Uni finances better than forecast

Income from more enrolments and delays to construction work have again been highlighted as the main reasons the University of Otago's financial performance is better than expected.

The university's seven-month financial review to July 31, prepared by chief financial officer Sharon Van Turnhout, was released at the September council meeting on Tuesday.

The operating surplus from January to the end of July was $12.4million higher than the budgeted surplus of $158.7million.

It appeared the humanities division was in particularly good health, with a 12% higher surplus than budgeted.

This year the university attracted 322 more equivalent full-time students (EFTS) in the first semester, and that number is expected to climb to 1100 EFTS by the end of 2018.

Capital expenditure delays due to adverse ground conditions on ''a number of significant projects'', including the school of dentistry, also led to a slower rate of construction.

Externally funded research brought in $5million more than budgeted at $77.2million, and domestic tuition fees generated $2.5million more than expected at $112.1million.

The university's investment income came in at 135% higher than budget, and international tuition fees brought in $44.8million, $1.4million higher than expected due to more enrolments.

The university's operating expenditure was slightly higher than expected, totalling $406.5million. When it came to academic salaries, expenditure was higher than budget due to unbudgeted positions being filled.

A number of departments, including commerce and property services, had lower surpluses than budgeted, while the health sciences, humanities and sciences departments, academic division and campus and collegiate life services were all above budget.

The humanities were left with $1.8million - 12% - more than expected, partly due to higher than expected enrolments.

The report comes as the university is suggesting scrapping its art history programme due to low enrolments.

A university spokeswoman said the combined department of history and art history was budgeted to require extra financial support of more than $1million in 2018, and the year to August 31 showed an added deficit of $237,000.

It was difficult to separate the two programmes out, but the art history and visual culture programme was ''a substantial contributor to the overall deficit of the department''.

elena.mcphee@odt.co.nz

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