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Soon to be "SA's oldest university": Flinders defiant on rivals' proposed merger

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Flinders University Vice-Chancellor Colin Stirling says he won’t be joining discussions about the historic proposed merger of the state’s two largest universities and that his institution would be happy to claim the title of “South Australia’s oldest university” if it goes ahead.

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Stirling told InDaily Flinders University had no involvement in discussions about the proposed historic merger between the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia before it was announced on Tuesday.

But he says his university was “born to be different” and has no interest in joining merger discussions with the other two.

“Should a new institution be created through a merger on North Terrace then we might soon become South Australia’s oldest university,” Stirling told InDaily in a statement.

“While such a mantle might feel a little strange at first, we’d wear it well and would never allow it to alter our mindset or diminish our ambition.

“… Flinders University was born to be different and our distinctiveness remains integral to who we are and what we want to be.”

A university spokesperson was unable to say whether or not Flinders was invited to be part of the merger, or whether or not it was blindsided by this week’s announcement.

Flinders University was established in 1966. The University of Adelaide was established in 1874.

Former South Australian Senator Chris Schacht claims to be the first local figure to publicly advocate merging all three major universities in the 1980s.

He told InDaily yesterday that Flinders should consider also becoming part of the proposed super-university or risk an unsustainable financial future.

But Stirling said his university was in a strong financial position, was experiencing strong growth in enrolments, and was on its way towards being among the world’s “top 1 per cent of universities”.

He welcomed the proposed merger announcement but said Flinders was best-placed on its own.

“Instead (of being involved in merger discussions) we remain confident that our progress towards our 2025 vision puts us on a clear path to join the world’s top 1 per cent of universities,” he said.

“We have built a solid financial position from which to build on our existing strengths and are investing in our future so that we continue to deliver exceptional outcomes for our students, a great working environment for our staff and substantial economic and societal impacts across the State of South Australia.

“Our innovative educational programmes and exceptional teachers are attracting talented students and the levels of satisfaction reported both by our students and by employers of our graduates are exceptional.”

Stirling added that a recent restructure was “creating new synergies” and “sweeping aside bureaucracy” to support the university’s mission – and that the it had invested in new facilities at the campus.

“Our recent investments in new facilities (are) transforming our campus and this will continue with the arrival of the new Flinders train station and the $2 billion development of Flinders Village.”

The University of Adelade and UniSA will deliver a report on the merits and viability of merging by the end of the year.

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