From the Chancellor

pauline-headshot.jpgFrom: Pauline Carr
Date: Wed 7/12/2022 5:45 PM
Subject: Important update from the Chancellor

Dear Colleagues

I am writing to share with you the significant and historic news that the University of South Australia has reached agreement with the University of Adelaide to conduct a detailed feasibility study and produce a business case for our Council’s consideration, towards the creation of a new university for the future in South Australia.

While, at this time, no final decision has been made, this agreement represents the most advanced consideration of change in our State’s higher education sector since the creation of UniSA more than 30 years ago in 1991.

In this message to you, I would like to share with you the background on how we embarked on this journey and some of the detail around the Council’s consideration of this unique opportunity.  Information is also available on the University’s website, and we will be involving our community in ongoing discussions and engagement in the first half of 2023.

How has this agreement come about and what is the role of the State Government?

The election of the Malinauskas’ Labor Government in March this year established a mandate to pursue higher education reform in South Australia. The Government’s policy relating to the establishment of a ‘Merger Commission’ was widely publicised prior to the election.

In responding to this policy, the University of South Australia, through its Council, engaged in high level discussions with the Council of the University of Adelaide to explore what, if anything, the institutions could achieve by working together to support the Government’s goals for the benefit of South Australia.

Recognising that our universities had previously engaged in similar dialogue, on this occasion, we first sought to explore what might be possible. We believed that, were it possible to describe and agree a new university for the future, then it might also be possible to chart a course towards its creation. Our Vice Chancellors took up that challenge and provided our Councils with a shared vision which, if realised, could see the creation of:

Australia’s new for purpose university - a leading contemporary comprehensive university of global standing.  It is 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 conducts outstanding future-making research of scale and focus.

Both University Councils considered this shared vision and the potential opportunity presented by the State Government as one which could advance our respective institutions’ missions at a scale and impact that we could not achieve individually.  

Put simply, our Council’s view is that if we are able to realise this vision and ambition for equity and excellence, we could take the mission, values and impact of UniSA and its culture further and faster than we might ever attain alone.

The creation of a new University presents a unique opportunity to positively transform higher education in our State and nation for the benefit of future generations of students, as well as, securing our legacies to date and ensuring lasting impact on our wider society.

Also, I wanted you to know that we have now shared this vision with the State and Federal Governments, and it has been positively received by both of them.

Have any specific governance or organisational matters been considered?

Both Councils undertook to objectively and constructively consider matters of threshold importance to both institutions. It is our collective belief that only a union of equals can create a new university for the future.

While no decision has yet been made, we acknowledge that the creation of this new university would take considerable time, with some significant steps to be taken along the way. We still have a detailed feasibility study and business case to progress, as well as regulatory and legal requirements to navigate.

Above all, we require specific funding and support from Government to enable us create the new university.

If these hurdles can be cleared, and should we reach the point of creating the new university. In relation to this, both Councils have formally agreed, that:

  • 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 building on the legacies of the two institutions would be developed for the combined university 
  • The combined university would be created and governed by new legislation modelled in large part on the University of South Australia Act 
  • The University of South Australia would nominate the Chancellor of a Transition Council in consultation with the University of Adelaide 
  • The composition of the Transition Council would be nominated by each institution equally  
  • 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

I know that, in sharing our progress to date, these are significant first steps in advancing an enormously complex process.  However, time is on our side and there are many months, indeed years, left to ensure we have a strong foundation to realise the potential of a new institution. The above considerations are critical first steps which needed full agreement by our Councils if we were to advance this initiative successfully together. Furthermore, our primary concern is one of providing as much certainty as we can, as early as we can and to as many people as we can.

We have a strong track record in planning and executing well, and I’m confident that we will continue to showcase those strengths over the coming weeks and months as we work through this process.

What happens next?

With the learnings from previous discussions of this nature, we have until now confined the current discussion to both university Councils in the first instance so as to reduce uncertainty and minimise any disruption to our ongoing operations and activities.

I do apologise that, given the timing of this development, some of our UniSA community may learn of it second hand or through the media. That is highly regrettable, though an unavoidable consequence of the nature of the activity under exploration.

Now that we have reached this particular point, it is absolutely the right time to openly share this information with you.  Our leadership teams will now be tasked to work together in good faith to substantiate the benefits which we believe can flow from this unprecedented opportunity, and to bring that back to our Councils for decision by the middle of 2023.

Has a decision already been made?

Please let me be clear.  No decision to amalgamate our universities has been made.  We are now entering a feasibility phase of deep interrogation and will produce a detailed business case of what we believe is possible through the creation of a new university.  So while this is not a ‘done deal’ by any means, it is by far the most advanced our institutions have progressed in exploring this opportunity.

Both Councils realise that our sharing of this information will precipitate questions and potential concerns among our communities. Please do not worry unduly.  We can reassure you that, should the business case result in a decision to create the new university, the journey towards its creation will have several years to run before coming to fruition.  In the meantime, and for the years to come, our own University will continue on its individual course, pursuing the ambitions of Enterprise25.

As we enter 2023, be assured that you and our wider community will be more deeply involved in the entire process of creating this new university for the future, realising its potential and in seizing this unique opportunity to redefine higher education in South Australia and this nation.

Until then, on behalf of the Council, I wish to convey our sincere thanks for your ongoing support and understanding, as well as your dedication to our institution through your positive engagement and contribution on a daily basis to ensure our continued success.

Warm regards

Pauline Carr
Chancellor, University of South Australia