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Aus: Super Uni merger offer withdrawn

The University of Adelaide has dismissed claims it sought to take over the University of South Australia, a week after talks on a proposed merger of the two institutions concluded two months ahead of schedule.

Adelaide and South Australia unis ended merger talks early. Photo: The PIEAdelaide and South Australia unis ended merger talks early. Photo: The PIE

Internal emails show a noticeable difference in opinion between the two providers

“We feel it’s in each university’s best interests to bring our discussions to a close”

“It has been represented that the University of Adelaide actively withdrew from merger discussions, that we were seeking a takeover and that we wanted our leadership to dominate,” the University of Adelaide said in a statement.

“None of this is true. At an early stage of discussions, our council had committed to an independent, open, competitive process for the leadership of a merged university, should that merger occur.”

The universities began investigating the viability of forming a ‘Super University’ in June 2018 with a final decision mooted for December. Talks were concluded in October, however, after both parties cited an inability to reach agreement on “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,” said University of Adelaide’s chancellor Kevin Scarce, and UniSA chancellor Pauline Carr in a joint statement.

The decision to conclude discussions came shortly after councils from both universities considered the findings of a jointly commissioned interim report from Nous Group.

The report has not been made publicly available, however, media coverage has indicated it played a substantial role in the decision-making of UniSA, and internal emails obtained by The Australian show a noticeable difference in opinion between the two providers.

“Our university has been cautious never to allow the light of optimism or ambition to blind robust and evidence-based projection and planning,” UniSA vice-chancellor David Lloyd wrote to staff.

Adelaide vice-chancellor Peter Rathjen, however, wrote to staff the university was still confident a merger would be in the best long-term interests of both parties, a point restated in the university’s statement.

“An independent evaluation of the benefits, costs and risks of a merger indicated… [it] would mean stronger global rankings, more innovation in educational offerings, and likely more funding for new research discoveries.”

It is unclear to what extent elements such as international students, internationalisation projects and cross-border research collaboration may have been affected by the merger.

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