A potential partnership between Lincoln University (LU) and Canterbury University (CU) has been shut-down by Education Minister and Moses-parting-the-red-sea impersonator Chris Hipkins.
The partnership was first proposed in August of 2018, after LU announced it had failed to meet its strategic goals for the year. This failure followed a decade-long trend of financial decline, lay-offs, and governmental pressure to increase performance. The partnership would have seen LU brought under the same governing board as CU, splitting the administrative overheads, whilst still allowing LU to keep its name, staff, and structures separate from CU. Students from both universities would have had the opportunity to attend classes at either campus, and their marks would have been cross-credited and standardised to ensure parity.
However, Hipkins says the partnership is not necessary. Since the proposal was first made, LU’s financial position has improved: earlier this year, the university sold half a farm and three houses, and received a $45 million insurance pay-out for damage sustained during the Christchurch earthquakes. In addition, LU’s plans to build $206 million research facility in Canterbury have since fallen through. Hipkins says the insurance claim, sales, and decision not to proceed with the research facility all indicate LU will be financially stable in the foreseeable future. A partnership would be an unnecessary fetter on LU’s autonomy, and take time and money which could better be spent elsewhere.
Both Lincoln University and Canterbury University say they welcome the decision. LU Vice-Chancellor Bruce McKenzie says he agrees the university is now “financially very viable”, and that the partnership is no longer necessary. And, although they are not allowed to formally partner, both universities say the process of working towards a merger has caused the universities to form close relationships with each other. Both parties hope this new-found closeness will lead to informal joint-ventures further down the road. “We can produce most of the benefits outlined in our proposal without a formal partnership,” McKenzie says, “[LU and CU will] continue achieving the benefits proposed through collaboration and cooperation” rather than through a formal agreement.