The recent proposal to create a new university in South Australia through the potential merger between the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia poses significant opportunities as well as challenges for South Australia and its higher education sector.
The importance of international education for the state should not be underestimated. International Education is South Australia’s largest services export, and second-largest trade export overall, contributing more than $1.4 billion to the State’s economy.
Universities are one of South Australia’s largest employers. The sector helps generate jobs in regional areas, increase the productivity of trained graduates and are a significant source of direct income for the city and regional economies.
In an increasingly competitive and rapidly changing global environment, it is essential that the sector adapts and innovates accordingly.
The recently released discussion paper on the proposed merger highlights some potential benefits worth considering. These include:
- Greater choice and access for a larger and more diverse range of students from South Australia and abroad;
- Opportunity to invest in more, high quality research that can address the pressing and long-term challenges of enterprises and society;
- Attract a larger number of high-quality staff with better career pathways;
- Enable more significant scale partnerships with universities and enterprises to the benefit of the university and the State;
- Generate greater economic, social and cultural benefits for South Australia.
Notwithstanding, there are substantial challenges outlined in the paper such as cost, impact on rankings, aligning different cultures and areas of focus and administrative arrangements. A merger of this size would affect the state’s education brand. This is something I’m acutely aware of in my current role, which is promoting South Australia to the U.K and Europe to Industry. In this work, I have often leveraged the strengths of each university in relevant fields to business leaders to highlight the availability of skilled staff and research and development collaboration opportunities. The two universities have distinctly different branding, and strengths which provide our Trade and Investment Directors with a narrative when pitching to potential investors. At a more human level, several OAG staff members have studied at one or more of the universities and we have our own fondness of, and brand loyalty with our institutions based on our own personal experiences.
As proud expats who have been given the honour of facilitating economic ties between our home state and the UK and Europe, we all want South Australia to be the best it can be. Quality education is paramount.
Getting this right is important for us, as well as our families and friends back home. Given this, our office will be making a submission and would like to incorporate the views of other expat alumni into this.