University of South Australia facts

Adelaide and the university of South Australia have discussed merging their institutions for quite some time. The two institutions have agreed to collaborate on a feasibility assessment, bringing the notion back to the forefront.

To become the largest Australian university for new graduates, the projected new institution would begin in 2026 under the name Adelaide University.

What repercussions does this have for Australia‘s higher education system?

The three universities in South Australia

The three public universities in South Australia are the College of Adelaide, the University of South Australia, and Flinders University.

All three are the end result of the “Dawkins revolution,” in which then-federal education minister John Dawkins pushed for the consolidation of universities and colleges throughout Australia in the 1990s.

university of south australia

Some lawmakers continue to support the concept of additional mergers. Merging Flinders University with previous iterations of the University of South Australia has been discussed. Flinders’ “having returned to mother” as a University of Adelaide campus was another topic of discussion.

In 2012 and 2018, suggestions were substantially influenced to combine the Universities of Adelaide and South Australia. Back then, building a large institution was a priority. Both schools were larger than the typical school in the United Kingdom or the United States, but they still fell short of the typical size for Australian universities at the time, which was slightly under 23,000 widely used alternative students.

Since then, enrolment at both the University of South Australia and the University of Adelaide has increased to over 25,000 and 23,000 FTEs, respectively.

A “self-indulgent” endeavor?

There has been a history of “higher ed vanity projects” in South Australia, according to Andrew Norton, a specialist on higher education at the Australian National University.

During the 2000s, the ministry of South Australia helped pay for the construction of campuses for Carnegie Mellon University (USA), Cranfield University (UK), and University College London (UK). Adelaide’s ultimate goal was to become a major educational hub. In 2004, South Australian and afterward minister Alexander Downer stated he hoped Adelaide will one-day rival Boston as “one of the leading teaching centers of the Asia-Pacific area.”

That hope was never accomplished. In 2020, only Carnegie Mellon University reported having a presence in Adelaide, with 34 enrolled as full-time equivalents.

university of south australia
30th December 2018, Adelaide South Australia: Sign of the entrance of Adelaide University with logo in Adelaide SA Australia

To what end has the merger been brought up again?

The recent initiative to unite has been propelled by the incoming Labor state administration. In one of its electoral platforms, it promised to set up a committee to investigate whether or not a merger would be beneficial to the state.

According to proponents of this concept, enrollment at a well-regarded institution would increase. International students are drawn to the vibrancy of the city where prestigious institutions are located, as well as the academic reputation of such universities. Most of the most widely used worldwide rankings put more emphasis on the size of institutions than on the quality of their research.

Since the combined institution would be better on most global rankings, it would be more attractive to students from outside. As a result, the state’s economy would grow, and Adelaide would become yet another model of a modern university city.

university of south australia

Is that what you actually want to do?

A merger, however, is not risk-free. Merging universities would drastically diminish the variety of educational options available to residents of the state since each school has its own unique background and focus.

The University of Adelaide was founded in 1874, making it the third university in Australia. It has a long history of research excellence and academic advancement.

Some of the colleges and technical institutions that would eventually become the University of South Australia date back to the late 19th century. It has a long history of excellence in the fields of technical and applied research and study.

As a further negative effect, a merger would mean less variety and fewer options for students. The University of Adelaide offers a smaller selection of undergraduate majors (13) compared to the larger University of South Australia (41 majors). After a merger, there will likely be fewer of these options available to consumers.

Flinders University has turned down an offer to join the current merger and will likely position itself as a smaller, more intimate alternative to the larger institution next door.

What repercussions does this have for other states?

The ACT is the other most plausible option for a merger. While ANU’s 17,300 full-time equivalent students make it a sizable institution, the University of Canberra’s 11,500 full-time equivalent students is quite small for an Australian institution.

In the 1990s, there was talk of combining these two schools. In contrast, each school’s goals were unique. The Australian National University (ANU) is widely regarded as one of the country’s top research institutions, whereas the University of Canberra (UC) has always placed a premium on offering graduate and professional degrees.




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