Big deal in Adelaide: the unis explain their merger thinking

The universities of Adelaide and South Australia could merge to create, “a new university in the top few in Australia for size and scale, placed firmly within the world’s top 100.”

Yesterday the chancellors and VCs of both institutions, Peter Rathjen of UniAdelaide and David Lloyd from UniSA announced they are “exploring a merger” with a decision due by the end of the year.

“This exploration will consider whether a merged university would generate a stronger institution that has the potential to deliver greater outcomes for South Australia and for its students, graduates and partners.”

The universities set out their thinking in response to CMM questions.

Is this a defensive move to protect higher education in the state if federal funding declines over time?

“No, while the national and international landscapes of higher education are changing, it is not us being defensive. Both institutions are doing well. The universities believe now is the time to facilitate a conversation about whether uniting would create a new internationally renowned university – without being compelled to do so by circumstance.”

Is it a move to expand the state economy by building its education and research base?

“That is one possible benefit which could arise. The two universities believe there is merit in exploring what a new university might look like, if they were to combine and consolidate their complementary expertise. The questions to be explored will include the impact on higher education world rankings, research profile, impact on degree offerings, international reach, alumni benefits, and whether a new university could create a wider range of pathways to enable greater access to education for more South Australians.

For the next six months, this is about us assessing whether or not a new university would be a stronger institution nationally and internationally, with the potential to deliver greater outcomes for the state of South Australia.”

Is it about savings from a backend merger?

“This is not our motivation. No decision has been made about the creation of a new institution. The ultimate aim of this process is to determine whether it is possible to build a stronger university – one that generates greater economic, social and cultural opportunities for South Australia.”

Is there a structure in mind?

“There are no models at this stage. No decision has been made about the creation of a new institution. Our goal is to investigate whether it is possible to create a dynamic university of scale that will deliver great research and great teaching.”

Why should staff of the two universities support the process?

“Our staff will see both the inputs and outcomes from consultation and discussion. Both universities will undertake extensive consultation with staff, students and alumni, as well as business, industry, government and members of the community. That will inform the report prepared for our councils to consider. This is all about exploring the merits of creating a new institution.

The process will need to determine whether combining and consolidating the two universities’ complementary expertise would: position a new university in the top few in Australia for size and scale; place it firmly within the world’s top 100; and have a reach that could make it one of the most internationally connected universities in Australia.”

What now?

There will be a discussion paper provided to stakeholders in the coming weeks and a dedicated website for feedback and information provision will be live from August through to the end of September.


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