Lincoln and Canterbury universities look set to merge

Lincoln University and the University of Canterbury (UC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to potentially merge. We think.

The agreement signed on 28 August will allow the parties to “explore partnership and merger options”, and both universities need to put a formal proposal to the government by the end of the year.

The new Government has been the driving force behind a new future being found for Lincoln. The specialist land and agriculture centered university has faced declining student numbers and financial issues for much of the last decade. Physical damage caused by the Christchurch earthquakes hasn’t helped.

Push to merge but to also retain identity

Keen to see more graduates and new skills in our land-based and food production sciences, the Government had pushed for Lincoln to explore merger options to keep the institution viable. Part of any discussions was that Lincoln remain at its present site and retain the Lincoln identity, brand and culture.

Lincoln is no stranger to change. It has been a stand-alone university only since 1990, and prior to that was for almost 30 years effectively part of the University of Canterbury. Before that it was either a school of agriculture or agricultural college for most of its life.

Shared interests will drive merger

The proposed merger makes sense in areas where there are already shared interests. The University of Canterbury has been working on their Kia Tōpū initiative, research and teaching that is relevant to healthy food and producing this in sustainable ways. Lincoln would look like a logical team-mate with this.

Both Lincoln and UC have already been working on a degree that could be offered jointly through Kia Tōpū. The degree could be called the Bachelor of Science, Research and Innovation, and the three majors that will likely be offered from 2020 are Climate Change, Urban Sustainability, and Food Sustainability.

UC in strongest position ahead of merger 

Other areas of possible linking between the two universities would likely be in the areas of Science, Engineering and Commerce where UC has good strengths. UC also has bounced back strongly from low post earthquake numbers, with almost 17,000 students enrolled in the second semester and much of its campus rebuild and rejuvenation nearly completed.

More will be known when the formal details of a possible merger are seen later in the year. In the meantime, think of it as a long term engagment; the couple is semi-committed to a future together, but both are a little reluctant to name the wedding date just yet.