Fees-free effect less at polytech

Otago Polytechnic. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Otago Polytechnic. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Otago Polytechnic's enrolments are up by 8.2% this year, but the fees-free scheme did not have the expected effect because of the timing of enrolments, the polytechnic says.

The total number of equivalent full-time students totalled 4754 Efts; 3786 being domestic and 968 international.

Its communications director, Mike Waddell, said that domestic equivalent full-time student numbers were up by 204.

International student numbers had increased by 158 full-time equivalent students, and the entire roll was 362 students up from last year, an increase of about 8.2%.

"With respect to the free fees, our applications and numbers for this year were up well before the free-fee policy was announced last year, and as such we did not see the expected increase that we thought we may have," Mr Waddell said.

"Having said that, if they have made the financial commitment less of a burden for some students then that is a good thing ."

Mr Waddell said only 25% of first-year polytechnic students were entitled to the scheme this year, and he could not say what that could be attributed to.

"In part, this may be that the average age of students is creeping up, and we may well already have an entry level tertiary qualification before they commence their study."

According to enrolment numbers provided by the chief executive in the latest Otago Polytechnic Council agenda for May 4, the polytechnic was $8million ahead of budget when it came to net monetary assets, due partly to "continued strong cash inflows mainly from student fee revenue".

However, capital expenditure was also higher than forecast due to major project works, the student village and central accommodation and computer equipment being ahead of budget.

The $20million village, Te Pa Tauira, has been blessed and has been used by students for several months. The polytechnic announced to the Dunedin City Council last week an extension of about 100 beds was planned.

Mr Waddell said a formal opening for the complex was going to be held at a later date, hopefully in June, and the polytechnic hoped that the Prime Minister, or Minister of Education, would travel to Dunedin to perform the ceremony.

"We haven't had an official opening, so that's what is planned."

The University of Otago could not comment on the effect that the fees-free scheme had had on university enrolments, or how many students qualified for the scheme.

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