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Still Learning

6. AND NOW WE ARE MONASH UNIVERSITY

In the academic year 1990, new students enrolled, and existing students re-enrolled, under Chisholm regulations. The Monash University (Chisholm and Gippsland) Act 1990 came into force on 1 July 1990: Chisholm courses became Monash courses and Chisholm staff and students became Monash staff and students.

Both staff and students recognised the difference in status. Monash University had a budget of about $200 million a year and an enrolment of nearly 30,000 students. The merger agreement read:

The merger of these two institutions will result in a significantly enlarged and changed Monash University capable of both maintaining the reputation of the academic programs currently offered by both institutions and enabling the development of important new academic initiatives that will benefit the community they serve. Such an association will be to the mutual advantage of both institutions by adding to the strengths of existing courses and extending the range of educational opportunities available to students…The bringing together of these interests will generate opportunities for available resources to be used to advantage, providing a better basis of innovation and change (Handbook, 1990:2).

In his Vice-Chancellor’s Statement, Professor Mal Logan, AO, reported that Monash had consolidated its standing ‘as one of the world’s great research universities’ and had expanded to the point that it had become ‘a large and diverse institution of enormous potential’ (Annual Report, 1991). The enlarged university, which in 1991 had merged with the Gippsland Institute of Advanced Education, was ‘uniquely positioned to move ahead as an innovative, outward-looking, enterprising institution’ (Annual Report, 1991:1). One further merger which took place in 1992 was with the Victorian College of Pharmacy; it became the Faculty of Pharmacy and is now known as the Parkville Campus. In 1994 the Berwick campus was established, and this completed the suite of six suburban and regional Australian Monash university campuses.

The links between Monash University and the staff and students of Frankston Teachers’ College date back to 1961 and Monash University’s first enrolment of students. P J Hanna, who described himself as a ‘student in training’ wrote to the Secretary of the Education Department on 2 March 1961 seeking leave on the afternoon of 3 March 1961. He wrote: ‘I wish permission for leave on the afternoon of Friday 3rd March 1961. The leave concerns an appointment at Monash University for admission to a science course of which I wish to do part-time’ (VPRS 10536/P/0000 Unit 19). Subsequent students and teachers, such as Max Gillies and others, made their way to Clayton campus for the same reason.

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Figure 10 Aerial view of Monash University Peninsula Campus, 1990
Monash University Archives, IN6692

The expanded Monash University’s objectives for the future naturally included research and teaching; however, in 1991 it was announced that two additional aims were added into the mix: one was the internationalisation of the University; the other was the introduction of new and technological modes of delivery. Peninsula Campus would become involved in both of these initiatives (Annual Report 199:1).

February 1998 witnessed the opening of the Monash University Malaysia campus, this was followed in September 1998 by the announcement that Monash University had become a member of the prestigious Group of Eight (GO8). Membership of the G08, whose policy is to maximise the economic, social and cultural benefits to the Australian community of higher education has informed Monash’s expansion and internationalisation policies. In 2001, a South African campus of Monash University was opened, and later that year, the Prato Centre opened in Italy. By 2001 Monash had become the multi-campus multi-disciplinary university that it is today.

CREATING A NICHE FOR PENINSULA CAMPUS

As Monash University, the Peninsula Campus expanded in the years following the Chisholm/Monash merger. By 1992 courses such as Computing and Information Technology were extended to Peninsula Campus which also offered courses in Art and Design, Business and Economics, Education, and Nursing. However, Monash Peninsula Campus was at a low ebb, and appears to have been, at best, operating in a holding pattern during this time.

Plans for the future expansion and internationalisation of the multi-campus Monash were outlined in the draft document, Leading the Way: Monash Plan, 1998–2002 (1997). The plan revealed that the viability of the Peninsula Campus was threatened. The long period of decline and the fact that limited quantifiable research was being undertaken were seriously hindering the future of the campus. Staff and students rallied and in July, Peninsula staff representatives, Cathi Lewis and Sam Kandil, presented their views on the Monash Plan to Council. They proposed that the cuts to Peninsula Campus would jeopardise the future of the campus and that their aim in attending the Council meeting was to highlight the positive ways that Peninsula Campus could contribute to the future of Monash University.

Together they made their case. They suggested that major decisions relating to the campus should be postponed until a more formalised campus direction was determined; and that Council consider forming a sub-committee to guide future development. The representatives also submitted that some of the perceived disadvantages of the campus should be seen instead as advantages. Some of the points made echoed the very reasons the Education Department had chosen the Frankston site for a college forty years earlier, in 1957:

• that the Peninsula Campus was outside inner Melbourne but on the edge of a growth corridor

• that the area was serviced by a good public transport system and has access to all types of industry

• that the location of the campus lifted the educational profile of the area and the campus is considered by many local residents as a community resource

• that students have access to good quality accommodation within easy reach of amenities.

