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The University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia received support from their respective Councils to explore the possibility of combining these great institutions to create a new university for the future. 

This follows a policy commitment from the South Australian Government in March 2022 to explore how South Australia could best be served by its university sector, including a potential merger of the state's universities. 

The Government's policy commitment has provided an opportunity to revisit the future of higher education in the State. The two universities have agreed to conduct a detailed feasibility study about the opportunity to create a university for the future. No decision to amalgamate has been made.

This page contains information about the current discussions and next steps in the process, includes a message from the Chancellor of the University of Adelaide, a joint message from the University of Adelaide and University of South Australia Vice-Chancellors, and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).


Message from the University of Adelaide Chancellor

On the 7th of December 2022, the University of Adelaide Chancellor advised staff and students that the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia had received the support of their Councils to explore the possibility of bringing our great institutions together to create a university for the future.

  • Announcement from The Hon. Catherine Branson AC KC, Chancellor, the University of Adelaide

    Dear Colleagues / Dear Students of the University of Adelaide, 

    I am writing to let you know of an important decision taken by your University’s Council.  That decision is to ask our Vice-Chancellor to commence serious discussions with his counterpart at the University of South Australia on the possibility of a merger between the two universities.  The Council of the University of South Australia has made the same request of its Vice-Chancellor.   

    Consequent upon the above decisions, a statement of cooperation will shortly be signed between the two universities and the State and Federal Governments. Government support, including financial support, will be critical as we work together to explore the possibility of creating a university for the future.  

    You will be aware that it was an election commitment of the South Australian Government to investigate how South Australia could best be served by its university sector, including through a potential merger of the state's universities. The University of Adelaide has for some time been open about its willingness to work with its sister institutions in the State and the Government on transforming higher education in this State for the benefit of the University community, including our students and staff, and the State.   

    It is important that I make clear that, while the Government's policy commitment has provided an opportunity for us to revisit a potential future merger, no decision has been made to merge our University with any other institution. However, your Council and the Council of the University of South Australia have committed to exploring the challenges and opportunities of coming together and forming a joint vision of what might be possible. 

    Following some preliminary work and analysis, the two universities have agreed to enter into a comprehensive feasibility phase over the next six months.  During this phase we will explore whether a future merger would be in the best interests of our current and future students, our staff, and South Australia. We will consider financial and infrastructure impacts, as well as regulatory and legislative requirements. We will also engage in extensive consultation with staff, students, unions and the broader University community. 

    On the basis of this planned activity, the State Government has indicated that it will defer its planned merger commission until at least mid-2023.  It is our expectation that Government will commit to providing or securing the external financial support necessary to achieve the envisaged outcome of the planned merger should the final case for such merger be approved by the two Councils. 

    While the outcome of the feasibility phase will ultimately determine whether or not we will proceed to bring our two universities together, we are excited about what this project could achieve. 

    Our vision is to create Australia’s new for purpose university - a leading contemporary comprehensive university of global standing.  Our intention is that this university be dedicated to ensuring the prosperity, well-being, and cohesion of society by addressing educational inequality - through its actions and through the success and impact of its students, staff and alumni. Partnered with the communities it serves, it will conduct outstanding future-making research of scale and focus. 

    We believe that such an institution would possess the scale necessary to sustain a Top 100 university ranking in the long term and, in turn, attract and retain the best research, teaching and student talent. Drawing on our collective existing strengths, it would recognise and preserve the outstanding legacies of our two universities, while at the same time being future fit and more readily able to respond to the increasingly complex, competitive and changing higher education landscape.  

    Each Vice-Chancellor has committed to report back to his respective Council by no later than 30 June 2023 on the outcome of this feasibility study. 

    Should both Councils thereafter determine to create the envisaged university for the future, it will be on the basis of a number of in principle matters already agreed. I am pleased to be able to let you know that one of these matters is the name of the envisaged university – it would be called ‘Adelaide University’. I have listed other important matters on which agreement has been reached below. 

    In the meantime, nothing changes. While I know you will wish to reflect on this announcement, I urge you not to be distracted by it. The University of Adelaide will continue to deliver quality education and research, engage with the communities it serves and produce outstanding graduates – achievements that we look forward to celebrating as part of our 150th anniversary in 2024.  

    I encourage you to watch the video on this page to hear from our Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Høj AC and the University of South Australia’s Vice-Chancellor Professor David Lloyd about today’s announcement.

    You can find information on today’s announcement here adelaide.edu.au/creating-a-university-for-the-future/

    I appreciate that this announcement will raise questions and that after the upheaval of the last few years, the thought of change of the scale being contemplated might be daunting for some. Please be assured that there will be regular communication and opportunity for you to engage and have input over the next six months. Should a decision to merge be made at the completion of our feasibility phase, your contribution to shaping a future university will be critical. Creating a university of the future will take several years and any combined university will not start before 2026. 

