High-profile industry leaders have called for a public inquiry into mining education in WA over fears the century-old WA School of Mines is losing its Kalgoorlie identity and, with it, relevance.
Concerned the Curtin University-run WASM no longer runs first-year courses in Kalgoorlie and makes it optional for second-year students to stay in Perth, high- profile graduates say the school's status is gradually being eroded.
They say a pure, Kalgoorlie-based education is a vital part of a successful mining course and in the past has helped ensure all graduates found jobs, helped by the close, on-the-ground ties with the mining industry.
WASM alumni say mining courses at the University of WA are increasingly gaining traction because the Kalgoorlie institution is no longer being viewed by students, and marketed, as the premier education destination, while there are also concerns Curtin's long-term strategy for WASM does not include a thriving, well-funded Kalgoorlie campus.
WASM Graduates Association president Bill Beament, committee member Sabina Shugg and patron David Flanagan were last night due to express their concerns to about 500 industry members at a sundowner hosted by the association, WASM and Women In Mining.
"There is a bigger question here of where does mining education sit in this State," Mr Beament, managing director of Northern Star Resources, told _WestBusiness _ yesterday.
WASM produces about one-third of all university-educated mining professionals in Australia each year.
For most of its life, WASM only had the Kalgoorlie campus. More recently, Curtin has set up a second WASM campus at Bentley to increase the course offering and attract more students.
A Curtin spokeswoman said WASM had about 1000 students in Bentley and 600 in Kalgoorlie.
She rejected the graduates association's concern about WASM's future, saying Curtin was in the process of spending $40 million (including $20 million of Royalties for Regions money) on improving student lodgings in Kalgoorlie as well as teaching facilities.
She also pointed to the pending appointment of a Kalgoorlie-based deputy director of WASM.
"The university has real confidence about WASM in Kalgoorlie," she said.