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Lincoln University insists that it retain its name, location and identity at every merger with the University of Canterbury.

The two institutions have announced formal talks about possible collaboration or merger almost 30 years after Lincoln left the larger institution to become a self-contained university.

The agreement followed long-term financial problems at Lincoln and years of speculation that the university would have to merge with another institution because it had too few students to be viable.

University vice-chancellor James McWha said that the financial problems had been resolved and that the university would be in a good financial situation in the near future.

Professor McWha said, however, that an advisory group had told the university that it was the best option to seek a closer relationship with another institution and that Canterbury was the logical partner because of its proximity.

"If Canterbury had not wanted to participate, we would probably have spoken to other universities in New Zealand," he said.

He said that the two institutions did not yet speak of a merger.

"Everything we have done on this point has been agreed to discuss with Canterbury whether there is a partnership with which we can achieve better results.

"There are a number of innovative ways to do this: we can have the two universities linked to a common management model, there are different ways you could do it and that is what we want to talk about and talk about," said Prof. McWha. .

The two institutions would report to the Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, by the end of the year, he said.

Prof. McWha said that Lincoln was still working on plans for a joint facility with AgResearch and other organizations, and Mr. Hipkins said that the government's commitment to up to $ 85 million for that project was not affected by the merger talks.

Lincoln had 2695 full-time students last year, making it nearly a quarter of the size of the next largest university, and also smaller than all but two of the country's polytechnics.

The university started as a school of agriculture at the then Canterbury College in 1878, but in 1896 it was renamed Canterbury Agricultural College and was granted the right to grant degrees through the University of New Zealand.

In 1961 it became part of the University of Canterbury as Lincoln College and in 1990 it was formally separated from the Canterbury to become a self-contained university.

In 2011, Lincoln merged with Telford Rural Polytechnic in Balclutha, where courses were given at certificate level that enrolled hundreds of students per year. Enrollments in the Telford program, however, were declining rapidly and in 2016 the university had to pay back $ 1.5 million in government subsidies after the higher education committee had discovered that the polytechnic university had breached funding rules. In 2017 Lincoln Telford sold to the Taratahi Institute of Agriculture.

In 2016, an independent report reported that Lincoln had not generated an operating surplus since 2007 and that the best option for the future was to integrate & # 39; & # 39; with another university.

At the end of 2017, an advisory council warned that Lincoln needed substantial cutbacks, more Māori and Pasifika students and more donations, an advisory board said.

It advised the university to "move away from a self-contained university" and to focus on its role as part of the Lincoln Hub collaboration with various Crown Research Institutes.

It said the university had to postpone management and contract other institutions to provide courses that were not central to Lincoln's focus on land-based sciences.

– John Gerritsen

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