Equal billing

“Moves to create a University of South Adelaide. Maybe that is not the right name,” Conor King from the Innovative Research Universities nails the biggest issue for the proposed UniAdelaide/UniSA merger.

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.

Boundless profligacy

Med tech and pharma industry group MTPConnect is sponsoring a conference. “When you register you will get to wear MTPConnect branded lanyards, which look really nice.” Jove, lanyards!

Lloyd set the agenda  

Back in 2014 then SA premier Jay Weatherill proposed merging South Australia’s universities, which the three VCs Michael Barber (Flinders U), Warren Bebbington (UniAdelaide) and David Lloyd (UniSA) did not think was much of an idea (CMM August 20 2014).

But what Professor Lloyd did say then is on-song with what he is doing now. “It is always worth considering how the university sector increases cooperation, by mergers or other partnerships, but we need to be clear about the expected benefits and have a clear outcome in mind. We need to be careful to not assume that any merger will of itself automatically deliver improved outcomes for students, business or the community.”

MOOC of the morning

The University of Queensland’s MOOC (via edX) World 101, “understand the world around you through utilising the anthropological lens,” is about to start a third season.

From Massachusetts to Melbourne

RMIT will accept MIT micromasters in principles of manufacturing and supply management for credit towards its own masters degrees in logistics, commerce, engineering management and data science. This follows MITs announcement last week that its micromasters in statistics and data science counts for credit towards Curtin, Deakin and RMIT masters (CMM June 13). RMIT does not say how much credit the online courses provide.

Appointments, achievements

Recently departed Universities Australia chief, Belinda Robinson becomes new chair of the Cooperative Research Centres Association.

Rebe Taylor (University of Tasmania) is the inaugural winner of the $25 000 Green Family Award for Tasmanian history for Into the Heart of Tasmania: a search for human antiquityVC Rufus Black calls the award “a wonderful affirmation of the importance of history and place and of an inspiring historian.

Griffith University’s research leadership awards are announced:

research leadership: Nam-Trung Nguyen (micro and nano technology), early career research: Amanda Ullman (nursing and midwifery), mid-career or senior research: Gillermo Diaz-Pulido (environment and science), Lara Herrero (glycomics), research supervision: Rod Barrett (allied health), research team: Suzanne Chambers and Tamara Ownsworth (Menzies Health Institute).

Another one along in a minute

Flinders U joins Curtin, La Trobe and Melbourne universities in trialling an autonomous shuttle bus. The Flinder’s plan is for it to ultimately connect Flinders Medical Centre, the Tonsley Innovation site and the main campus at Bedford Park with each other and a rail station. Four unis, with surely more to come must be enough a conference/journal/lobby group.

Questions for Labor’s post-school inquiry

Labor’s choice of voced experts has set the terms of reference for the proposed post-school education inquiry the party will convene if it wins the next election. Meeting in Canberra yesterday they agreed to a range of issues to address, including a single post-school funding model, the role of government, unions and business in growing apprenticeships and how to ensure qualifications are fit for purpose.

The TOR also acknowledge Labor’s commitment to TAFE, which shadow ministers use as a synonym for training. And the inquiry will be “guided’ by the principle that TAFE and higher education should be equally accessible and attractive to prospective students. This will please the public training lobby which will use it to argue that TAFE needs a bunch more money to be competitive.

In what looks like a concession to business opinion there is also a reference to the role of private providers with industry links.