sense, Swan’s report was more significant than the final review document. The relationship between the dean and the Department of Computer Science had been fraught with tension from the outset. How Swan framed his faculty’s approach to the department’s future would reveal whether any progress had been made in how the department was thought about. Although initially disappointed with Swan’s report, after discussion with Computer Science colleagues Crossley agreed that the report put forward a plan that would strengthen and stabilise the department. It was therefore welcomed and accepted.74

With roles clarified, foundations laid for future collaboration, and relationships on the way to repair, the review committee began to focus on the preparation of the final report. September was the agreed submission deadline to Vice-Chancellor Martin. Westfold would then recommend to Martin that the report, including the preliminary report, two written submissions from the Department of Computer Science, Professor Allen’s report and Professor Crossley’s response to it, and the review committee’s recommendations, be distributed to all deans, staff of the Department of Computer Science, and all heads of departments in the Faculty of Science. The report would then be tabled at the Professorial Board, where the review had its genesis following Martin’s unintentionally provocative statement in November 1981.

The report was submitted to the Vice-Chancellor in late September, 1983. Its content was no surprise to Martin or to anyone who had been aware of the occurrence of the review. There were eighteen recommendations in all. They covered the role of the department, computer science undergraduate programs, student numbers, graduate teaching and research, academic and support staff, equipment and general funding principles and financial implications. The recommendations emphasised the focus of the department, links with other areas of the University, course expansion, technical and equipment support and increased funding from bridging finance to be provided by the Vice-Chancellor.

By the time the review committee handed down its recommendations, nearly two years had lapsed since the beginning of the review. The process was lengthy and costly for the University and for the Department of Computer Science, which lost several staff members in the process. However, the final recommendations communicated a clear message of support for the discipline and its place within Monash University. Whether the review and its outcomes would address the issues with which the department had struggled with for so long, remained to be seen. But, the review process gave the Department of Computer Science a profile within the University that it did not previously enjoy and brought its issues of definition, location and funding to the attention of the entire University community.

Both departments were familiar with advocating the rights and needs of their students, staff and discipline. The Department of Electronic Data Processing and the Department of Computer Science had, by necessity, perfected their balancing acts. They had each become expert at agitating for the development of these new areas of study within the surrounding institutions. Computing and computer science had grown and developed as they became more accepted within higher education and the wider community. Professionalism and consolidation had been the focus of the Department of Electronic Data Processing, while at Clayton, the Department of Computer Science had consistently pushed until the environment was ripe for a review of computer science. The years to come would push each department to the extremes as the very nature and structure of higher education in Australia was set to change irreversibly.

Figures

Figure 3.1. Professor John Swan, Dean of the Faculty of Science during the critical years of the review of the Department of Computer Science.

Monash University Archives IN 45.

Figure 3.2. Professor Kevin Westfold, Chair of the Department of Computer Science Review Committee, 1976.

Monash University Archives IN 212, Richard Crompton.

Figure 3.3. Dr David Boulton with tape and tape deck used for digital storage, 1976.

Monash University Archives IN 629.

Figure 3.4. Open Day visitors to Caulfield Institute’s Department of Electronic Data Processing, 1979.

Monash University Archives IN 3265.

Figure 3.5. Dr Trevor Pearcey, Dean of Computing and Information Systems at Chisholm Institute of Technology, 1984.

Monash University Archives IN 3078.

Figure 3.6. Extension course in Chisholm Institute’s Pearcey Centre microcomputer laboratory, 1984.

Monash University Archives IN 2941.

Figure 3.7. Gerry Maynard, Acting Dean of the School of Computing and Information Systems at Chisholm, 1995.

Monash University Archives IN 6682.

Figure 3.8. Charles Greif, of the Faculty of Technology’s Computer Imaging Group, processing an image of an arterial X-ray on the Group’s IBM imaging system.

Monash University Archives IN 6591.

Endnotes

1    Monash University Archives, MON 267 Chisholm Institute of Technology Administrative correspondence files, annual single number series (87/029), Folio 11.

2    The VIC, like the Education Department before it, had a system of salary classifications for staff within affiliated colleges.

3    Monash University Archives, MON 267 Chisholm Institute of Technology Administrative correspondence files, annual single number series (90/384), Folio 2.

