Domestic enrolments have increased dramatically in 2021, new figures from New Zealand universities show.
At the University of Canterbury, the University of Otago and Victoria University of Wellington, rising domestic numbers have now made up for the loss of international students due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some figures also suggest that there has been an increase in Māori and Pasifika students, with Otago reporting an 8.4% increase in Māori student enrolment and a 13% increase in Pacific student enrolment.
As of the 12th of March, the University of Auckland domestic enrolments had grown also. A University spokesperson confirmed to Craccum that Domestic EFTS (Equivalent Full-Time Students) have grown 4.6% from 2020. Māori EFTS have also increased by 7% since this time of year in 2020.
Notably, large increases in school leaver enrolments have been observed. “Growth has been very strong in the school leaving cohort, with 1,000 more enrolled in 2021 than for Semester 1 2020,” says University spokesperson Lisa Finucane. “Within that group we have also seen strong growth in enrolments from both Māori and Pacific school leavers with each growing by 20% compared with 2020 school leaver intakes.”
International enrolments are also higher than expected, says Finucane. “They are forecast to be around 400 EFTS lower than in 2020, which is above what we had budgeted. Nearly 2,000 of our International students are studying with us from overseas using online delivery methods. University staff have made huge efforts to deliver course material to students unable to return to Campus. Both the students and the staff are looking forward to online delivery being an opportunity to enhance face-to face teaching rather than being the main form of delivery for groups of students.”
Despite these increases, financial problems still remain for New Zealand universities in the wake of COVID-19. Craccum previously has reported that staffing cuts at major universities have been attributed to falling numbers of international students, who are funded differently than domestic students. International students pay much higher fees than domestic students, while domestic students pay subsidised fees and universities receive government funding for these students. However, international student fees still drastically exceed what universities receive in funding and fees for domestic students.
Critics of university cuts have commented that the current financial issues faced by universities point to a problem with the way domestic students are funded, and just two weeks ago universities sought increased funding from the government due to the rise in domestic enrolments.
University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne recently told Radio New Zealand that while enrolments often increase in times of financial pressure, the increased enrolments were still surprising.
“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.”
The University of Auckland is still yet to publicly release its enrolment numbers for 2021.