A statement of concern regarding proposed cuts to Chemistry at The University of Western Australia 

Written by Professor Steven Bottle, RACI President; Professor Pall Thordarson, President-Elect RACI;  Roger Stapleford, RACI CEO

Published 30 August 2021 

The Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) is deeply concerned about the proposed cuts to 6 Level C and D Academic positions within the School of Molecular Sciences (SMS) at The University of Western Australia (UWA). The proposed cuts within SMS appear to disproportionately be targeted at Chemistry, which is very unfortunate, given both the high esteem that Chemistry research at UWA enjoys nationally, and the important role of Chemistry in the Australian economy. Chemistry is a central STEM field and is vital both to the future of the University of Western Australia and to Australia as a nation.

Further, we are concerned about plans to target research and discontinue teaching in computational chemistry – a contemporary and increasingly important dimension of chemistry research and practice. Omitting computational chemistry in the teaching program would have severe consequences for graduates who would be ill- equipped with advanced research and STEM skills that are crucial for our future workforce. Computational chemistry research plays key roles in a number of research strengths and growth areas in the School of Molecular Sciences and these would be negatively impacted by the proposed severe cuts.

The RACI urges the Federal government to redouble its support for STEM research and teaching in Australian Universities. We strongly encourage UWA to ensure key STEM fields such as Chemistry, which may be expensive to run in terms of space and technical support, are not unduly disadvantaged when the University is looking for short- term savings in these difficult times. Cutting resources for a core discipline such as Chemistry is counter-productive for a Group of Eight University striving to be world-class and for a country seeking greater sovereign technical and manufacturing capability in post-pandemic times.