What is now the Monash University Gippsland Campus was originally known as the Yallourn Technical College, opened in 1928. In 1972 the College became the Gippsland Institute of Advanced Education (GIAE), and then, in 1989, after an agreement was signed with Monash University, it became the Monash University College, Gippsland.
Yallourn in the Latrobe Valley was a model company town built and owned by the State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SEC). The SEC and what eventually became the Gippsland campus had a long association. The SEC supported the creation of Yallourn Technical College and when it became the Gippsland Institute of Advanced Education the SEC worked closely with the engineering department, sponsoring cadetships. At the time of the amalgamation with Monash University, the SEC was supporting around 100 cadets a year through the School of Engineering, meaning that the College had between 300 and 400 students. While it was not a research institution, its teaching was of a high standard and its distance education program impressive.
Initially, the Monash University College Gippsland was an affiliated college of Monash University and still maintained a degree of authority. However, in the early 1990s, the College was fully merged with Monash. The Faculty of Engineering provided a staff member from Clayton, Brendon Parker, to head the engineering activity at Gippsland, but when he arrived the existing Head was still employed in the Department. ‘The staff as a team were dysfunctional’, remembers Parker, ‘even though they had some good teaching going on.’
But there were bigger problems in store for Gippsland. About a year after Parker arrived, the electricity industry in Victoria was privatised - this posed the real challenge for Gippsland. Without the sponsored cadetship places that had come from the SEC, which was now privatised, student numbers fell dramatically as without SEC sponsorship, students went into the city to study. ‘The good students had gone to the city, and the less good students with a lower standard Monash felt shouldn’t be accepted [remained at Gippsland]; it was very, very difficult’ reflected Parker.
In an attempt to boost student numbers, Ray Jarvis Head of the School of Engineering lowered the entry requirements far below those of Caulfield and Clayton. Ultimately however, this meant that students were unable to cope with the course content and when Dean of Engineering Michael Brisk made the decision in 1997 to restructure engineering to one single course with one standard entry, the students at Gippsland were ultimately left behind.
Today, while there is no formal Faculty presence at the Gippsland campus, an engineering course is still taught there. This is the Bachelor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, developed in the late 1990s, by Bill Young, then Head of Civil Engineering. In 2011 the course is still running at the Gippsland campus, although it is coordinated by the Faculty of Science.