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University merger dead after UniSA abandons talks with Adelaide

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UPDATED | The proposal to create a super-university in SA has been killed off after the University of South Australia decided it was not in its interests to merge with the University of Adelaide.

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In June, the two universities announced they were in discussions to become a single university.

But they confirmed this morning that the merger is off, after both universities’ councils met separately yesterday.

The University of Adelaide maintains that a merger would have been in the best interests of the state.

But in an email to UniSA staff this morning, Vice-Chancellor David Lloyd said that after weighing the costs and benefits of a merger, there was “not a compelling case to support a merger of the two universities and that consequently, the process of exploring a merger should cease”. 

“Our university has been cautious never to allow the light of optimism or ambition to blind robust and evidence-based projection and planning,” the email reads.

“We have arrived at an outcome which may be reflected on by some as a missed opportunity and equally by others as the outcome of choice – such is the nature of debate and investigation on matters of importance and where both heads and hearts are invested in the result.”

The email says both universities considered an interim report on the merits of a merger by Nous Consulting group, but that UniSA also considered:

 

An email from University of Adelaide Chancellor Kevin Scarce to all staff, shared on social media, says “different views” meant the universities “have therefore been unable to reach agreement”.

“The University of Adelaide’s Council remains confident that such a merger would be in the long-term best interests of the State,” the email reads.

“Nevertheless, as of yesterday, the discussions on the merger have now come to an end.”

A joint statement from Scarce and UniSA Chancellor Pauline Carr, released through a PR agency this morning, reads: “Right from the start, our universities identified key threshold issues and strategic risks which required agreement from both sides.”

“Ultimately, our universities were unable to reach agreement on the threshold issues and strategic risks.

“Rather than engaging in further exploration of a potential merger, we feel it is in each university’s best interests to bring our discussions to a close at this time.”

The statement does not identify any specific issues that prevented agreement.

According to another email, sent to University of Adelaide students this morning, also shared on social media, the university councils’ discussions were focused on an interim report on the merger which described the “key threshold issues and strategic risks”.

But the PR spokesperson said the interim report would not be made public.

More to come.

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