Stage two in SA universities merger proposal

Discussions of a possible merger between the universities of Adelaide and South Australia move to a crucial second stage today, with the release of a public discussion paper outlining the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal.

Sponsors of the project, UniSA chancellor Jim McDowell and his UniAdelaide colleague Kevin Scarce, are inviting submissions from all South Australians.

“It’s a good idea, we now have to see if it is the right idea,” UniSA VC David Lloyd says.

“On a high aspirational level the numbers work well but are there show-stoppers we have not seen?” VC Peter Rathjen from the University of Adelaide asks.

Both vice chancellors emphasise the basis for any merger lies in the energy unleashed by connecting teaching and research programmes. “There are lots of complementary programmes, it would massively improve student opportunities, says Rathjen. “The data shows research at the two unis is complementary,” Lloyd adds.

Overall, they both look to the biggest picture. “Universities are key agents of social and economic change, “Rathjen says. “The role of education in South Australia is not to be understated. A new institution would have to add more value than the two do now,” agrees Lloyd.

Both VCs say they were “pleasantly surprised” by the responses of their two communities when the idea was first floated. Rathjen says there is “strongly positive feedback” from the 1500 or so staff, students and alumni he has talked to. “Staff are openly optimistic, in a mood to consider it openly and transparently,” Lloyd adds.

And they are both adamant that the plan is about sharing, not cutting. “The only guaranteed redundancy if the proposal went ahead is one, or two, vice chancellors.” Lloyd says, pointing to the possibility a merged institution might want an entirely new leader.


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