From the post-war increase in student enrolments onwards, total enrolments in engineering would average around 200 students until the outbreak of World War II. However even so, the school operated within strict financial controls during the periods between the two World Wars. Civil Engineering, the strongest and most populous of all the engineering degrees, failed to be given a professor by the University, as did other major teaching areas, even though over 90% of all civil engineering graduates were absorbed by the various government departments.

Further exemplifying the economic restraints, it was remembered that a professor at the time, due to lack of suitable equipment, constructed an ingenious model of a machine by combining some old jam tins, woollen socks, and a brown paper bag.

The university-educated engineer was now keenly sought by government authorities to manage the big projects that were a feature of the 1920s, such as the introduction of W-class Trams, the first radio station, and the city’s first traffic lights. Architecture, however, had to be content with a separate Board of Students created within the Engineering Faculty in 1923. In 1921, the first degree course in metallurgy was established, and the first degree was awarded in 1925. This was supported by Professor Skeats, who secured a five-year guarantee from eight major ferrous and non-ferrous mining companies, most of them Melbourne-based, to provide financial support for the Metallurgy Department. In 1926, the Mining Library was ready, and three years later, a dedicated Mining Workshop was built. For a period the Faculty also had an aeronautical lab, a wooden-framed building covered with green corrugated iron to the south of the main building on Grattan Street, its centrepiece a Hendon Wind Tunnel designed at the National Physical Laboratory.

Engineering Library, Courtesy of the University of Melbourne Archives
Amsler Testing Machine, Courtesy of the University of Melbourne Archives