Polytech enrolment drop put down to the economy

High employment and the rise in the cost of living have been blamed for a significant drop in student numbers at Otago Polytechnic.

The polytechnic is down about 15% in full-time equivalent students compared with this time last year.

Otago Polytechnic chief executive Dr Megan Gibbons said there were 4305 students this year, a drop of 669 from 2021.

This year’s roll was about the same as in 2020, but there had been a spike in enrolment numbers last year, when there was a 25% surge in domestic enrolments.

In periods of high employment the demand for education dropped off, Dr Gibbons said.

The rise in inflation and cost of living also meant studying was a luxury many families could not afford.

"That rise [in 2021] was driven in part by enrolments in the Targeted Training and Apprenticeships Fund, which overall resulted in a 60% enrolment rise in TTAF programmes," Dr Gibbons said.

The softening in demand was widespread across programmes, which resulted in fewer equivalent full-time students.

There had been increases in people undertaking architectural studies and in some School of Design programmes.

International student numbers were down because of Covid-19, there being 222 enrolments so far this year, 159 fewer than in 2021.

However, the polytechnic was projecting another 200 international students would enrol by the end of the year, although most would attend the Auckland International Campus.

"Otago Polytechnic has worked hard to maintain international relationships with a range of partners to ensure we are well placed for any increase in numbers returning to study with us," Dr Gibbons said.

Tertiary institutions are facing their toughest year yet of the Covid-19 pandemic as domestic and foreign student numbers slump.

Otago University has not yet provided figures, but expects to next week.

Other universities have said the number of New Zealanders enrolling had dropped this year after spiking last year, and foreign enrolments continued to fall.

They warned cutbacks might be needed.


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