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University merger legislation clears parliament

Legislation to establish a new Adelaide University has passed state parliament, with the new institution set to open in January 2026.

Nov 16, 2023, updated Nov 16, 2023
Photo: Liam Jenkins/InDaily

Photo: Liam Jenkins/InDaily

The Adelaide University Bill, which enables the merger of the University of Adelaide and University of South Australia, passed the Lower House on Wednesday afternoon.

The legislation’s passage was all but sealed last month when the Malinauskas Government secured the support of SA-Best MLC Connie Bonaros and One Nation MLC Sarah Game in the Upper House, where the government doesn’t have a majority.

The Opposition agreed to support the merger two weeks later. leaving the Greens as the only party opposed.

The new university still requires accreditation from the federal government’s Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency and changes to federal legislation to allow it to receive Commonwealth funding and enrol Commonwealth supported students.

However, the passage of legislation through state parliament loomed as the biggest hurdle for the new university, with the government and the universities forced to convince a sceptical Liberal Party and crossbench on the merger’s merits via a parliamentary inquiry.

The parliamentary inquiry’s final report handed down on October 17 found that “the economic and social interests of the State of South Australia would likely be advanced by the amalgamation of The University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia”.

The Malinauskas Government is committing $464.5 million to support the new Adelaide University through a $200 million research fund, $120 million student support fund, $114.5 million in land purchases and $30 million for measures to attract international students.

It is also establishing a $40 million perpetual research fund to help Flinders University enrol low socio-economic students.

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These funds were announced as part of the government’s deal with Bonaros and Game and after Flinders University vice-chancellor Colin Stirling raised concerns that low SES students wanting to study at Flinders would be disadvantaged.

The universities will only have access to the annual returns of the perpetual funds rather than the full balance.

The government and the universities expect the new Adelaide University to educate 70,000 students by 2034 – around 13,000 more than they currently do combined.

Acting Premier Susan Close said today: “Adelaide University will teach more domestic students from a broader range of backgrounds and will give young people a chance at a university education if that is what they want.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for higher education in South Australia, and we are seizing it.”

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