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Strong upswing in domestic enrolments at Otago University

Tuesday 9 March 2021 2:51pm

The University of Otago is currently on track to record solid overall enrolment growth in 2021, with a surge in domestic enrolments more than offsetting the decline in international enrolments.

Harlene Hayne image
Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne.

Provisional figures as at Saturday 6 March show an increase of 5.4%, or 952 Equivalent Full-Time Student (EFTS) enrolments, over the same time last year. Within this, a 1,341 EFTS lift in domestic student enrolments has been more than sufficient to offset a decline of 389 EFTS in international full-fee enrolments.

Overall growth is evident across all four of the University’s academic divisions, and includes a substantial gain in first year enrolments as well as more returning students at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Included in this commencing student growth are further increases in the number of Māori and Pacific students choosing to study at Otago: commencing Māori enrolments are currently up by 78 students (13.7%) on the same time last year, and overall Māori enrolments are up by 182 (8.4%). Commencing Pacific enrolments are up by 60 students (21.3%), and overall Pacific enrolments are up by 136 (13.0%).

“This general picture of international decline due to Covid-19 and a gain in domestic enrolments is what we had anticipated,” Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne says. “However, while the international drop is tracking as forecast, the upswing in domestic enrolments is far stronger.

“This places Otago in a very solid position just now, tracking not only to achieve solid overall enrolment growth over 2020, but also to comfortably better our 2019 pre-Covid enrolment level too.”

Within the domestic student cohort, around 40% of the growth has come from students new to Otago. The majority of these new students are New Zealand school leavers from across the country coming to Otago to commence first year undergraduate study (enrolments from this group are up by 366 students, or 12.2%). There has also been a sizeable gain in commencing mature student enrolments, comprising students who are starting university study for the first time, and others who are enrolling for postgraduate qualifications.

Some of Otago’s returning domestic enrolment growth was already locked into the system due to the pipeline impact of first year increases in 2019 and 2020. However, there has also been a marked increase in the number of students proceeding to further study after completing their first qualification.

“An upswing in university enrolments is quite normal at any time when the labour market and economy are under pressure, but the magnitude of the domestic increase this time is greater than we have seen in other recent periods of economic downturn such as the Global Financial Crisis,” Professor Hayne explains.

“In terms of overall enrolments Otago is particularly well placed at present because our long-standing policy of capping international enrolments has limited our exposure in that area. Coming on top of last year’s international drop, the further decline we are seeing this year will take international full-fee enrolments down to just five percent of Otago’s roll. This compares with a level of 12.8% in EFTS terms and 14% for international head count in 2019.”

Professor Hayne says the increase in domestic enrolments is good news for Dunedin and its economy.

“Every new student faces many choices when entering tertiary education. It’s a big decision for each and every one of them and it’s encouraging that so many students are deciding to come to our University.”

The financial implications of stronger than forecast overall enrolments have yet to be fully estimated, and will not be done so until later this month, when the key deadlines for changing and withdrawing from courses have passed. That said, the current situation should partly reduce the pressure faced by the University, which has previously budgeted for a $13 million deficit for 2021.

Key points:

  • Total enrolment growth of 952 EFTS (5.4%) over the equivalent point in 2020
  • Domestic student enrolments up by 1,341 EFTS
  • International full-fee EFTS down by 389 EFTS
  • New-to-Otago domestic enrolments up by 590 students (13.4%), including domestic school leaver first years up by 366 students (12.2%)
  • Strong growth in Māori enrolments (up by 182 students, 8.4%),including an increase of 78 (13.7%) in commencing Māori student enrolments
  • Strong growth in Pacific enrolments (up by 136 students, 13.0%), including an increase of 60 (21.3%) in commencing Pacific student enrolments
  • Overall enrolment growth in all four academic divisions (Commerce currently up by 256 EFTS, Health Sciences by 119 EFTS, Humanities by 368 EFTS, Sciences by 209 EFTS)
  • The top ten areas of growth are: College of Education +90 EFTS, Management +89 EFTS, Psychology +75 EFTS, Politics +61 EFTS, Accountancy and finance +59 EFTS, Economics +58 EFTS, Doctor of Business Administration +53 EFTS, Sociology, Gender Studies and Criminology +53 EFTS, Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences +42 EFTS, Postgraduate Nursing Studies +41 EFTS

For further information, contact:

Liane Topham-Kindley
Manager, Media Engagement
External Engagement
Mob +64 21 279 9065
Email liane.topham-kindley@otago.ac.nz

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