Massey invests heavily, misses govt surplus goal

Last updated 08:00 22/12/2012

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Massey University has poured millions of dollars into new projects, missing Government surplus targets but boosting its campuses, the latest report into the tertiary sector shows.

The university achieved a $9 million surplus in 2011, but Massey still did not meet Government expectations of 3 per cent profitability, a report measuring tertiary education performance shows. Auckland, Victoria, Waikato and Canterbury universities all met the Tertiary Education Commission target of 3 per cent surplus in 2011.

However, the Massey University Council set its own sights lower to leave room for heavy spending on infrastructure, including a $75m veterinary teaching hospital upgrade and a relocation of its education campus in Palmerston North costing $57m.

"The Massey University Council sets a target each year for a surplus and Massey achieves that target. It will again this year. Massey has a very strong balance sheet," Massey spokesman James Gardiner said.

The TEC report noted the university's leadership had faced up to challenges of a high extra-mural and part-time student population which had a negative effect on its course completion rates, which were below average. Its financial outlook was strong as it remained debt-free and with more readily available funds than its competitors.

The report reaffirmed Massey as being at the "forefront of agricultural and biotechnology" education. Large numbers of international students were attracted to the veterinary school, and collaborations with world-leading science research centres boosted agricultural, ecological and food science research at the Palmerston North campus.

Infrastructure spending in 2011 included $22m on a creative arts building in Wellington and a $15m student amenities centre opened at Albany in Auckland's North Shore.

"These are just some of the bigger projects. Others worth millions of dollars have been completed in the past year or are ongoing at all three campuses. Massey is also making a major commitment - about 30 per cent of its capital spend - to upgrade its information technology infrastructure."

The university also retains assets worth $1 billion - including the 10.1-hectare former College of Education campus which it vacated this week and which has not been sold. Massey's teacher training has moved to a new Institute of Education at the Turitea campus, making space for new tenants including the Ministry of Defence and Maori training provider Te Wananga o Aotearoa at the lagoon site, which holds a lease renewable until 2016.

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All New Zealand universities are entitled to increase fee ceilings by 4 per cent a year, but can apply for a special exemption of up to 8 per cent if the council can make a case. Both Massey and Victoria's applications to raise their fees by 8 per cent in the new year was rejected by the TEC, Mr Gardiner confirmed.

- Manawatu Standard

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