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Labor warnings over Malinauskas's uni merger policy

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Labor divisions have emerged over one of the Opposition’s keynote election policies, with a motion to tomorrow’s state ALP convention warning a proposed merger of South Australia’s universities could hurt jobs and limit education opportunities.

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Labor leader Peter Malinauskas put a merger between Adelaide, UniSA and Flinders squarely on the agenda with a policy drop late last year, declaring an elected Labor Government would “establish a university merger commission to chart a path towards a merger”.

“I want to be clear and resolute about this – the (Labor) state government would seek to actively pursue it to achieve the policy objectives and I would be assertive in that regard,” he told NewsCorp at the time.

But a motion from the Adelaide Labor sub-branch to be debated at tomorrow’s state party’s conference – which is set to be attended by federal leader Anthony Albanese – highlights “legitimate concerns” about the policy.

While the motion doesn’t directly address Labor as the proponents of the move, it says there has been “much public discussion about the prospect of a merger of at least two of the state’s higher education institutions”.

“This has created legitimate concerns amongst the community – including from staff, students, future students and their families, alumni and the business community – about the detrimental impacts a merger could have on access to university, and the security of employment in impacted institutions,” it says.

The sub-branch wants the SA party to advocate for “job protection measures to limit the number of jobs rationalised through a merger process”, as well as maintaining student places in a merged institution “at least equal to the number of degrees and places available in the original institutions”.

It’s also pushing for a “legislated equity provision”, matching or exceeding UniSA’s current “family equity admissions policy” as well as a “pathways program” to widen access to a merged institution.

In as statement to InDaily, Opposition education spokeswoman Susan Close said: ““Labor’s university policy is all about growing universities – that means more students and securing jobs and career pathways for academics, researchers and administrative staff.”

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