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Blockos

In 1950, the University of Melbourne introduced the ‘block exemption scheme’, which granted students who had completed a diploma in engineering at a technical college, full exemption from the first two years of the Bachelor of Engineering degree. Under this scheme, technical college graduates could enter the University of Melbourne as an undergraduate engineering student and complete a Bachelor of Engineering.

Soon after its first student intake, Monash University also adopted the block exemption scheme. Students who had completed a diploma of engineering and done well could apply for entry into the Bachelor of Engineering at Monash. These block exemption students, or ‘blockos’ as they were known, went straight into third year.

Both Clive Weeks and Gary Codner came to Monash under the block exemption scheme, as did Peter Seligman. ‘There were a significant number of ‘blockos’ who went on and had very major positions in either industry or academia’, commented Codner; ‘you didn’t get into the university unless you’d done well.’ Still it wasn’t necessarily easy for these students. Clive Weeks remembers ‘the lecturer gave the Maths lecture, you took notes and tried to work out what on earth he was talking about … there were a lot of cultural differences; I don’t think you could ever be fully prepared for what to expect’. Generally, block exemption students maintained a reputation as dedicated and very bright students. This scheme continued until the late 1980s when it became irrelevant after the Commonwealth Education Minister John Dawkins introduced a host of education reforms, which eventuated in the closure of technical colleges in Victoria.

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