Is the Western Australian School of Mines losing relevance?

As the Western Australian School of Mines moves its first year courses to Perth, and provides options for second year students to remain in Perth, some are saying the school's status is declining.

As the Western Australian School of Mines moves its first year courses to Perth, and provides options for second year students to remain in Perth, some are saying the school's status is declining.

Mining industry leaders have called for a public enquiry in the Kalgoorlie institution over fears it is losing its relevance and identity, according to The West Australian.

The school, run by Curtin University, was previously viewed as the state's premier location for a mining education.

In 2011 the school even saw its youngest student ever, with  Bukayo Taiwo enrolling at the age of 15, and who has since been awarded a scholarship by Leighton Contractor's mining division after completing her first vaction work with the company.

Taiwo explained her choice to study at WASM was based on its credentials as an iconic and reputable school for mining education.

“WASM has been around for more than 100 years.

“It is also accredited and recognised by all the important institutions and governing bodies.

“It’s a great place to study,” she said at the time, more recently stating that “in our lectures we talk about mining and all its intricacies, and I know it is giving me an advantage to then go and work alongside experienced mining engineers who are responsible for large-scale, world-class projects,” she said.

“To be able to combine study with the practical elements and then being able to participate and get that hands-on experience is invaluable.”

However now WASM alumni say the view of the school has changed.

They stated that mining education offered by the University of WA is becoming more popular as the Kalgoorlie school is no longer viewed as the top location, and that Curtin's support for the operation is waning.

Speaking at WASM and Women in Mining event, WASM Graduates Association president and Northern Star Resources managing director Bill Beament raised the issue of the school's profile and future relevance.

"There is a bigger question here of where does mining education sit in this State" he said.

Part of this was due to Curtin's creation of the second WASM campus in Perth, which now has 1000 students compared to 600 in Kalgoorlie.

However a Curtin University spokesperson rubbished the claim, telling West Business that the organisation is planning to spend $40 million to upgrade the Kalgoorlie campus, adding that "the university has real confidence about WASM in Kalgoorlie".

This is not the first time the school has faced an uncertain future.

In 2010 concerns over enrollment levels prompted Curtin to investigate whether to close the school, with university vice chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander stating that there were "unsuitably low numbers".

Earlier this year the West Australian government reaffirmed its commitment to the school and mining by awarding two mining engineering and metallurgy scholarships.

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