4    Interview with John Dann, 4 February 2003.

5    Monash University Archives, MON 292 Chisholm Institute of Technology Staff File, Eric Hemingway.

6    Details of the Computer Centre’s research activities and software development were listed each year and can be found in the Monash University Faculty of Science Handbook.

7    The Head Librarian was also given professorial status and membership of the Professorial Board.

8    Monash University Archives, MON 1 Administrative correspondence files, alpha-numeric series (CF/404/0), Document Number 5.

9    Ibid., Document Number 7.

10  The location of Computer Science and whether it actually was a science was questioned by many. Immediately prior to the review of Computer Science that commenced in 1982, Bellamy questioned whether Computer Science was a science in the true sense of the word. See ibid., Document Number 2.

11  These internal relationships are mentioned repeatedly by many interviewees as having an impact on the resources allocated to the Department of Computer Science. Frequent mention was made of strained relationships between staff of the department and the dean of the faculty.

12  A.P. Gallager, Coordinating University Development: A Study of the Australian Universities Commission 1959–1970, University of Queensland Press, St. Lucia, 1982, p. 3.

13  S. Marginson, Education and Public Politics in Australia, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1993, pp 124–126.

14  Monash University Archives, MON 1 Administrative correspondence files, alpha-numeric series (CF/404/0), Document Number 35.

15  Ibid.

16  A copy of the memo can be found in ibid.

17  Monash University Faculty of Science Handbook, 1977.

18  Interviews with Gopal Gupta, 12 December 2002 and 3 January 2003.

19  Interview with Tony Montgomery, 13 February 2003.

20  Monash University Archives, MON 1 Administrative correspondence files, alpha-numeric series (CF/404/0), Document Number 35.

21  Ibid., Document Number 40.

22  Ibid., Document Number 21.

23  Ibid., Document Number 35.

24  This was mentioned in several of the interviews and can also be found in many memos and documents of the Computer Science Review.

25  Monash University Archives, MON 1 Administrative correspondence files, alpha-numeric series (DD/155/0).

26  Monash University Archives, MON 1 Administrative correspondence files, alpha-numeric series (CF/404/2/1), Document Number 3.

27  Ibid., Document Number 4.

28  Monash University Archives, MON 1 Administrative correspondence files, alpha-numeric series (CF/404/0), Document Number 35.

29  Ibid.

30  Ibid., memorandum dated 28 January 1982.

31  Ibid., Document Number 38.

32  Monash University Archives, MON 1 Administrative correspondence files, alpha-numeric series (CF/404/2), Document 2.

33  Victoria Institute of Colleges, Annual Report, 1967, p. 21. See also Victoria Institute of Colleges Statutes.

34  Interviews with John White, 11, 18 and 20 December 2002.

35  Monash University Archives, MON 881 Chisholm Institute of Technology Annual Reports, 1973.

36  Monash University Archives, MON 348 Chisholm Institute of Technology Staffing Committee Minutes, 19 March 1973.

37  Interview with Gerry Maynard, 25 November 2002.

38  Monash University Archives, MON 267 Chisholm Institute of Technology Administrative correspondence files, annual single number series (86/020 Pt 1, 2 & 3), Folio 2.

39  Monash University Archives, MON 348 Chisholm Institute of Technology Staffing Committee Minutes.

40  Monash University Archives, MON 267 Chisholm Institute of Technology Administrative correspondence files, annual single number series (86/570).

41  Monash University Archives, MON 292 Chisholm Institute of Technology Staff files.

42  Interviews with John White, 11, 18 and 20 December 2002.

43  Interview with John Dann, 4 February 2003. Interviews with John White, 11, 18 and 20 December 2002.

44  Interviews with Maurie Fabrikant, 13 and 20 December 2002. Interview with Gerry Maynard, 25 November 2002.

45  Monash University Archives, MON 267 Chisholm Institute of Technology Administrative correspondence files, annual single number series (86/020 Pt 1, 2 & 3), Folio 54.

46  Caulfield Institute of Technology Handbook, 1973.

47  Monash University Archives, MON 934 Chisholm Institute of Technology Handbooks (94/01/586) & (94/01/587). CIT Handbook, 1973.

