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Harlene Hayne.
Harlene Hayne.
A cap  on international students, millions of dollars saved on work-related travel, and previous staff cuts allowed the University of Otago to avoid significant university job losses reported across New Zealand yesterday.

Only the University of Otago, which limits international students to no more than 15% of its total enrolments, made no cuts as New Zealand universities reported hundreds of job losses to start the year.

University of Otago vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne said the institution had not made any redundancies nor cut any courses in large measure because of Otago’s cap on international enrolments.

But also, post-Covid, the University implemented measures to reduce spending, including significant limits on work-related travel that was saving several million dollars, Prof Hayne said.

Before the pandemic, the university made difficult decisions about both its academic divisions and support services that put the university in a strong position for the future, she said.

Nationally, closed borders meant tertiary institutions were missing out on hundreds of millions of dollars in fees.

New Zealand universities were expecting less than half of the normal 20,000 international students this year.

Last year, tertiary institutions began cutting positions and calling for voluntary redundancies that will run through this year and into the start of next year.

The University of Auckland said 300 people had signed up for a redundancy package, RNZ reported yesterday.

At Victoria University of Wellington, 100 agreed to leave early, and at each of AUT, Massey and Lincoln more than 70 staff had left or were going.

Tertiary Education Union president Tina Smith decried the job losses.

She said across New Zealand senior academics were being pushed out, or encouraged to leave, because universities wanted them to be replaced by cheaper options.

Universities were over-reacting and the institutions had not lost as much money as they expected, she said.

Universities New Zealand director Chris Whelan said universities could end up with as little as one-third of their normal number of foreign students this year.

On average about 15% of a university’s revenue came from international students, and two-thirds of that was missing at the moment because of border closures.

Universities’ staff cuts were significant, representing about 3% of the sector’s total staffing, and it was too early to say if more might be needed, he said.



Something is amiss. Otago U only had 8% internationals before last year- that is half of the cap. So saying no staff cuts because of the cap is a 'half truth' at best. It begs the more important question- why is it the Otago could not attract its cap during the good times? Remember an international pays 3x in fees of a domestic.