Strong growth in first-year student numbers has helped
turn around three years of declining enrolments at the
University of Otago.
Vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne told yesterday's
university council meeting student numbers rose by the
narrowest of margins on last year, climbing by 0.1% to 17,707
equivalent-full-time students (Efts), which was ''fantastic''
The increase follows three successive years of declining
numbers, with enrolments dropping from a peak of 19,918 Efts
at the end of 2010 to 18,875 Efts at the end of last year.
The university typically gains a further 900 to 950 Efts
between now and the end of the year.
The increase was driven by a 119 Efts (3.2%) increase in
first-year enrolments, which included ''significant'' rises
in the number of Maori and Pacific students starting studies.
There were 48 Efts more postgraduate enrolments (up 1.8%),
which offset a small drop in returning undergraduate and
''With demand for first-year places at Otago continuing to
outstrip the number of places available in residential
colleges, a key enabler of this year's growth has been an
investment in additional college places for this year,'' Prof
This included the opening of the university's new Te Rangi
Hiroa College, in Castle St, and new spaces at other
The increase showed the introduction of stricter entry
criteria and tighter academic progress provisions in 2011 was
the ''correct call''.
''While those 2011 decisions have caused some short-term
enrolment reductions, this year's figures show that these
effects have largely worked their way through the system.
''Thanks in part to these changes, the academic performance
of Otago's student cohort is now, according to the Tertiary
Education Commission's figures, the highest of any New
Council member Judge Oke Blaikie was full of praise, saying
it was ''outstanding'' 85.8% of first-year students were from
beyond Dunedin, a record high.
''That must be as a result of some really remarkable work
done by alumni ... and the publicity arm of the university.''
Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie said
having university numbers steady was welcome news for Dunedin
It also boded well for the university's plans to spend more
than $600 million on infrastructure, Mr Christie said.
It was not all good news at the council meeting, with Prof
Hayne reporting full-fee international enrolments were down
by 45 (3.7%) to 1191 Efts.
The drop was ''largely'' due to the conclusion of contracts
with Malaysia to provide healthcare training and the pipeline
effect of fewer international students at New Zealand high
However, enrolments from a number of important markets,
notably China, were up on the corresponding time last year.
The overall increase was below the 1.7% increase in student
numbers forecast by the university in its budget for this
year, which was passed last November.
University director of planning and funding David Thomson in
setting the forecast noted the university was ''in a period
which is amongst the most difficult time in at least two
decades in which to forecast with confidence''.