48  Monash University Archives, MON 267 Chisholm Institute of Technology Administrative correspondence files, annual single number series (87/067 Pt 1 & 2).

49  Monash University Archives, MON 267 Chisholm Institute of Technology Administrative correspondence files, annual single number series (87/029).

50  Interviews with John White, 11, 18 and 20 December 2002.

51  The case studies were recollected by many EDP staff members, including David Goble, Maurie Fabrikant and John White. Many of the staff members were involved in setting up these case study and industry experience programs but several people commented particularly on the involvement of Helen Smith. The industry experience program is also mentioned in Monash University Archives, MON 881 Chisholm Institute of Technology Annual Reports, 1980.

52  Caulfield Journal, Issue 1, 1971. Peter Juliff was at Courage Brewery, NCR and Fenwick Software, and Anne Brookes spent two months with Conzinc Rio Tinto. Maurie Fabrikant also spent time with the Bureau of Meteorology.

53  Monash University Archives, MON 267 Chisholm Institute of Technology Administrative correspondence files, annual single number series (86/405), Folio 7.

54  Ibid., Folio 26.

55  Ibid., Folio 11.

56  Interview with Phil Steele, 16 January 2003.

57  Interviews with John White, 11, 18 and 20 December 2002.

58  This point was emphasised in interviews with Gerry Maynard, Maurie Fabrikant, Peter Juliff and John White.

59  The Australian Computer Society is still in existence today. Further information can be found at http://www.acs.org.au/index.cfm.

60  For example, MON 934 Chisholm Institute of Technology Handbooks (94/01/586) and (94/01/587) 1973, pp 25–32, section on Electronic Data Processing.

61  Monash University Archives, MON 267 Chisholm Institute of Technology Administrative correspondence files, annual single number series (87/029), Folio 11.

62  Monash University Archives, MON 795 Chisholm Institute of Technology Administrative reports, manuals etc. (94/01/504).

63  Monash University Archives, MON 267 Chisholm Institute of Technology Administrative correspondence files, annual single number series (84/961), Folio 2.

64  Monash University Archives, MON 1 Administrative correspondence files, alpha-numeric series (CF/404/2), Document Number 18. There are numerous other examples of this type of letter in the Computer Science Review files. They were received from Government groups, private industry and computing interest groups.

65  The rough notes can be found in Monash University Archives, MON 1 Administrative correspondence files, alpha-numeric series (CF/404/2/1), Document Number 2. The notes are handwritten and there is no detail of who they were for. The only thing on them is a title ‘Computer Science at Monash’ and a date, 16 March 1982.

66  Ibid., Document Number 5.

67  Conflict was referred to by several interviewees. Details of the practical side of changing the operating system come from interview with Peter Nankivell, 6 January 2003.

68  Pacific Computer Weekly, 20-26 August, 1982, p. 2.

69  Monash University Archives, MON 1 Administrative correspondence files, alpha-numeric series (CF/404/2/1), Document Number 6.

70  Monash University Archives, MON 1 Administrative correspondence files, alpha-numeric series (CF/404/2), Document Number 53.

71  Ibid., Document Number 50.

72  Monash University Archives, MON 1 Administrative correspondence files, alpha-numeric series CF/404/2 Pt 2), Document Number 3.

73  Ibid., Document Number 1.

74  Ibid., Document Number 24.

 

Cite this chapter as: Rood, Sarah. 2008. ‘Balancing acts’. In From Ferranti to Faculty: Information Technology at Monash University, 1960 to 1990. Melbourne: Monash University Custom Publishing Services, on behalf of the Monash University Information Technology faculty. pp. 3.1–3.34.

© Copyright 2008 Sarah Rood

All rights reserved. Apart from any uses permitted by Australia's Copyright Act 1968, no part of this book may be reproduced by any process without prior written permission of the copyright owners. The fact that this book is published online does not mean that any part of it can be reproduced without first obtaining written permission: copyright laws do still apply. Inquiries should be directed to the publisher, Monash University Custom Publishing Services: http://www.epress.monash.edu/mucps.html.

From Ferranti to Faculty: Information Technology at Monash University, 1960 to 1990

   by Sarah Rood