June 19 saw officials from South Australia’s largest universities announce the possibility of a merger. Chancellors Kevin Scarce and Jim McDowell from the universities of Adelaide and South Australia jointly stated, ‘...we should now grasp the opportunity to consider the merits of a shared future for both institutions.’
The state’s flagship universities have collaborated on projects like Adelaide Biomed City before, but a merger would be an even greater undertaking. ‘We need to determine whether this would enable us to deliver greater access and benefits to students,’ the pair cautioned.
Whether or not this will influence the education of students from either campus remains to be seen. Reassurances sent out from both universities insist it will have no effect on current programs. ‘Regardless of the outcome of these discussions,’ an email sent out to Adelaide students began, ‘the academic programs you are currently studying will not be impacted.’ Yet this doesn’t necessarily mean students will be unaffected.
University rankings are becoming increasingly important as more people than ever before gain university qualifications. The World Economic Forum asserted in 2015, ‘people tend to favor (sic) certain institutions regardless of the quality of their academic programs,’ which is still the case today. Former Senator Chris Schacht warned InDaily that when it comes to international rankings, ‘there may be an initial dip when the merger takes place.’
UniSA is currently between 201-250 on Times Higher Education rankings, whereas the University of Adelaide is at 134; that could soon change if the merger goes ahead.
Any negative consequences should be short-lived. Uni SA was founded on the back of a merger between the South Australian Institute of Technology and College of Advanced Education, making both far stronger than they had been. The universities of Adelaide and South Australia now host 27,000 and 37,000 students respectively; a merger would make them the second largest university in the country, barely losing out to Monash at 64,479 total students.
Students enrolled in either university should have cause for optimism. Even if rankings ‘dip’ in the short-term, as Schacht believes, their qualifications could improve in value with time. In an increasingly competitive global environment, international university recognition matters, and this merger could put the degrees of 60-odd thousand students on the map.