Introducing Adelaide University

The merger of University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia is set to create one of the country’s biggest providers of tertiary education.


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University of South Australia and University of Adelaide reach agreement to merge

An historic deal between the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia is set to see the two merge to become one of the largest educators of tertiary students in the country.

The new institution will be named Adelaide University and is planned to start operating in January 2026, ending years of talks between the two groups.

But the agreement still requires approval from South Australia’s parliament, with no guarantees yet that the state’s upper house will support the plan.

Both universities have promised staff there will be no job losses as a result of the merger, until at least mid 2027.

“Adelaide University will allow us to generate the investment and global visibility required to excel sustainably over the long-term and achieve recognition among the world’s top 100 universities on an ongoing basis,” University of Adelaide Chancellor Catherine Branson wrote in an email to staff.

Logos of the University of South Australia and University of Adelaide.UniSA and the University of Adelaide have agreed to merge after years of talks.()


The South Australian government has agreed to spend nearly half a billion dollars as part of the plan, with $200 million going towards a new research fund and $114 million spent purchasing university land.

SA Premier Peter Malinauskas said the agreement was a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to establish one of the nation’s top universities.

“The new Adelaide University will be the largest educator of domestic students in Australia and will have the scale and resources to be sustainably positioned in the top 100 in the world,” Mr Malinauskas said.

“This coming together of these two institutions will represent the biggest coming together of two universities that has ever happened anywhere in the world.”

What would the merged university look like?

Details are still being finalised, but the government and universities have announced the new institution would be named Adelaide University and be operational from January 2026.

It would initially be governed by a transition council of up to 14 members, with each university to nominate half the members.

A sign for the University of Adelaide.
Adelaide University will initially be governed by a transition council.()


The University of South Australia would be responsible for appointing the chancellor and, in the early stages, the leadership would be shared between two co-vice-chancellors.

It’s not yet clear how the new university would spread across the existing campuses, or which courses it would offer.

However, the government has promised there would be “no net job losses”.

How was the deal sealed?

A proposal to merge the University of Adelaide and University of South Australia was first attempted in June 2018, but talks between the institutions collapsed months later.

The ABC in 2021 revealed that the universities could not agree on what to name the institution or how to choose its leaders.

A University of South Australia sign and building.
The universities first floated the idea of a merger in June 2018.()

The Malinauskas government went to the 2022 state election promising to revive merger talks by establishing a commission tasked with investigating the viability of an amalgamation.

Last June, it budgeted $1 million to set up the commission, but that never eventuated.

Instead, the government in December announced it had signed a “statement of cooperation” with the University of Adelaide and University of South Australia to work on a business case for a merger.

The universities’ councils voted to support the merger this month.


Why do the universities want to merge?

The universities’ vice-chancellors previously said they wanted their institutions to become more financially sustainable after suffering a financial hit over the COVID-19 pandemic.

They said pooling resources into one larger institution would create a more financially viable institution that would deliver better research and teaching.

University of South Australia Chancellor Pauline Carr said the merger will allow the future Adelaide University to go “further and faster” than if the institutions continued alone.

“We are taking the next bolder step and, should the parliament agree to proceed, that next step is looking at the creation of a university for the future,” she said.

A woman speaks to the media.
Pauline Carr says the merger will allow the instituion to grow fast.()

Ms Branson said the institution would support world class research and contribute to the state’s economy.

“I’m confident that although we have a hard road ahead, there is much work to be done, there are risks to be managed, we will produce a university of which this state can be genuinely proud,” she said.

The government has previously said South Australia’s universities alone are too small and too undercapitalised to make it onto the list of top international universities.

It said the state was being “held back” by the universities’ inability to do large-scale research, which in turn impacted their ability to attract academics and students to the state.

Is everyone on board?


A recent survey of 1100 university staff conducted by the National Tertiary Education Union SA found only a quarter supported the merger.

If found just 21 per cent were confident the merger would result in “better education”, while only 29 per cent were confident it would result in “better research”.

Catherine Branson
Catherine Branson says the merger will place the university in the world’s top 100.()


The union said it was concerned a merger could result in job and course cuts, and limit options for domestic students.

National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) SA division secretary Andrew Miller said the government needed to consult more closely with staff and students.

“Our public universities are there to serve the public interests,” Dr Miller said.

“That means they’re accountable to us and must be open and transparent about all the evidence they have before them and share that with the community.”

Mr Malinauskas said the university’s own analysis and business case said the institution will require an additional 1,200 staff to teach 13,000 more students.

“This isn’t about reducing the size of staff, it’s about growing it,” he said.


How much will the merger cost?

The state government said it will contribute about $450 million to support the merger.

As part of that, the government said it will provide $200 million for a research fund and $100 million to support enrolment of low socio-economic students.

The government said it will also spend $30 million over three years to help attract international students.

A sign and buildings on the University of Adelaide campus.
The SA government will contribute about $450 million.()

It would also purchase part of UniSA’s Mawson Lakes campus for a cost of $50 million and all of the Magill campus for $64 million.

The Mawson Lakes site will be retained with leaders of the universities citing a growing need to offer higher education in the northern suburbs.

However, the state government is yet to decide what would happen to the Magill campus, once existing courses are relocated.

Mr Malinauskas said the money will help ensure higher education is more accessible to South Australians and will build on international student growth.

“This has been a very carefully calibrated package to make sure that the government’s financial support speaks to the objectives we have of the creation of this new university.”

What happens now?

A university merger can’t happen until the government passes new laws through state parliament that outline how Adelaide University would operate.

Passing the legislation through the lower house should be a breeze, as that’s where the government holds the majority.

The steps of South Australian parliament
The Greens, SA Best and One Nation have said they oppose the university merger.()


But the government could run into trouble in the upper house, where it needs to garner the support of the crossbench and Liberal opposition.


Why does the opposition and crossbench want an inquiry?

The Liberal opposition and crossbench parties said they will establish a parliamentary inquiry to look at the merger when laws to create the new university reach the upper house.

Opposition spokesperson, John Gardner, said while the opposition was open-minded to a university merger, it wanted to see more details, including about the costs and risks of a merger.

“They’ve been absolutely dismissive of people in the community who don’t necessarily believe bigger is better,” Mr Gardner said.

A man in a suit, purple shirt and purple tie and black glasses stands in front of media microphones
John Gardner said the government has been dismissive of people with concerns. ()

“The people of South Australia are being asked to put up an awful lot of money to deliver on this proposal … they’ve had absolutely no work done by the government to persuade them that it’s in their interest.”

Greens MLC Robert Simms said the merger should face an inquiry because it was the biggest change to the state’s university sector in generations.

“It is ludicrous to suggest that the parliament should just provide a rubber stamp and wave it through,” he said.

“If the government have done their due diligence and all of the information is readily available, including the business case, then the inquiry may be able to conclude its deliberations quite quickly.”

SA Best MLC Frank Pangallo said his party also backed an inquiry into the plan.

“We haven’t reached a position on whether this merger is a good thing or not … which is why we’ll be supporting the inquiry.”

Mr Malinauskas urged the opposition and crossbench not to delay the merger.

“Delay is denial,” he said.

“An inquiry that seeks to delay to achieve a political outcome would be incredibly disappointing and would compromise this,” he said.

“This is a state building endeavour and I and my team are really keen to work constructively with both the opposition and the crossbench to see the passage of this legislation through.”


By Stephanie Richards, Joshua Boscaini, and Jacob Kagi

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