    On behalf of the Council, I extend my sincere thanks to you all for your ongoing commitment to this outstanding University. Collectively our staff, students and alumni have delivered positive outcomes for our State, our nation and the world for almost 150 years. I have no doubt that this strong legacy of impact and achievement will continue in the future whatever form that future might take.   

    Kind regards, 

    The Hon. Catherine Branson AC KC 
    Chancellor 
    Office of the Chancellor and Council Secretariat 
    The University of Adelaide 

    Matters on which Agreement has been reached

    • The combined university is intended to be operational from January 2026.
    • There would be no net job losses as a consequence of creating the combined university.
    • The combined university would be called ‘Adelaide University’.
    • A new brand would be developed for the combined university informed by market testing and brand experts, careful consideration of the appropriate recognition of the legacies of both institutions and the preservation of the favourable profiles of the existing institutions.
    • The combined university would be created and governed by new legislation modelled in large part on the University of South Australia Act.
    • The respective Councils of the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia would continue to govern their respective universities until such time as the combined university commences operation.
    • A Transition Council would be created with up to 14 members plus a Chancellor. Each existing university would nominate 50% of the members of the Transition Council. The University of South Australia would nominate the Chancellor of the Transition Council subject to consultation with the University of Adelaide.
    • The Transition Council would determine the process and time frame to be used to identify and appoint a new Chancellor for the combined university whose term would commence not later than upon the commencement of the second year of operation of the combined university.
    • The Transition Council would also commence and oversee an open and competitive global recruitment process to appoint a Vice-Chancellor for the combined university.
    • A co-leadership model would be implemented initially, with University of South Australia and the University of Adelaide each appointing one of two co-Vice Chancellors. The-co-leadership model would operate until the appointment and commencement of a Vice-Chancellor for the combined university.
    • There should be a joint approach to the State and Federal Governments to seek a package of funding for implementation and transition costs which must be acceptable to both existing universities.

Joint message from the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia Vice-Chancellors

A joint message from University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Høj AC and University of South Australia Vice-Chancellor, Professor David Lloyd.


Frequently asked questions

  • What have the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia agreed?

    The University of Adelaide (UoA) and the University of South Australia (UniSA) have agreed to undertake a formal feasibility study and business case for creating a new university for the future. At this point, no formal decision has been made by the respective Councils to create a new university. 

    This step has been taken in response to the Government of South Australia’s higher education policy calling for the consideration of a merger between universities in order to strengthen the contribution of higher education to the growth of the economy and society.

    The university for the future would have a shared vision to create Australia’s new for purpose university - a leading contemporary comprehensive university of global standing. It would be dedicated to ensuring the prosperity, well-being, and cohesion of society by addressing educational inequality through its actions and through the success and impact of its students, staff, and alumni. Partnered with the communities it serves, it would conduct outstanding future-making research of scale and focus. 

    If the business case is approved and necessary support is provided, the universities have also agreed to a number of governance and related matters. These are as follows: 

    • The combined university is intended to be operational from January 2026. 
    • There would be no net job losses as a consequence of creating the combined university. 
    • The combined university would be called ‘Adelaide University’. 
    • A new brand would be developed for the combined university informed by market testing and brand experts, careful consideration of the appropriate recognition of the legacies of both institutions and the preservation of the favourable profiles of the existing institutions. 
    • The combined university would be created and governed by new legislation modelled in large part on the University of South Australia Act. 
    • The respective Councils of the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia would continue to govern their respective universities until such time as the combined university commences operation. 
    • A Transition Council would be created with up to 14 members plus a Chancellor. Each existing university would nominate 50% of the members of the Transition Council. 
    • The University of South Australia would nominate the Chancellor of the Transition Council subject to consultation with the University of Adelaide. 
    • The Transition Council would determine the process and time frame to be used to identify and appoint a new Chancellor for the combined university whose term would commence not later than upon the commencement of the second year of operation of the combined university. 
    • The Transition Council would also commence and oversee an open and competitive process to appoint a Vice-Chancellor for the combined university. 
    • A co-leadership model would be implemented initially, with the University of South Australia and the University of Adelaide each appointing one of two co-Vice Chancellors. 
    • The-co-leadership model would operate until the appointment and commencement of a Vice-Chancellor for the combined university. 
  • Why are we doing this?

    The Councils of the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia have determined that the strategic ambitions of both institutions could be furthered, faster, by harnessing the best of both organisations. 

