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School and continuing education director Dr Elaine Webster added that enrolments had continued to rise beyond about 1700 on December 20, but were not expected to match last year’s tally of more than 2000.
Just over 1600 students had made 1858 enrolments as of yesterday, down from about 1750 students last year.
Further enrolments, particularly from students already studying at Otago, could be made next week.
Some changes in the summer school commerce papers reflected wider changes in the commerce academic programme, but, overall, only about three regularly offered papers, including on the anthropology of sex and culture, were not being offered again this year, Dr Webster said.
Fifteen new papers are among the 59 being offered.
A key part of running a successful summer school was maintaining a good mix of lively new papers and popular, well-established papers, she said.
It was hard to know exactly why enrolments were down slightly, but factors were likely to include the flow-on effects of lower first-year student enrolments at Otago University and in other New Zealand universities last year.
By taking papers at the summer school, students can gain credit for courses with six weeks of study, instead of about 13 weeks usually required to complete equivalent papers during the main university study year.
Before Otago University established its annual school in 2001, other New Zealand universities had begun running their own schools, and there was the "risk" that Otago could lose students to other institutions by not offering a school.
Many students liked studying at the Otago school, including people who wanted to complete their studies earlier, and those who wanted to choose to study papers outside their main study disciplines.
"Really, it’s about making sure that that group has what they want from us," she said.
The Otago school, now in its 18th year, was "very good for the university" and also benefited Dunedin economically by attracting and retaining students who otherwise would have returned to their home areas throughout the country.
Running the school involved a balancing act.
The university wished to cater for people who wanted to study at the "very successful" school, but papers had to be offered on a "cost-effective" basis, and academic staff also needed research time, and could not simply work throughout the whole year.