The number of University of Otago students taking humanities
has dropped by more than 570 in the past two years, dragging
down overall numbers.
The drop in humanities students accounted for 83% of the
overall drop in student numbers at the university over the
past two years, down 3.5% from 19,568 equivalent full time
students (Efts) in 2011 to 18,875 last year.
The university declined to say this week whether the drop in
student numbers had affected staff numbers or departmental
budgets within the division.
Figures in the agenda of the university's latest council
meeting and its 2012 annual report showed students taking
humanities courses dropped almost 10% from 5910 Efts in 2011
to 5334 last year.
Humanities pro-vice-chancellor Prof Brian Moloughney said in
a statement this week the most significant decline in the
division - which includes subjects such as history, English
and law - was in the College of Education.
The drop in the College of Education was in part due to the
conclusion of a teacher education contract with the Malaysian
Government and also fewer domestic students enrolling in
teacher education programmes, Prof Moloughney said.
There had been a small decline in bachelor of arts enrolments
last year, but no significant change.
Enrolments fluctuate from year to year for a variety of
reasons, but there is no significant decline in the number of
students undertaking a BA.
''The humanities division helped develop ''informed and
''The humanities reveal how people have tried to make sense
of the world in the past and teach empathy for others.
''They foster social justice and equality. Humanities
students are trained to assess complex information and to
write clearly and succinctly.''
Co-president of the Otago University branch of the Tertiary
Education Union and humanities senior lecturer Dr Brett
Nicholls said yesterday the drop was concerning, but he was
not aware of any cuts to staff numbers in the division as a
''The general feeling around the place is that things are
tight ...but I am not aware of any concrete [cutbacks],'' Dr
The decline in humanities students comes as numbers taking
health sciences programmes increases.
The sciences division passed humanities as the university's
largest, in terms of student numbers, in 2012.
Students in the health sciences attract more government
funding for the university, but the university did not
respond to a question asking how it was affected by the
change in student mix.
It also did not answer a question over whether it was
concerned about the drop in humanities students.
A report tabled at last week's council meeting said ''a
number of factors'' led to overall student numbers dropping
by 1.9% last year.
''These included the pipeline impact of measures taken
internally - notably the tightening of academic progress
policies - in recent years to advance the university
strategically in terms of the calibre and nature of its
student cohort,'' the report said.
Government changes to student support, the strengthening
economy - meaning more people were in work - and the high
dollar making New Zealand less attractive for international
students were other factors contributing to the drop.