Two of Canterbury's leading universities are expected to merge, it has been confirmed.
Lincoln University and the University of Canterbury signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Tuesday, allowing both parties to explore partnership and merge options.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins says the potential merger showed promise and could help improve Lincoln's teaching facilities.
"We need to encourage more people to study and work in the land-based sectors to meet industry demand, increase productivity and tackle technological and environmental challenges," Mr Hipkins says.
"Canterbury and Lincoln's proposal to explore a merger or partnership might help to achieve that by enhancing Lincoln's capacity to deliver world-leading teaching and research."
It is critical that New Zealand has a strong and stable, multi-disciplinary, university-based teaching and research that best supports the land based sector, Mr Hipkins says.
The signing of the MOU follows discussions between Lincoln University and the Government improving Lincoln providing the support needed for it to meet the goals set out in last year's Transformation Board report.
It will also grow the university's need to meet the sector's need for more highly skilled staff through world-class teaching and research.
Lincoln University chancellor Steve Smith says the focus is on encouraging more people to study and work in the land-based sector as per the Government's expectations.
"We approached University of Canterbury to explore new innovative partnership options.
"A simple merger between Lincoln and Canterbury may not achieve ours, our partners' and the Government's ambitions for Lincoln University and its critical role in the land-based sectors."
University of Canterbury vice-chancellor Dr Rod Carr says the new partnership or arrangement must bring additional benefits to both universities and demonstrate significant added value not only to the institutions but to New Zealand.
The Government is committed to keeping Lincoln University at its present site and retaining its brand and identity.
Both parties are expected to submit their formal proposal by the end of the year.