Australia's two "open universities" are to merge, creating the biggest tertiary organisation of its type in the country.
The new body will offer off-campus courses to more than 16,000 students taking undergraduate, postgraduate and technical college programmes.
Open Learning Australia and the Professional and Graduate Education network were established separately by Monash and Wollongong universities in the early 1990s.
They were initially funded by grants from the former Labor government. OLA, in particular, is unique in that it allows any student anywhere, even if they are unqualified to enter university, to enrol.
After the federal grant began to run out, eight universities agreed to pay Aus$200,000 (Pounds 83,000) each to become shareholders in OLA, which was then set up as a company. PAGE was similarly set up as a company.
In the past two years, both companies have suffered severe difficulties caused by sharp decline in enrolments. Early last year, OLA was threatened with collapse. It is expected to make a profit this year after losing more than Aus$1 million since 1996.