The representatives outlined the extent of concern expressed by both staff and students at Peninsula to the proposed cuts. Council was advised that a petition, signed by 5000 concerned staff and students, was testament to their concern. Protests had been held in Frankston to alert the community to the possible reduction of the campus.

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor David Robinson, responded to the issues raised by the Peninsula staff. At the outset, he noted that, while change would be inevitable at Peninsula, the enthusiasm of staff would be mobilised to help define the role of the campus within the greater Monash community. He advised that David Phillips, Special Advisor to the Vice-Chancellor and the Deans of faculties, would assist with the development of a new and appropriate portfolio of programs for the campus by mid-1998. At the same time, the revised planning process would identify an appropriate research focus for the campus and ways to best utilise the physical infrastructure at Peninsula. To the pertinent question of why the University could not create similar conditions for excellence at Peninsula as had been achieved at other campuses, the Vice-Chancellor responded that clarification of the role and focus of Peninsula Campus would be ‘a specific and differentiated focus’. This, he said, would ‘assist in creating an environment where the pursuit of excellence was an integral part of all campus activities’. He went on to highlight some of the differences between Peninsula and Gippsland campuses and noted that Gippsland had a clear vision of its role within the community and considered its programs and research profile within those parameters (Council Minutes 4/1997). For Monash Council’s purposes, Peninsula was required to articulate a clearer vision of itself and its place within both Monash and the local regional community.

As a result of the Council meeting, Peninsula staff and administration concentrated on planning the new direction of the campus. In November, when the Academic Board met, John White, Director of the Caulfield and Peninsula campuses, presented his report, The Development of Peninsula Campus. The Vice-Chancellor advised the Board that he had accepted the principles of the report which was in its initial stages of implementation (Academic Board 8/97).

Community engagement, together with innovation and internationalisation, became a major focus of Monash University in the late 1990s – and has remained so. This component of the Peninsula Campus’s activities is possibly greater in 2008 than it has ever been. However, a review of annual reports of the Frankston Teachers’ College, State College of Victoria and Chisholm Institute of Technology clearly demonstrates the strong connection each institution had with its local community. For example, one of the lasting benefits of the State College of Victoria’s interaction with the local community resulted in a donation to the campus Library of a rare music collection by local resident Vera Florence Bradford, Mus.D.Dip. It contained scores and sheet music, librettos and histories of music. In her honour it was named the Vera Bradford Music Collection, and became part of the Library’s special collection (Annual Report 1978: 22). Over the past twenty years, material from other donors has been added to the Vera Bradford Collection which now also contains donations from Peninsula music groups, bands of the defence forces and other materials purchased by Monash University Library.

The Library has always been an integral part of a student’s life. In the 1990s libraries had to cope with the rapid rate of technological change and at the Peninsula Library, staff had to cope with new technology, staffing levels and user needs. Libraries were no longer simply places which housed books, journals, maps and teaching aids. In 1995 approval was given for a library to be constructed on the site occupied by the student hostel. This building was demolished and the new library was completed in 1997 and opened in February 1998. The Library was designed to sit comfortably within its environment and complement the native flora prevalent at the Peninsula Campus while providing excellent Information Technology facilities.

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Figure 11 Peninsula Library 2008
Photographer: Sue Webb, Monash University Peninsula Campus

Despite the staff’s efforts to redirect the focus of the Peninsula Campus, John White, Campus Director, had witnessed the decline of student numbers from the mid-1990s. At a meeting of the Faculty of Information Technology in November 2001, he addressed this pressing issue which he would take to all faculties. While a review of the campus activities and University strategic planning had been in progress for five years, White argued that greater research activity and internationalisation was still necessary. Group of Eight universities were required to research, and at that stage Peninsula Campus still lacked a focused research policy. The future direction of the campus, he argued, lay with individual faculties increasing their student numbers. Faculties considered their options.

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Figure 12 The late John White, Director of Peninsula and Caulfield campuses from October 1997 to December 2002
Monash University Archives, IN6738

After many years of working to develop the campus, in 2002 in his final year as Campus Director, the late John White launched the Peninsula Hockey Centre. This centre illustrates the commitment of the Peninsula Campus to providing facilities to the local community. The cost was shared between Frankston City Council, Monash University, the Monash Student Union, Mornington Peninsula Shire Council, Sport and Recreation Victoria and local hockey clubs. It is now the home of three hockey clubs and also hosts the Monash Peninsula Seadragons Soccer Club! When it was officially launched in April 2002, then Sport and Recreation Minister, Justin Madden, said the hockey pitch not only provided a much needed resource for sport in the region, it also showed what could be achieved when communities worked together. The Hockey Centre continues to be heavily utilised by local schools as well as by Monash Peninsula students.

