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The University of Otago will introduce two-tier enrolments from next year in a move designed to halt the rapid growth in first-year domestic numbers.
Students with strong academic records will be offered guaranteed entry, but those falling below that standard will have to apply and take their chances based on the number of places available, the university council decided yesterday.
"Enhanced admission" places will be offered to Maori and Pacific Island students who do not meet the guaranteed entry criteria.
The council approved a range of measures including halting new enrolments in five sub-degree diploma and certificate courses, discontinuing places for "interest-only" students and introducing enrolment caps for the Summer School and two foundation studies programmes.
Enrolment caps which come into force from semester two this year on 10 previously open-entry undergraduate degrees will also continue.
Vice-chancellor Prof Sir David Skegg told the council he had "no idea" how many students might miss out on places.
The university's domestic enrolments this year were 4.4% up on last year and by the end of the year they were expected to exceed the level funded by the Tertiary Education Commission by 520 to 550 equivalent full time students (efts).
Whether Otago's enrolment growth would continue at that level next year was a "moving target", Prof Skegg said.
"All we know is roughly how many students we will be funded for next year, and that if we exceed that number by more than 3% there could be repercussions for the university."
Most other New Zealand universities are facing similar roll pressure and are also trying to limit enrolment growth.
The University of Otago's working group considering ways to manage roll growth believed Otago should be aiming to achieve no domestic student roll growth next year, a report to the council said.
However, because enrolments had been high in recent years and those students were still working their way through the system, the university faced roll growth even if first-year enrolments remained static.
Under the new policy, students would be offered guaranteed entry based primarily on their year-12 academic results.
Prof Skegg said that was because year-13 results were not available until mid-January of the year in which the students would start university.
"Tier two" students would be offered places based primarily on academic results, but other factors could also be taken into account.
Several council members asked what those other factors might be and whether they would include areas such as sporting or cultural involvement or achievement and school or community leadership.
Academic deputy vice-chancellor Prof Vernon Squire, who headed the working group, said the university was working to a tight deadline to introduce an enrolment policy for next year and some details had not yet been finalised.
These included exactly what factors would be looked at when considering whether to accept "tier two" applicants.