Friday, 2 September 2016

What's in it for Canterbury?

In all the talk about a merger being the potential salvation for Lincoln University, I've yet to see anybody explain why Canterbury would want to merge with them.

Canterbury merged with the old Christchurch teacher's college while I was there. That college had a a bit of a commerce faculty; I think some of the folks who had there been employed wound up helping out in Foundation Studies - the remedial ed part of the university. If I recall correctly, nobody was particularly keen on assimilating it into Canterbury's commerce faculty.

Lincoln has a strong agricultural school, but its cash cow had been (at least by reputation) a business school serving, in part, international grad students of a quality bar lower than Canterbury would have admitted. Lincoln's agricultural school ranks well worldwide; nothing else there does. Canterbury beats Lincoln on any PBRF weighting you might want.

What's then in it for Canterbury? Departments at Canterbury would have to merge with Lincoln departments; departments at Canterbury, some of which have had to downsize recently as well, might not appreciate being forced to take on faculty from Lincoln rather than having the opportunity to hire from a broader field. Some may fear for their departments' PBRF rankings. It will then buy senior management some hassles at Canterbury.

I have a tough time seeing this as a goer except in the following scenario - a not implausible scenario. Come 2017, as I understand things, the support the government has provided to Canterbury post-quake ends - or at least would need renegotiating. Since the earthquakes, the government has been funding Canterbury as though it hadn't lost nearly as many students as it did lose. Canterbury's student numbers might be a bit short of what would be required for this to not mean a big funding cut in 2017.

In that case, you could imagine Canterbury negotiating a merger deal that comes with ongoing financial support to help them through the transition, with departments told to lump the merger as the alternative would be staff cuts when the extra support dries up.

Disclaimer: I left Canterbury in 2014 and have not asked anybody there what's been going on in the finances and in the merger rumbles; I'm going off intuitions that are becoming rather dated. But, still - whatever the case you want to make for Lincoln needing to merge, you might also need some reason for Canterbury to accept the merger.

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