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Figure 13 Peninsula Campus students, 2008
Photograph: Rachael Martyn 2008, Monash University Peninsula Campus

Professor Phillip Steele, then Associate Dean Development in the Faculty of Information Technology, was appointed Academic Director Berwick and Peninsula campuses in 2003. He was responsible for leading the development and integration of teaching, research and community engagement activities at both campuses.

In 2003, he established the Peninsula Education Precinct to explore ways of establishing links between secondary schools, TAFE and university. The Education Precinct has run successfully for five years. It provides enhanced educational opportunities for students in the southern and south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, and the Frankston and Mornington Peninsula region. Membership of the Education Precinct includes Monash University Peninsula Campus, Chisholm Institute of TAFE, the Department of Education and Training, Frankston City Council, representation from local Frankston secondary schools, Mornington Peninsula Local Learning and Employment Network and the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council. The partners retain their own educational identity and focus, while collaborating closely with each other to break down institutional and sectoral barriers.

The Precinct’s major objectives are to create a framework for the identification and management of innovative, regionally specific, educational pathways designed to maximise learning opportunities. It also aims to contribute to the intellectual, economic and cultural development of the region by collaborative arrangements between educational providers, industry and relevant communities. For example, one popular initiative developed since 2002 are the VCE revision lectures. Enrolment in these revision lectures has increased since 2004 from 300 to 1100 in 2007. Campus Manager, Sue Webb believes the appeal of these lectures is widespread and growing, and local students relish the opportunity to spend time on the university campus as well as gain tremendously from the revision process.

Phillip Steele’s second major initiative, in 2003–4, was a bid to create a ‘health precinct’ at Peninsula Campus.

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Figure 14 Professor Phillip Steele
Monash University

The Health Precinct was developed by Professor Leon Piterman (Deputy Dean Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences), Associate Professor Tony Luff (Associate Dean Teaching, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Mr Brian Ruck (Consultant) and Professor Steele. The group argued that the health precinct would encourage close collaboration between the academic units located at Monash Peninsula, Chisholm TAFE Frankston and the nearby health agencies. It was also proposed the precinct would provide an exciting framework for collaboration, teaching, research, professional development, student placement, and resource and information sharing.

In 2005 the Faculty of Education made a decision to relocate its Sport and Outdoor Recreation programs from the Gippsland to the Peninsula Campus with programs commencing at Peninsula in 2006. The motivation for this move was the prospect of improved teaching and learning facilities; the programs also fitted well with the campus’ new health and wellbeing theme.

Together with the Education Precinct, a Health Precinct was considered a further factor in differentiating Peninsula from Monash’s other suburban campuses. Monash welcomed the arrival of the multi-disciplinary Peninsula Health Precinct in 2005. Health and wellbeing programs are now offered by the Education Faculty, the Faculty of Business and Economics and the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences. Bachelor degrees in Nursing, Midwifery, Emergency Health (Paramedics), Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Health Science and Social Work are all located at Peninsula.

After considerable thought and planning by campus administration and faculties, the Peninsula Campus has embraced a distinguishable research program. Though it covers a diverse range of areas, the emerging theme is predominantly one of health and wellbeing, exemplifying the theme expressed by the Peninsula Campus in the Monash Directions 2025 document, ‘Peninsula: Understanding successful living’ (Monash Direction 2025: 2005: 20). Another key theme that all academic areas focus on is best practice in education. Research into areas including curriculum development, student learning and expectations, the role of the ‘hands on’ experience in tertiary education and the impact of professional education, demonstrate how research and teaching skills can merge. There are currently approximately 100 Higher Degrees by Research students enrolled at the Peninsula Campus.

All faculties now have a strong research program. The Department of Community Emergency Health and Paramedic Practice has a strong research focus on trauma and pre-hospital care. This centre is particularly active in collaborative research with the Victorian Trauma Foundation. Staff in the Faculty of Business and Economics conduct research into many areas, with key research strengths in international business strategy and business education. The Faculty of Education has a particular focus on research into early childhood and primary education, and sport and outdoor recreation, and the profile of the Department of Health Science is predominantly in the public health-social sciences field. A unique blending of social health sciences and bio-science creates opportunities for multi-paradigm and mixed method research partnerships. The School of Nursing incorporates research into models of care in a range of nursing settings including palliative care, midwifery, acute clinical care and mental health. New to the Peninsula Campus in 2005, research in the field of occupational therapy (OT) explores issues including forensic OT, young people in nursing homes, paediatric OT and professional accreditation. Physiotherapy research currently focuses on the risk of pulmonary complications following upper abdominal surgery.

In the ten years since the major threat to the viability of the Peninsula Campus, research has flourished and forms a major component of the various precincts established since 2001. The previous tension that existed between provision of teaching and undertaking research appears to have been resolved.

Still Learning

   by Fay Woodhouse