The University of Otago spent $68.369 million on travel in
the four and a-half years to June - the equivalent of almost
30,000 round trips from Auckland to London.
It was the country's second-largest university travel bill -
the figures include air fares, accommodation and other costs
related to travel - after the University of Auckland, which
has spent $109.187 million since the start of 2008.
The spending of all eight New Zealand universities during the
period, provided to Otago Daily Times under the
Official Information Act, was $329.069 million.
Otago Polytechnic spent $1.025 million during the same
University of Otago chief operating officer John Patrick said
running an "internationally renowned university" so far from
the majority of the world's population, and having more than
21,000 students and more than 3700 full-time equivalent
staff, meant spending on travel could not be avoided.
"The University of Otago's vision is to be a research-led
university with an international reputation for excellence.
This vision requires a nationwide presence and international
collaborations and partnerships in many countries of the
The travel spending needed to be seen in context of the
university's total expenditure of $2.4 billion during the
four-and-a-half-year period, Mr Patrick said.
"This meant its spending on travel took up 2.8% of total
Asked why the spending was significantly more than Massey
University ($53.514 million), which has roughly the same
number of students, Mr Patrick said: "Maybe part of the
reason is that they are a different type of university to
"For example, they have a large number of distance-taught
students, they do not have medical schools in Wellington and
Christchurch and their university is less research-intensive
than Otago, and therefore they may have less staff travelling
for research purposes," he said.
Auckland University executive officer Grant Wills said its
expenditure on travel was "small and decreasing" and was less
than 3% of total operating expenditure.
Mr Wills pointed out that universities had a statutory role
under the Education Act to "meet international standards of
research and teaching".
Otago Polytechnic communications director Mike Waddell said a
good proportion of its travel was for international student
recruitment, which generated significant revenue.
"As part of our internationalisation strategy, we have also
made contributions to the travel costs of students
undertaking educational exchanges overseas, most notably to
Dunedin's sister city, Shanghai, in China," he said.
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said universities
were "autonomous and responsible for managing their own
affairs, including operational costs".
"However, I would expect universities to be like all other
businesses in the current climate and to be looking closely
at their expenditure and how they are managing costs," he
The figures in the graphic have been rounded.