Union seeks FOI answers over UWA restructures, as chemistry culls revealed

But the university’s financial justifications have been queried by reputed accounting professors and the National Tertiary Education Union has gone as far as trying to FOI correspondence between senior management over the decisions used to prepare schools’ change proposals, as well as the data used to justify cuts across the university.

UWA’s molecular sciences building.Credit:UWA

Dr Sanna Peden, NTEU UWA branch president, said they were also very interested in senior management’s views over the feedback to the social sciences change proposal.

“We know that the data and rationale for the changes proposed in the school have been challenged multiple times over by multiple independent individuals and organisations, and we want to understand how on earth, in the face of all of the evidence against it, the university can still double down and say that they are ‘confident’ in the data they provided for consultation,” she told WAtoday.

“This information needs to be made public.

“Staff have lost confidence in University leadership, and there is considerable community concern about how this university is being managed.

“Transparency is the only way to address management’s trust deficit.”

The university’s academic council and students attempts to gain answers have so far failed.

UWA’s guild magazine Pelican submitted five detailed questions to vice chancellor Amrit Chakma under the direction of university management after last month’s protest in the VC’s office rooms.

In an email, Pelican reporter Tobias Langtry wanted to know which further six or seven schools would also experience structural reform and details over changes to the library and the departments of Finance, Research & Brand, Marketing and Recruitment.

He also asked whether the VC would respect and respond to a guild referendum on the question: “Do you reject the UWA Vice Chancellor’s $40 million restructure which will result in course and staff cuts?”


The email questioned if figures that led to the calculation of the $40 million structural deficit would be provided.

All questions were knocked back with a single blanket statement that read: “Like many universities at this time, we need to make strategic changes across our professional and academic areas to ensure our future sustainability.

“We’ve provided a guarantee to our students that proposed changes will not affect the continuity of their studies.

“We assure you we have the best interests of students foremost in our consideration as we move through this process. Change is unsettling and stressful, and respecting the welfare of our staff who are most directly affected, we must prioritise communication about proposed changes directly with them.

“The university will continue to provide timely updates to staff and students through usual communication channels. Please note, we will not provide further comment to Pelican on this matter.”

One UWA academic, who did not wish to be named over retribution fears, said a recent vote of no confidence in university management from staff would have passed with 76 per cent of the vote but “staff were too scared of ‘retaliation’ to put their names on the page”.

“Why are we scared? Because there is no legitimate oversight or right of appeal – the governance structure of the university is broken,” he told WAtoday.

“So we are currently in a situation where submissions to consultations are ignored, questions are not answered, and explanations or justifications for decisions are refused point blank.”

And the university’s RUOK? page has been inundated with anonymous posts that share the common theme about losing faith and the deterioration in mental health over the decisions being made.

“The failure of the university to provide adequate consultation around a proposal that will destroy this school is undermining my mental health,” one lengthy post said.

While another wrote: “How can people feel safe and respected when their colleagues are being told that their field of research/teaching is no longer needed? It’s disappointing and disparaging.

“If I knew the university would be nothing better than a corporate business where all that matters is money, I wouldn’t have devoted my life to becoming an academic.”

The university declined to comment.

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