What is today known as the Caulfield campus of Monash University began its life as the Caulfield Technical School. Opened in 1922, the Caulfield Technical School offered courses in carpentry and wheelwrighting – mostly to local students. Enrolments increased dramatically in the 1940s when returned servicemen took up courses as part of the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. The school expanded further in the 1950s, so that by the end of the decade, there was a junior technical high school and a senior school which offered diplomas in electrical and mechanical engineering. The junior and senior schools separated in 1958, and the senior school became Caulfield Technical College. New courses were introduced, early mainframe computers were set up and enrolments increased once again.
Following changes in the administration and organisation of technical colleges at the State Government level, in the 1970s the College became the Caulfield Institute of Technology, offering degrees in applied science, engineering, business, computing, psychology and mathematics. A decade later further change altered the course of the institution’s history. In 1982 Caulfield Institute of Technology amalgamated with the State College of Victoria at Frankston to form Chisholm Institute of Technology.
Even after it had become Chisholm, the Institute of Technology was still not immune to change and additional mergers. When the Dawkins reforms of the late 1980s spelled the end of Institutes of Technology across Victoria, negotiations began between Chisholm and Monash University. In the early 1990s, the two vastly different institutions merged. As Chisholm Institute of Technology already had an established engineering school, they had a well established undergraduate engineering degree. As with the Gippsland Institute of Advanced Education, which had also by then merged with Monash University, Chisholm had more of an emphasis on teaching than research. Bill Young, who was originally from Monash Clayton, but became Head of Civil Engineering at the Caulfield campus after the merger, recalls that ‘Caulfield had a very good teaching cohort and some very good people.’
In order to distinguish themselves from the engineering courses offered at both Clayton and Gippsland, Caulfield added a significant computing component to their engineering courses. The courses offered at Caulfield were: Civil and Computing, Electrical and Computing, Industrial and Computing, and Mechanical and Computing. These courses were popular, attracting significant numbers of students, but these students were not necessarily at the same standard as those enrolling in engineering at Clayton as the course and entry requirements were different. However by the mid to late 1990s student numbers were dropping and research outputs at the traditionally teaching focused Caulfield campus had not risen to the level of their Clayton colleagues. According to the then Head of Civil Engineering, by the mid 1990s out of the dozen or so academic staff, there were only five who were actively researching. While research outputs doubled during the three years he was Head of the Department, this was still not enough.
In an effort to help stabilise and standardise the teaching of engineering across the three campuses, Dean Mike Brisk made the decision to have one engineering course with the same entry score offered across all three campuses. As a result the standards and expectations of the course taught at Caulfield changed drastically, leading to a dramatic increase in failure rates. Eventually by the end of the 1990s the Faculty of Engineering leadership decided that it was too difficult to maintain an even standard of quality in teaching and research spread across three campuses. One by one, the various engineering courses offered at Caulfield and Gippsland, along with the staff based there were relocated to the Clayton campus.