Monash University Publishing | Contacts Page
Monash University Publishing: Advancing knowledge

Still Learning


The social and political climate in Australia began to change in the 1980s. In 1982, successive Liberal/Country Party governments had been in power in Victoria for 27 years. However, the Premier, Lindsay Thompson, was defeated in the April 1982 election and replaced by Labour leader, John Cain. The Federal Liberal Government, which had been led by Malcolm Fraser since November 1975, was replaced in March 1983 by the R J (Bob) Hawke Labour government.

In 1983 Australia was riding on the crest of a wave of patriotism and pride in its achievements: Australia II, skippered by Monash graduate John Bertrand, had won the 1983 Americas Cup challenge. At the same time, the country was experiencing one of the worst droughts in its history. Victoria and South Australia were devastated by the Ash Wednesday Fires on 16 February 1983, killing 62 people. At a time when unemployment levels, inflation and interest rates were at record highs, the tertiary and university sectors were being reformed despite limited federal and state government funding.

Following the Post-Secondary Education Commission’s recommendations, the Caulfield Institute of Technology and the State College of Victoria at Frankston were directed to amalgamate. The tone of annual and internal reports alludes to an unenthusiastic union. Putting on their best face, Chisholm Institute of Technology’s First Annual Report 1982, detailed the amalgamation and its challenges. The aims of the report were twofold: first, to ‘acknowledge the continuity of educational activities through the awards and courses’ at Chisholm; second to ‘show how Chisholm assessed its inheritance in order to shape new directions and give new emphasis to the activities and community services’ (First Annual Report 1982: 1). P D Leary, then Assistant Chief Officer of Britain’s Council for National Academic Awards, was appointed Foundation Director of the Chisholm Institute of Technology and took up the appointment in January 1983.

The new multi-disciplinary tertiary institution, named the Chisholm Institute of Technology, opened in 1982. It offered studies in seven schools located on two campuses – Caulfield and Frankston. The six Chisholm schools located at Caulfield were Applied Science, Art and Design, Computing and Information Systems, the David Syme Business School, Engineering, and Social and Behavioural Science. The seventh, at Frankston, was based on the teacher education activities of the former SCV at Frankston. One of the first tasks for the amalgamated Chisholm Institute of Technology was the development of the Frankston campus as quickly as possible.


Figure 8 Laying foundations of General teaching building at Frankston Campus 1986
Monash University Archives, IN3125

From the reminiscences of some former State College staff, the amalgamation was, at the time, seen as a takeover. However, despite their possibly disgruntled state, the staff got on with the business of teaching. Notwithstanding negative attitudes, oral testimony clearly demonstrates the close relationships between staff and the commitment to teaching that remained in place during each phase of its history. Bob Greaves, who lectured at Frankston from 1968 to 2006 recalls proudly that the relationship between staff was close and students formed life-long relationships at the College (Greaves, May 2008).

By 1985, the number of enrolled students had increased. At Caulfield 5363 were enrolled and at Frankston the enrolments had increased to 1248 (Annual Report 1985:4).

Plans dating back to 1978 to include nursing in the curriculum began to be realised in 1985 when it was announced that a new building for Nurse Education would be constructed and a student intake of 90 would commence in the 1987 academic year.

By 1987, Chisholm Institute of Technology was the third largest of Victoria’s colleges of advanced education with an enrolment of around 6500 students. At Frankston, courses were offered in the Schools of Education and Nursing, the School of Art and Design, the David Syme Business School, the School of Social and Behavioural Studies, and in the Division of Information Technology (Handbook, 1987).

Teaching innovation continued at Frankston. A two-day in-service program for teachers in the southern metropolitan region in was run in 1989. Programs were offered to about 400 teachers under the four headings of social issues, assessment and evaluation, technology and its role in the primary school, and curriculum issues. One of the benefits of the workshop, according to In-Service Coordinator Tom Hill, was that the scheme enabled teachers and Chisholm staff to establish a closer relationship and understanding in a shared work environment (Chisholm Gazette, July 1989:17).


The traditional universities will be forced to raise funds from the corporate sector and from the marketing of their programmes to overseas students. Whether or not they will succeed in this only time will tell. But the cosy and sheltered world of the academic in the traditional universities will be shattered … the Dawkins Plan has forced mergers on the traditional universities (Gupta, 1990).

In his article, ‘The Dawkins Higher Education Plan: Its rationale and implications’, Desh Gupta reviews the Dawkins plan and the consequences as he saw them for the future of universities and CAEs. The need to raise funds by marketing education to overseas students has been a significant factor in the development of Monash University.


Figure 9 Tree planting at Frankston by Monash Chancellor, Sir George Lush, 1989
Monash University Archives, IN3195

John Dawkins, Minister for Employment, Education and Training from 1987–91 in the third Hawke government, set about reforming the education sector in the late 1980s. Dawkins’ ‘Higher education, a policy discussion paper’ set out methods of increasing enrolments and output of tertiary qualified students in the years 1987–2001 (Dawkins 1987). This was achieved by changing the funding structure to traditional universities and colleges of advanced education. The Australian Research Council (ARC) was created as part of Dawkins policy to ‘claw back resources from the traditional universities of 4 per cent of operating grants’ and to make funds available, on a competitive basis, and in terms of national priorities, to the traditional universities as well as CAEs (Gupta, 1990: 159).

Under the Dawkins plan, the forty-one CAEs and twenty universities which existed in 1989 were expected to be reduced, through mergers, to thirty universities. This would involve the subsuming of the CAEs into the established universities, mergers between CAEs, and the conversion of some CAEs into universities through a period of sponsorship by the more established universities (Gupta: 159). Dawkins promoted many benefits to come from his scheme, not least, the result of the introduction of a new funding scheme through the Higher Education Contribution Scheme or HECS. The change of status from CAEs to universities was seen as a great gain for academics and students at institutions such as the Chisholm Institute of Technology.

It was therefore no surprise when it was reported in 1989 in the Chisholm Gazette that Chisholm and Monash, ‘two of Victoria’s premier higher educational institutions’ had agreed to a merger process leading to the establishment on 1 July 1990 of the second biggest university in Australia (Chisholm Gazette, July 1989: 3). The 1990 Handbook spelled out the benefit for students:

[A] diverse unified and more equitable higher education system serving Melbourne’s eastern and south-eastern regions; a major expansion of higher education opportunities within Monash University, with a greater range of available disciplines and awards; improved flexibility of subject choice and better provisions for transfer of credit within and between disciplines; and a broadening of student services and facilities for teaching and research (Handbook, 1990:2).

The dawning of another new era awaited the staff and students of the Caulfield and Frankston campuses of Chisholm Institute of Technology. Illustrative of the attitude of some of the staff to another impending ‘merger’, the front cover of the July edition of the Chisholm Gazette was emblazoned with the word ‘SOLD!!!’.

Still Learning

   by Fay Woodhouse