National Tertiary Education Union questions proposed SA university merger

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

The National Tertiary Education Union has demanded South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas provide evidence the proposed university merger will deliver better quality education and research.

The State Government has promised merging the University of Adelaide and University of South Australia will improve outcomes.

But a new NTEU survey of 1100 staff across all three SA universities shows just one in five (21 per cent) are confident the proposal will result in better education, while only 29 per cent are confident the merger will result in better research.

Just a quarter of respondents support the merger.

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In a major concern for the Premier, 95 per cent said they have not been appropriately consulted by the SA Government.

NTEU SA Division Secretary Dr Andrew Miller has outlined the damning results in a letter to Mr Malinauskas and Deputy Premier Susan Close.

Dr Miller’s letter calls for an urgent response from the government, warning the entire process is at risk of failing.

“Merging the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia represents one of the biggest and most profound changes to higher education we are ever likely to see in SA,” Dr Miller said.

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“There is no turning back once this decision is made. We must get it right. Our public universities must serve the public interest, not political or corporate interests.

“The process must be evidence-based. It needs to be managed with the strictest public oversight protections and stakeholder engagement mechanisms imaginable.

“Getting this wrong would be catastrophic for SA.”

The survey also found:

  • 60 per cent of staff do not believe they have sufficient information to make an informed decision about the pros and cons of a new university
  • 66 per cent of respondents do not trust university councils to make good decisions for staff, students, alumni, and the public
  • Only 30 per cent and 26 per cent are confident the governance structure of any new university will ‘serve the public interest’ or ‘engage in transparent processes’

“Staff are demanding concrete evidence the merger will deliver better quality education and better-quality research; full stakeholder engagement and participation; and complete transparency and public oversight protections throughout the process,” said Dr Miller.

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“Staff, students, and community stakeholders must be ‘co-creators’ and joint decision-makers in the merger process.

“It is crucial for the government to guarantee university councils will adopt a process that is evidence-based, fully transparent, and has complete public oversight.

“We call on the Premier to commit to strict public interest, stakeholder, and evidence-based protections.

“The NTEU looks forward to working with the government and university councils to build a higher education sector in SA that honours the public interest in the fullest and purest sense.”

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]