Failure to meet forecast student numbers costs uni

A failure to meet forecast student numbers is hitting the University of Otago in the pocket.

A report tabled at yesterday's university council meeting showed the university's operating surplus of $2.671 million for the three months until the end of March was $1.974 million below expectations.

Despite overall student numbers increasing by the slightest of margins this year, the 0.1% increase did not match its forecast for a 1.7% increase.

This failure to meet forecast student numbers cost the university $177,000 in domestic tuition fees and $585,000 in international fees for the period - with international numbers declining 3.7% on last year against a forecast for a 2.6% increase.

Externally funded research was also $1.704 million (7.9%) below budget, with the shortfall down to lower-than-expected research activity, predominantly in the health sciences division.

Speaking at yesterday's meeting, chief operating officer John Patrick said the university's surplus failed to meet Tertiary Education Commission guidelines.

However, this was not unusual at the beginning of the year and the university would be expected to ''catch up'' later in the year.

It was not all bad news, with the university's cash flow, at $107.571 million, $13.803 million (14.7%) higher than budgeted for the period.

The university's cash on hand, which typically peaks in March, was at $175.982 million, which was $14.363 million (8.9%) above budget and $21.379 million higher than in the corresponding period last year.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz