Uni rebounding — vice-chancellor

Vice-chancellor Prof Grant Edwards sees Lincoln University on a growth trajectory. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Vice-chancellor Prof Grant Edwards sees Lincoln University on a growth trajectory. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Lincoln University is on a roll after emerging out of Covid-19 with increased student numbers and plans for more future enrolments.

The university wants to build on its domestic and international student body and bring in more research partnerships.

Vice-chancellor Prof Grant Edwards revealed the university was in a financially sound position during a resilience forum hosted by the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science at the university.

He said its commitment to continual development was paying off and it had the highest employment rate of all universities with 84% of graduates in paid jobs.

"Despite the significant challenges that NZ’s tertiary sector has and is still facing, Lincoln University continues its excellent growth trajectory with a 45% growth in the domestic student population since 2019."

This is 9% more domestic students than last year, with a record headcount of 4100 students.

Prof Edwards said the focus of building a future workforce would be to grow social, cultural and economic resilience in agricultural and horticultural industries.

One of the most immediate threats was the availability of skilled people to address climate, market, global shift and technology disrupters challenging New Zealand farming systems.

"My simple premise is that we need more graduates with appropriate skill sets to grow a resilient, more productive economy while protecting or restoring the environment."

He said the future of the land-based sector would not look the same as it had traditionally.

New ways needed to be found to respond to issues with biosecurity, climate change and animal welfare.

Growing populations, complex global trade and the move towards sustainability posed new challenges.

To keep pace with this, as well as an ageing workforce and static birth rates, more graduates would be needed in engineering, robotics, artificial intelligence and other technological areas.

The Tertiary Education Commission shows there is only 5955 students carrying out undergraduate degrees in agriculture, horticulture, forestry and fisheries.

That is just 4.2% of the national 141,755 student body.

About 3% are in performing arts and 8% in communications and media studies.

Prof Edwards said good work was going on in schools with the likes of St Paul’s Collegiate School developing a new agribusiness curriculum and Muka Tangata was encouraging iwi into the food and fibre sector.

He said the university was improving accessibility by investing in online studies with 12.5% of students now studying this way, removing the cost barrier with free fees to some domestic students and drawing on industry input to match studies with needed skills.

The university was working hard to reduce students dropping out, get more pathways for students not meeting pre-university entry.

It wanted all students to be involved in a "research-rich" environment in a rebuilt campus.