Aoraki student losses worst as rivals grow

The bad news continues for Aoraki Polytechnic, with new data showing it is losing students faster than any other New Zealand university or polytechnic.

The steep decline at Aoraki comes as other tertiary institutions in the South, including Otago Polytechnic and the University of Otago, grew, bucking an overall decline in numbers across New Zealand.

The figures were included in Tertiary Education Commission data comparing Government-funded equivalent full-time students (Efts) at New Zealand's tertiary institutions as of last April.

The data included only ''student achievement component'' (Sac)-funded places, which did not count international students, non-Government funded places and students part of other Government schemes, such as the youth guarantee programme.

The numbers painted a dire picture for Aoraki Polytechnic, whose student numbers dropped 27.4% from 915 at the end of April last year to 664 at the end of last year.

This was a steeper fall than at any other New Zealand polytechnic and comes as Aoraki, which has campuses in Timaru, Oamaru and Dunedin, ran a deficit of $3 million last year and after a string of redundancies.

Chief executive Alex Cabrera said the figures were ''partially distorted'' by the discontinuation of sub-contracted delivery, which involved the administration of courses taught outside the region.

It was in the process of moving into areas of priority for the region, such as primary industries and trades.

As it worked through this process its student numbers would look ''different'', Mr Cabrera said.

''We are concentrating on the areas where students have the most likelihood of being able to walk into a job at the end of their studies, and that have the greatest impact on, and demand within, our local regions.''

In comparison to Aoraki's troubles, Otago Polytechnic and Southern Institute of Technology were among the best-performing institutions in the country when it came to student numbers.

Sac-funded numbers grew from 2425 to 2647 at Otago Polytechnic, while student numbers at Southern Institute of Technology grew from 2695 to 2924.

Otago Polytechnic communications director Mike Waddell said the increase was a reflection of ''quality of the programmes and the quality of the staff'' at the institution - the good reputation held by Dunedin institutions, which he called the ''Otago factor''.

Numbers at the University of Otago increased by a small fraction from 16,526 last year to 16,547 this year.

It was the only university outside Auckland, which is home to AUT and the University of Auckland, to grow over the period.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz