University faces $13m deficit as overseas enrolments curbed

The Otago University Students' Association has disaffiliated with the Elohim Bible Academy. Photo...
Photo: ODT files
As closed borders continue to curb international student numbers at the University of Otago, a $13 million budget deficit looms for next year.

The University of Otago Council today considered a 2021 budget that lays out the Covid-19 pandemic’s effect on the institution’s bottom line and spells out the need to continue to expand domestic enrolments.

Total income is down $6.8 million from 2020 budgets to $748,550,000 in 2021, and total spending is expected to hit $761,529,000.

The forecast $13 million deficit for next year is $19.4 million less than the budgeted surplus of $6.4 million for this year.

And as the effects of the pandemic unravel, foremost among concerns financially for the school is the expected $17.3 million hole the absence of international students is due to leave in the university’s revenue, the university’s 2021 budget documents said.

The university believes domestic enrolments could underpin its financial recovery, the budget documents said, and included in the budget is increased spending on scholarships and hardship grants.

These increases are in part offset by higher student achievement component funding ($5 million) and domestic tuition fees ($1.6 million).

The number of domestic students at the university is forecast to continue its incremental annual increase.

The university predicted an increase of 148 domestic equivalent full-time students (EFTs) next year, bringing the total number of domestic students to 17,301 EFTs, or an increase of slightly under 1%.

International student numbers are headed in the other direction.

The 2021 budget shows just 893 international EFTs are expected in 2021, a drop to 52% of the 2020 budget of 1721 international EFTs.

Further, due to the pandemic, only 1322 of the expected 1721 EFTs are considered likely to finish the year at the university this year.

The budget for next year’s international full-fee enrolments is another decrease of 429 EFTs, based on the assumption that borders would remain closed next year.

However, in its calculations, the university is banking on both current Year 13 international secondary school pupils already in the country and uptake of online studies by students overseas, the budget documents said.

After three years of marginal growth in overall student numbers at the institution, this year (-1.1%) and next year (-1.5%) are due to see total student numbers down.

The university’s roll is budgeted to dip to 18,194 EFTs in 2021.


Lets hope the figures do not include the lavish build a $12 million retreat for academics at Woolshed bay that Otago Uni applied for in August this year and planned to have built next year. They knew at this time, that Covid was impacting on overseas student numbers. It would be very poor financial management to continue with this project in face of this potential loss now announced. In fact, if they halted that $12 million project there'd hardly be a loss.

It will not matter. They will raise the price and try to steal more money from International students so they can give themselves lavish rewards. It is totally corrupt and colonial style management.



Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter