Despite a record-high of domestic enrolment to the University of Auckland before the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic enrolment numbers are now dropping.
At the beginning of 2020, the University saw 28,697 domestic enrolments; in 2021, that number has dropped by over 2500. This year has followed the trend, seeing only 25,446 domestic enrolments; a drop of over 500 from last year. Potential reasons for this trend could be that more students are overseas to study, more students dropping out of university, or this is an impact of COVID-19.
Dylan, who left University after his first year doing an Arts Undergraduate Degree, said there were a few reasons he left the University. “I left uni for a few reasons, the first being COVID. My first year at uni was nearly all online and for a very interactive learner this hindered my experience greatly.” Dylan went on to pursue his career without further studies; it could be speculated that many students have also done so as the national unemployment rate has fallen to 3.2% this year from 4.2% in 2019, according to StatsNZ.
Victoria University’s acting Vice-Chancellor reported to Stuff that they expect more domestic students may have been staying closer to home due to COVID-19. Therefore, the University of Auckland might be missing out on students from around New Zealand who may have intended on studying at the University. Louie, who left the University after his first year of a Science Undergraduate Degree, said, “I can acknowledge that not everything was in control of the University”, but that the impact of COVID-19 meant that learning from home in the same city as his University didn’t give him the university experience he desired.
Students have also felt that the local universities don’t have enough options in certain faculties, and have chosen to study overseas instead. The cutting of faculty members hasn’t helped, as less faculty members means less papers available in certain courses. In 2021, the University of Auckland spent $44 million on redundancies, as a drop in foreign enrolment meant the University couldn’t afford to keep as many staff on. Arianna, who chose to study at Transit Dance in Melbourne instead of a local university, said, “I am pursuing a career in the performing arts; further study and qualifications in this area are extremely limited in New Zealand. Australia offers much more variety and has multiple options of institutes in every state”.
Regardless of most students being able to receive their first year free at University, the pricey nature of courses and the stacking up of student loans has also deterred students from continuing their studies. In 2020, FutureLearn compiled the top 50 most expensive universities around the world from publicly available data. New Zealand took the 14th spot on the list, with the average fee price being $8595 a year. Dylan said, “I could not justify the price it would cost if I couldn’t guarantee I would enjoy the field I would go into”. Louie also mentioned the inaccessibility of some services whilst classes took place online; such as labs, study spaces, and some material that was only physically available at the campus library. He says if “rent is still due, then wasting my money on a university that appeared to not have time for me was high on my list of costs that could be cut”.