Merger of South Australia’s Largest Universities Faces Financial and Credibility Threats

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The proposed merger between the Universities of Adelaide and South Australia could be at risk of costing the new institution a staggering $250 million, cautioned one of the universities involved.

Set for January 2026 completion, the merger plans to form a major tertiary education entity. Yet, UniSA’s Vice-Chancellor, David Lloyd, stressed legislative timing’s role in its progress. Delays risk jeopardising registration and accreditation, with a potential $250 million loss due to disrupted international enrollment.

“If that stage does not enact legislation, we will not get registration, we won’t have … accreditation and the university won’t open,” Lloyd said.

The ensuing delay, projected to be at least six months, could result in financial losses of $250 million, primarily due to disrupted international student enrollment.

UniSA Chancellor Pauline Carr echoed these concerns, highlighting the potential irreparable damage to the credibility of higher education in the jurisdiction. The merger is critical for improving education, boosting research, and funding scholarships for underprivileged students.

Premier Peter Malinauskas underlined the evident benefits of merging the universities and urged swift legislative action. However, opposition education spokesperson John Gardner called for a more thorough examination of the business case commissioned by the universities before forming a definitive opinion.

Despite leadership promoting scale benefits, students express concerns over parallels to prior mergers, which led to job losses and limited courses. A student forum highlighted scepticism, emphasising a merger prioritising education quality and student experience.

The merger’s parliamentary committee got a submission from Adelaide University’s Student Council, seeking more student representation, a union, and better support for disadvantaged groups.

“People value that opportunity for students who wouldn’t otherwise have got the opportunity to get an education, to get one,” UniSA Student Association president Isaac Solomon said.

As the debate continues, the merger’s fate remains uncertain, balancing financial pressures against educational integrity.

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