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University Of Melbourne. Faculty Of Engineering
History : Previous Control Number: UA16 The Faculty first met in 1889, but engineering had been taught at the University since 1861 when the school opened, with one lecturer and 15 students, who attended lectures on two evenings each week. By 1861 the University offered a three-year Certificate of Engineer (CE), which required matriculation, or a two-year Certificate of Surveyor. The School occupies an important place in the history of the development and teaching of Engineering in this country as it is the oldest in Australia. There were 9 students in 1864. In 1866 the first Certificate of Engineer was awarded to William Noyce Kernot, and by 1871, eight students had passed all of their subjects. Initially, and over coming decades, there was a reluctance to recognise academic training, with Melbourne’s wider engineering societies instead preferring apprenticeships and vocational training. William Noyce Kernot joined the Faculty as a part-time lecturer in 1868. The 1870s saw the establishment of a £45 per year scholarship for Mining Engineering, donated by the Argus. Other prizes included the Stawell Exhibition in Engineering (worth £30 for two years), and a prize for Surveying (provided by Kernot himself). In 1872 the University Council asked the Government to offer students twelve months’ employment as an adjunct to their studies. The Government agreed, and from this time forward, the Certificate of Engineer required evidence of twelve months’ engagement in an engineering work under the supervision of a Mining Manager or Civil Engineer. By 1873, 11 students had passed all of their subjects. In 1874, Professor Wilson, one of founding four professors of the university, who taught mathematics and natural philosophy, died at age 48. When James Griffith, another lecturer in engineering also left the university, Henry Andrew, just 19 years old, took over his classes as a lecturer in Civil Engineering. By 1883 the Certificate of Engineer was replaced by a Bachelor of Civil Engineering, however as with the LLB, the first three years were devoted to an Arts Degree. Around this same time, five new chairs including an Engineering Chair were created at the University and Professor Kernot took the role as the Chair of Engineering and the Faculty’s first full-time lecturer in Civil Engineering. By 1887 the University Council approved the creation of a Faculty of Engineering and changes to the Bachelor of Civil Engineering. The new BCE required the completion of only the first two years of Arts, which meant the classics were no longer compulsory, and the mathematic and scientific elements increased. The adjunct year of professional experience was retained. By December 1888 the Faculty of Engineering was almost established, though it took another four years for Kernot to secure all the lecturers he desired. In 1889, Kernot established the Melbourne University Engineering Society, a society open to graduates and students. By 1899, the government joined Kernot in making £15,000 available for a new engineering building. By the 1900s, 45 students had enrolled in engineering. New courses were established, including a Diploma of Building, a Degree of Mining Engineering, a Degree in Agriculture and a School of Mining and Metallurgy, with a new building for mining, metallurgy and geology. By 1907, the Widow of George Lansell, whose 'faith in engineering' had made him Australia's first millionaire, provided a £1200 scholarship in mining. One year later, after 25 years of service, Kernot asked that his younger brother Wilfred be allowed to take over his teaching. William Kernot passed away one year later, and six years later, the Victorian Institute of Engineers established the prestigious Kernot Medal for Engineering Achievement. On Kernot's death (1909) Henry Payne assumed the Chair in Engineering (1910-1931) and he presented a comprehensive plan to The University Council requesting new staff, a new building costed at £29,000 and a further £15,000 for new equipment. In 1910 the Premier of Victoria agreed to provide £30,000 for buildings and equipment. By 1914 the new building was open however, additional grants promised by the Government had to be diverted to the war effort. Melbourne engineering students were keenly supportive of the war effort and quick to volunteer; of 29 students photographed with staff in 1915, 21 out of 29 enlisted, three volunteered and were rejected, and two worked in munitions. Enrolments after the war increased threefold between 1919 and 1921, resulting in severe overcrowding. During this time, the Faculty offered degrees in Electrical Engineering, Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. In 1921, the first degree course in metallurgy was established, and the first degree was awarded in 1925. In 1926, the Mining Library was ready, and three years later, a dedicated Mining Workshop was built. Engineering degrees were now so highly regarded that the requirement that students spend an adjunct year gaining practical engineering experience before their degree was conferred was dropped. Henry Payne (1910-1931) was succeeded by Kernot's much younger brother, Wilfred Noyce Kernot (1932-1936). Kernot's appointment to the chair came fifty years after his brother's appointment to the same position. Kernot specialized in the teaching of graphics and engineering design, with a reputation as an able teacher and administrator. Kernot was recognized as an expert on patents, electric tramways and power generation, but worked widely over the fields of mechanical, civil and electrical engineering. Aubrey Burstall (1937-1945) set about raising the profile of the newer branches of engineering as well as a research program. He developed mechanical respirators for the polio epidemic of 1937-1938 and gas producers for motor vehicles. He also laid the foundations for a degree in Chemical Engineering. The number of students rose from 194 in 1939 to 289 in 1945. In just one year, student numbers rose from 289 to 504, due to many students being beneficiaries of the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme, i.e. members of the armed services who wished to study at University. In June 1946 three Chairs were established (for Civil, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, to be occupied by L. Matheson, (also Dean), C.E. Moorhouse and R. Blackwood). By the late 1940s the Faculty was so overcrowded that male-shift army huts appeared all over the Melbourne campus and some classrooms were held outdoors. The Chair of Metallurgy was abandoned in 1955 after the departure of H.K. Worner, but new departments with sub-professorial heads were established, with new degree courses in various branches of engineering. The fifties saw the creation of a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering and the organic chemical industry expanded rapidly to satisfy the accelerated demand for plastics and pharmaceutical manufacturing. The sixties saw the Electrical Engineering Department skyrocket, attracting the bulk of students and existing as the major focus of research. By the early '60s, the Electrical Engineering Department had acquired a MUDPAC, a Dual Package Analogue Computer, useful for designing control systems and modelling large scale dynamic systems. They also later had access to a CSIRAC, one of the world’s earliest digital computers. By 1971 a NOVA minicomputer was installed in the Engineering Faculty for use by the Adaptive Communications Group. By the early 1980s, an increasing number of students enrolled in combined degrees, cut-off scores for entry began to rise rapidly and postgraduate research gained a heightened importance. Engineering developed a strong relationship with life sciences, developing automated blood pressure control systems for seriously ill patients and the bionic ear. In 1981 a Master of Engineering Science program was designed and tailored to the needs of the students from different countries. Powerful links were created, and over the next decade or so, 230 students came from overseas to study Engineering and many Australian students benefited from exchange in countries where they learnt first-hand different ways of applying engineering principles in varying contexts and broadening their cultural understanding. With a high number of engineers coming to hold management roles, the Faculty joined forces with the School of Management to run continuing education courses in Engineering Management. By 1990, there were almost 3000 undergraduate students, and the Faculty began to start a campaign of international recruitment and strategies to increase the percentage of female research students and staff. Research performance grew following the successful bidding for government-sponsored research centres that were often multi-disciplinary and multi-university arrangements, involving significant collaboration with industry. With the technological boom, a new Electrical Engineering Department moved rapidly from the worst performing department in the faculty to the best. By 2000, there were 4,000 undergraduate students enrolled in the Faculty, 25% of whom were full-fee international paying students who had come to Australia to study engineering. The Faculty’s research reputation continued to grow and make a serious impact at the international level. In 2004, Melbourne University was ranked 22 in the world, with Engineering and IT also ranked 22. By 2005 the Faculty offered a range of new courses including Biomedical Engineering, Engineering Management and Bimolecular Engineering. In late 2007, as part of changes relating to the introduction of the Melbourne model, the Faculty became known as the Melbourne School of Engineering. The Melbourne School of Engineering no longer has courses for undergraduate engineering degrees, all engineering courses at the University can only be undertaken at a postgraduate level. In 2011 the Melbourne School of Engineering celebrated 150 years of engineering education. N.B. - Much of the above history is taken from the website at and from the UMA entry at as well as Australian Dictionary of Biography online entries.
Activities/Occupation: University faculties, University committee, University Department
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