Uni won't say if it intends to sell $1.8b in assets

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
The University of Otago holds nearly $1.8 billion in building assets but it refuses to say what it is considering selling.

Figures provided to the Otago Daily Times show that as of the end of last year, the university’s group asset base was $2.778b, of which $1.709b was in buildings.

The university’s group land holdings totalled about $444.3m.

In April, acting vice-chancellor Prof Helen Nicholson said it was identifying what assets might be appropriate to sell and a plan was going to the senior leadership team in "the next 10 days".

Asked about the plan yesterday, a university spokesman said "we won’t be making any identified assets public due to commercial sensitivity".

The financially troubled university is looking to make savings to its operating budget of $60m per year, and is going through a variety of "management of change" processes in a bid to cut staff numbers at various departments.

Earlier this year, 107 staff accepted voluntary redundancies, which the university said would lead to savings of $9m by 2025.

There are 19,174 equivalent fulltime students at the university, and as of the end of 2022, there were about 4000 equivalent fulltime employees.

Prof Nicholson has said no departments have been ruled out of the management of change processes.

Asked whether it would consider selling some of its buildings, a university spokesperson said "details of buildings we may propose to sell are commercially sensitive".

Other assets the university holds include the Hocken Collections, which were valued about $118.1 million, and it held about $12.02 million in library books and about $10.28 million in rare books.

At the end of the 2021 financial year, the Tertiary Education Commission released a summary of the main universities’ assets bases.

It revealed that Otago, whose group asset base was then-valued at $2.758b, was second only to Auckland University, which reportedly held $4.797 billion in total assets.

Both Business South and Protect Otago Action Group did not want to comment about either potential asset sales or the university’s asset base.