The proposed merger of Uni Adelaide and Uni SA is closer, with a committee inquiry by the state’s upper house reporting Tuesday, it “will advance the economic and social interests of South Australia.”
The SA Government does not have the numbers in the Legislative Council, making the inquiry a make or break for the plan as now presented, given the merger timetable is for the proposed Adelaide University to exist by 2026.
But the Government has sufficient support in the Council for the merger bill to be introduced to parliament as early as today (October 19) – the last sitting day until the end of the month.
While the plan and its presentation to community and MPs is the work of the two VCs, Peter Høj (Uni Adelaide) and David Lloyd (Uni SA), the merger was a signature policy of Peter Malinauskas in Opposition and he is determined to implement it now he is Premier.
Mr Malinauskas has long argued that a merger would give the combined institutions the resources to rise up the research rankings, which in turn would increase the number of international students pumping money into university and state.
Opponents of the merger warn the two universities are too disparate to successfully combine, its cost too high and the hope of international student cash to come too fanciful.
However, the state’s business establishment appears solid in support and the SA Productivity Commission has made a case for growing the state economy through research output and sees the merger as way to do it.
The Committee’s recommendation is enough for the Government to stitch together a majority in the Legislative Council, where there are nine Labor members eight Liberals two Greens, two members of SA-Best and a Pauline Hanson’s One Nation representative.
Greens Committee Member Robert Simms rejects the majority view and reserved the party’s position on the merger bill. Liberal members John Gardner and Jing Lee also presented a considered minority report specifying oversight amendments as conditions for agreeing.
Concessions the government could be quick to make are accepting Committee suggestions for a Parliamentary Committee on Education and “consideration” of “ensuring potential additional investments and support for Flinders University.”