IChemE proposes new rules allowing non-chartered Fellows and extending votes to the wider membership

Article by Adam Duckett

ICHEME has proposed changes to its Royal Charter and by-laws that will decouple Fellows from having to be chartered and extend voting rights to associate and technician members.

The measures are part of a wider set of changes and updates to IChemE’s governance documents. Members have until 16 May to vote on the proposed changes, the results of which will be declared at IChemE’s AGM on 11 June.

Review process

The changes have been proposed following a review of IChemE’s so-called key documents by external governance consultant Chris Kirby. In descending hierarchy, these are the Royal Charter, by-laws, regulations, and guidance documents. Changes to regulations and guidance can be voted through by committees whereas modifications of the by-laws and Royal Charter require a two-third majority of member votes cast in a poll.

Members of Congress were asked to review the proposals and check whether moving content between key documents would undermine key constitutional control of the voting membership.

Congress were largely supportive of the proposed modifications but raised two concerns, recommending that Clause 14 related to Congress be retained in the Royal Charter and that voting rights be extended to a wider group of members. These recommendations have carried through to the proposals.

Proposed changes

If passed, IChemE by-laws will extend voting rights to associate members and technician members in the affiliate grade of membership. There is also a proposal to increase the threshold required for members to vote through changes to IChemE’s charter and by-laws. Currently, two-thirds of members casting votes must agree for the change to be made. In line with the Charities Act 2022, the threshold is being lifted to 75%.

It is also looking to attract a wider group of people to Fellow grade by removing the requirement that Fellows be chartered. IChemE says this will enable the Institution to attract into membership and “recognise those who have made significant contributions to chemical and process engineering, including from ‘non-traditional’ routes such as first degrees in other engineering or science subjects….[and those] supporting chemical and process engineering, such as academics, those driving innovation in new technologies, research and public service”.

Andrea Hosey, IChemE vice-president (member engagement), and Geoff Maitland, IChemE past president, have written a blog supporting the change.

They write: “IChemE represents a wonderfully diverse range of skills and knowledge, but – in a world where discipline boundaries are becoming more blurred and the solutions the world needs requiring new ways of thinking and collaborating – it needs to recognise this even more, particularly in terms of welcoming those who have contributed so much to chemical and process engineering through a less traditional or clearly defined route.”

Among other changes, IChemE is proposing that the goals of the Institution’s Royal Charter be made less prescriptive by removing references to processes involving chemical and physical changes of energy and matter. Changes to the by-laws include preventing the deputy president, president, and immediate past president from being re-elected for a second term.

It is also proposing new powers for the Board of Trustees to make, revise, and publish the Code of Professional Conduct and the Disciplinary Regulations. In its appendix explaining the changes, IChemE says that because maintenance of members’ professional standards is a key activity of the Institution, which has potential legal implications, it should be mandated at the highest level in the Royal Charter.

Links to documents containing all the proposed changes are available here.

The AGM in June will also include the formal election of new trustees. This includes Raffaella Ocone becoming the new deputy president. Members have until 16 June to cast their vote for contested positions including who will serve as vice-president of the learned society.

Article by Adam Duckett

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