Countdown to create Adelaide University

Uni Adelaide and Uni SA have agreed to a six-month process to hammer out terms for a possible merger in 2026

what’s happened: The proposal involves the parties working with state and federal governments on a funding model but the two universities already agree there can be no net job losses.

Talks have been underway for months with the two managements amenable to an arrangement but some members of the councils said to be uncomfortable.

Last month a Uni Adelaide representative told CMM, “discussions to consider policy implications and how we might achieve the best outcomes for staff, students and the South Australian community have been held. A formal University of Adelaide position in respect of such matters will be a made by our council in due course.” (CMM November 22).

The announcement is a win for SA premier Peter Malinauskas, who has long argued a university merger is needed to give SA critical mass in education. There is funding in the present state budget for a commission to consider a merger but the government’s preference is for the universities to get the job done themselves.

It is also an achievement for the two vice chancellors Peter Høj (Uni Adelaide) and David Lloyd (Uni SA) who are said to have cooperated to ensure that the proposal did not go the way of failed discussions in 2018.  

what’s agreed: Both unis are adamant that no deal is done but there are agreed governance fundamentals, without which merger talks would stop before they start, including

* a merged institution would be called Adelaide University

* co VCs until appointment of a vice chancellor for the combined university

* legislation for the new university based on the Uni SA Act

* a transition council with equal membership until Adelaide U starts. Uni SA, “in consultation with Uni Adelaide” will nominate the chancellor of the transition council

but why: The pitch is, “the university for the future would unlock benefits far beyond collaboration and scale, making transformational investments in both teaching and research more feasible, would be a stronger magnet for domestic and international students and creative and talented staff and would conduct outstanding future making research and scale of focus.”

relax, it might never happen: don’t bet on it.  Premier Malinauskas says the state government “will defer the establishment of a South Australia university merger commission until at least mid-2023.” Note “defer.”