The University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia will merge after the government secured enough support to pass legislation. Earlier this year, the two universities agreed to merge after years of talks, with the caveat that the South Australian parliament would still need to approve the decision. After being passed by the government this week, the new joint university – which will be known as Adelaide University – will begin operations in January 2026, creating one of the largest tertiary education providers in the country.
Here’s what you need to know about the merger and how it will affect you if you’re a student of either university.
Why is this merger happening?
For years, the institutions have been discussing the possibility of a merger. The talks became even more serious following the COVID-19 pandemic, with each institution wanting more financial stability. Because Australian universities are predominantly funded based on scale, the two providers had much to gain by joining forces.
University of South Australia Chancellor Pauline Carr said that the merger would allow students at Adelaide University to go “further and faster” than if the two providers continued alone.
University of Adelaide Chancellor Catherine Branson echoed this sentiment in an email to staff members announcing the merger: “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.”
The merger will also be significant for the city of Adelaide and South Australia at large. It is estimated that it will generate an additional $500 million for the SA economy by the year 2034, with an extra 1,200 jobs set to be created.
Additionally, the merger will advance South Australia as a premier destination for international students, with $30 million to be invested in the recruitment of international students and an extra 6,000 international students projected by 2034.
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Awaiting government approval
While there are no guarantees that the South Australian Parliament will approve the plan, South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas was present at the press conference following the announcement.
In his remarks, Premier Malinauskas called the merger a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to create one of Australia’s top education providers.
However, not all government members are on board yet. Opposition spokesperson, John Gardner, has said that, while the Liberal party is open to discussions of a merger, more details around the costs and risks need to be explored.
What does a merger mean for current and future students?
For now, the merger will have no immediate impact on students. However, it’s important to be aware of what this significant change could mean in the future.
Subject to legal and regulatory approvals, it is currently recommended that current students (i.e. those enrolled at either institution before 2026 or who have yet to complete their course at that time) transition to Adelaide University when it becomes operational.
If this applies to you, you’ll have the option to continue in your existing program or an equivalent one, depending on the courses available. The programs offered by Adelaide University have yet to be determined, but it is looking like they will be finalised by the end of 2025.
Both universities have maintained their commitment to assisting international students through the transition, particularly by ensuring that students’ program of study complies with their student visa requirements.
Rankings are another important consideration. While it is believed by the providers that Adelaide University will rank in the top 1% globally, others have expressed concern in previous years that there may be an initial dip in rankings when the university first opens. At the time of publication, the University of Adelaide is ranked at #89 in the world while UniSA sits at #326. It is worth noting that Adelaide University has been invited to join the Group of Eight (Go8), a group of Australia’s most prestigious universities, which the University of Adelaide already belongs to.
In terms of awards, students enrolled in 2024 who complete their studies after the new university has opened will have the choice to take their award (i.e. diploma, certificate) with the name and logo of their original education provider (the University of Adelaide or the University of South Australia), or those of Adelaide University.