Otago Polytechnic expects 5% growth

Philip Cullen.
Philip Cullen.
Otago Polytechnic predicts student numbers will increase by 5% next year, as the institution continues to buck a trend of falling enrolments and cuts at polytechnics around the country.

The increase is predicted in Otago Polytechnic's 2013 budget, which was given to the Otago Daily Times this week after it was approved in the closed section of last month's council meeting. The budget forecasts equivalent full-time student (EFTS) numbers will reach 3945 next year, an increase of 5% on the 3765 enrolled this year.

If the forecast proves correct, it would mean two consecutive years of growth in student numbers at the polytechnic. Numbers increased 4.2% this year.

This comes against a backdrop of falling student numbers nationally. Figures released by Statistics New Zealand last week showed that numbers enrolling in universities and polytechnics dropped 7.4% last year.

Otago Polytechnic chief operating officer Philip Cullen said the growth in student numbers next year would largely be unfunded by the Government and instead be paid for from student fees.

The polytechnic could sustain having 5% of its EFTS unfunded by the Government, because the extra provision would not result in an increase of ''fixed cost structures'', Mr Cullen said.

The budget forecasted revenue to grow from $84.764 million this year to $90.552 million next year. Expenditure was expected to increase from $76.955 million to $82.530 million.

This would make for an operating surplus of $3.103 million next year, up from $3.097 million this year.

''We have targeted a surplus which can be achieved but are still mindful of growing the bank balance and balance sheet robustness,'' he said.

Mr Cullen said the polytechnic's good performance was due to a number of reasons, including a growing level of applied degree provision, top-of-sector educational achievement and an increasing focus on innovation, research and enterprise.

''The budget continues the long-term strategy to achieve efficiencies in delivery, real need to our communities and to improve quality and market place standing,'' he said.

The fact the polytechnic was continuing to grow meant there had been ''minimal'' cuts, he said.

One area where there had been cutbacks was in the polytechnic's community learning centres.

''We have continued to downsize or close community learning centres, due to a reduction in activity and viability,'' he said.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz