Lincoln, Massey ease merger fears
26 May 2003  The Press

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By TARA ROSS

Lincoln University and Massey University have laid bare their partnership talks, to calm fears about a merger.

The vice-chancellors of both universities met Canterbury tertiary institution heads and representatives from the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) on Friday at a meeting called by Christchurch Central MP Tim Barnett.

Mr Barnett said yesterday that the meeting was provoked by Government MPs' concerns about the extent and speed of discussions between Lincoln and Massey, in Palmerston North, to form a partnership between their two science faculties.

"(The meeting) was really to bring people together to clarify things."

The universities made clear that their discussions were limited to co-operation in their land-based programmes, he said.

They were still exploring whether to jointly provide one land-based programme, or to link their programmes in other ways, but should reach an agreement by the end of the year.

Lincoln University Vice-Chancellor Frank Wood confirmed that the two universities were working on how they could better serve the bio-based industries, which were "shaky" and unprofitable, but crucial for the country's economy. "Those industries are identifying needs for more people coming through. It makes sense for us to work together with Massey on how we best combine our resources to meet those needs."

Mr Barnett said the limited focus of the pair's talks should reassure other tertiary institutions in Canterbury. "They seem to know generally what's happening and were more relaxed than they were a few months ago."Christchurch College of Education principal Ian Hall, the chairman of the Canterbury Tertiary Alliance (CTA), said the Lincoln-Massey talks had become a contentious issue last year, partly because Lincoln had not been closely enough linked to Canterbury's three other main tertiary institutions. Lincoln joined them in the CTA well after the regional alliance had been established.

"We've now had three meetings with Lincoln around the table," Dr Hall said. "We have all got a clear understanding of the scope of Lincoln's relationship now."

The Press revealed last November that Lincoln ignored a top-level report recommending an immediate merger with Canterbury University, and was instead pursuing Massey to form a partnership between their science faculties.

Canterbury and the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology had lobbied Tertiary Education Minister Steve Maharey for an assurance that the alliance would not be permitted to introduce cut-throat competition into Christchurch.