The Victorian College of Pharmacy: a case study of amalgamation failure and success in Australian higher education
Small specialist higher education institutions often face challenges when negotiating with larger partners. In 1988, John Dawkins, Australia's federal Minister for Education, introduced sweeping reforms to create a Unified National System of higher education. Dawkins' criteria for funding necessitated mergers for many smaller providers. The Victorian College of Pharmacy in Melbourne, Victoria, presents a case study of how one institution negotiated this policy and asserted its interests to achieve an optimal outcome. It rejected amalgamation with the University of Melbourne, reaching a superior arrangement with Monash University despite state and federal opposition. This article combines archival research from Melbourne and Monash Universities and the state government with interviews of key players. It examines the importance of institutional identity and how small institutions can navigate government policies of consolidation. It also focuses on the deleterious effects of inflexible government policy and how the College successfully overcame these challenges to complete its desired merger.