    We believe a combined institution would possess the scale to sustain a Top 100 university ranking in the long term, would be a stronger magnet for the best research, teaching and student talent, and demonstrate clearly that excellence and equity are not mutually exclusive but synergistic. Combining the strengths of our institutions would unlock enormous benefits and ensure that we are future fit and adaptable to the increasingly changing and competitive higher education landscape. 

    While no decision to amalgamate has been made yet, the universities and State Government have agreed to conduct a detailed feasibility study for consideration by the middle of 2023. 

  • What is the contribution of the State and Federal Government?

    The State Government has committed to working with the two universities to secure the necessary financial investment, with the assistance of the Federal Government, to support the new university.  

  • When will the amalgamation occur?

    No decision to amalgamate has yet been made. The universities will now undertake a detailed feasibility study. Any change will take time and will not happen quickly. The universities will be engaging in detailed due diligence, planning and consultation in order to bring a business case to their Councils in the middle of 2023. If there is a decision to proceed, the new university would be operational in 2026.

  • What will the feasibility phase involve and how long will it take?

    We expect the feasibility phase to last approximately six months. It will examine the financial and infrastructure implications of combining the universities, as well as regulatory and legislative considerations. The costs and benefits of the proposal will also be tested. For the proposal to progress, we would expect a commitment from the Government to secure the appropriate financial support to ensure success. 

    Feedback from staff, students, unions and the broader university community will also be sought during this six-month assessment period. 

    At the end of the feasibility period, the business case will be presented to the two university Councils for consideration and potential approval. 

    In the meantime, nothing changes. The University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia will continue to deliver quality education and research, engage with the communities they serve and produce outstanding graduates. 

  • What is different about discussions this time?

    Both universities have always remained open to the idea of re-engaging on this matter, and to learning from previous endeavours. While an amalgamation of our universities has been considered seriously in the past, the environment we find ourselves in today is vastly different. Foremost in this is the strong policy position of the State Government and its preparedness to invest significantly for success. There is an opportunity now to create something new, stronger, and unique for the State.

    Recent years have highlighted the potential fragility of our sector and the constant need to adapt, and, in that light, we must think to the future and explore how best to serve our students, staff and partners, and what is possible to ensure future sustainable growth. The strong and constructive working relationship of the two institutions, coming together at this time has furnished a clearly defined and agreed mission and ambition of what a university for the future could provide for the State, achievable through a synergistic, trusted, and respectful large-scale partnership. 

  • How will staff, students, alumni and partners be involved in planning for the university for the future?

    As the two universities undertake formal feasibility and due diligence work to create a business case, there will be a range of consultation opportunities for staff and students across the two institutions. The universities will also commence a series of regular communications beginning in the new year to keep you informed. 

    There are a significant number of issues to work through and decisions to be made as this would represent one of the largest changes to higher education in Australia undertaken over the past three decades. Not all the answers to the many questions will be available in the first instance, but updates will be provided regularly.  

    The two universities are committed to engaging their communities to consider the key attributes of the new university, with the intent of catalysing the creation of the dynamic, democratic and inclusive culture that would be at the heart of the ambitions for a university for the future. 

  • What is the impact on students?

    We foresee no impact on the experience of current students. The two current universities and their programs would continue to operate until the new university becomes operational.  

    The ambition of the new university is to create an outstanding student experience, among the very best in Australia, and it will ensure that the continued focus on high quality teaching is informed by leading research and supported by industry placements, entrepreneurial opportunities and professional experience. 

    There is an equally strong ambition to ensure that the new university is a leader in equitable access and provides education of a global standard to students from all backgrounds. 

    As detailed planning is undertaken, there will be regular consultation and communication with students.  

  • What is the impact on staff?

    Staff should note that should a decision be made to create a new university, it will not be operational before 2026. We are committed to seeing no net job losses as a consequence of establishing the new university. We aim to create a stronger, sustainable, and comprehensive future university for South Australia. If we proceed to create a new university for the future, it would be with the ambition of creating a new institution with an increased workforce, and new opportunities for career development for both academic and professional staff would be created through the new, larger and more sustainable institution.  

    The two current universities would continue up to the commencement of the new university’s operation and with existing employment arrangements remaining in place. A new enterprise agreement would be developed for the new university. 

    There would be extended opportunities for consultation and co-creation with the staff, alumni and students from both current universities as we move through the feasibility phase. We look forward to working and engaging with our staff and community. 

  • What happens to the existing two universities?

    For now, there are no changes. The University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia will continue to operate, led by the existing Councils and leadership. Should a decision to create the new university be made, the two universities would work in partnership during this period, together with Government, to plan and implement arrangements for its creation. 

    At this point in time, no decision to amalgamate and create the university for the future has been made and the two institutions will continue to operate as they do currently. 

Enquiries

If you have questions regarding this announcement, please contact futureuni@adelaide.edu.au.