Our history

History of the Department of Civil Engineering

The first forty years (1961-2000)

A history of a university department is essentially about people and their achievements. Here the emphasis is more on the latter, with the aim to give a perspective of the main outcomes of the Department's research and postgraduate teaching activities.

This section gives a brief account of the formation of the department, and its development and leadership over its first forty years. Other web pages give details of the main sub-groups of academics (Geomechanics, Structures, Transport, and Water).

Beginnings of the Faculty of Engineering

The Faculty of Engineering "opened for business" with its first student intake in 1961. Initially, the plan was to establish groups based on special areas of interest (eg fluid dynamics, applied mechanics), but this intention lapsed when "traditional" departments were formed in 1963. The original four  - Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering - became five when, after a period during which materials science academics were a part of Civil Engineering, a separate Department of Materials Engineering was established in 1970.

These five departments have persisted to the present, albeit with some minor changes in name. [The degree course in Environmental Engineering is serviced jointly by existing departments.]

Growing the Department of Civil Engineering

With the rapid growth of student numbers in the Faculty - from a handful of beginners in 1961 to an intake of about 360 ten years later - all departments were in expansion mode. Planning for the future and shape of the Department of Civil Engineering was a priority for Professor Noel Murray, its founding  chairman. Of prime importance for him was the establishment of world class laboratory facilities for its intended research program (leading to well-equipped structures, geomechanics, and water laboratories).

A key planning decision made in the 1960s was that the Department would aim for strength in four areas of civil engineering - structures, geomechanics, water, and transport. Noel Murray held the view that a critical mass of three academic staff was needed for viability and strength in each area. Hence,  after initial appointments to establish a stakehold in each area, the recruitment policy saw the minimum-three-staff-per-Group completed in the mid 1970s. This policy was a highly successful one, for each group soon established national and international reputations for leadership and research.

Noel Murray adopted the practices - in the days when there were funds for it - of inviting promising young academics principally from Europe to spend a year in the Department. This has resulted in valuable international collaboration over the years.


Amalgamations with the Caulfield and Gippsland Colleges of Advanced Education (CCAE, GCAE)

The 1994 amalgamations were particularly significant for the Department of Civil Engineering. The CCAE for instance had a strong undergraduate program in Civil Engineering and, for a time, courses were run separately in the two campus locations. In 1998, the Faculty adopted a common first year in engineering,  eventually leading to the decision to bring all staff and students in Civil Engineering onto the Clayton campus (completed in 2002).

Concurrently, the former GCAE degree program has been changed to blend with the offerings at the Clayton campus.

History of the Discipline Groups