Canterbury students bail and hit uni finances

TINA LAW
Last updated 05:00 08/04/2013

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Canterbury University has taken another financial hit after an unexpected number of students failed to return to study this year.

The university is now expecting its revenue from tuition fees to be between $5 million and $7m less than it budgeted for after 942 full-time equivalent domestic students did not return this year.

International student numbers are also between 100 and 150 down on its budget.

About 11,000 full-time equivalent students were enrolled at the university on March 3 this year, compared with 12,046 last year.

Some 7746 fulltime equivalent students returned to study this year, down from 8688 last year.

University vice-chancellor Rod Carr said the university was "surprised" at the lower number of returning students.

A survey of those students found they had chosen not to return because they had decided to get a job rather than pursue tertiary study, he said.

It was possible the university had over-estimated the number of returning students because the retention rate was similar to that experienced in 2009-10, he said.

The university has struggled financially since the 2011 earthquakes and last month announced a $67m deficit for the 2012 financial year.

This year's enrolments are forecast to be 22 per cent below the peak in 2010, which is mostly attributed to the pipeline effect of losing 25 per cent of first year students in 2011, Carr said.

It was reassuring to see the first-year domestic student numbers were in line with last year at 2613, compared to 2605 last year.

The Government will provide the university with $16m in additional funding this year after it has funded the university based on pre-quake student numbers since 2011.

However, the money does not cover the full cost of the loss of students and the $5m to $7m will be a direct loss to the university.

The Government has not yet said if it would continue to fund the university in this way next year.

In a report to the university council, Carr said "the implications for next year and beyond, should the Government be unwilling or unable to maintain this level of operational support, are very significant to the stability and recovery of the university".

When asked if the university had requested the Government continue that level of support next year, Carr said the university was "discussing with the Government the nature and extent of support it would provide the university in the future".

Earlier this year, Tertiary Education minister Steven Joyce committed to providing the university with financial aid by October, after announcing last year the science and engineering facilities at the university would receive support.

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In the university council report, Carr said improved second semester enrolments and 2013-14 summer school could reduce the impact of the loss tuition fees this year, but "initiatives must be taken now to secure higher enrolments and spending must be adjusted to reflect the expected shortfall in tuition revenue in 2013 and beyond".

The university has undertaken a number of initiatives to increase student numbers.

About $21m has been budgeted this year to spend on scholarships, prizes, awards and fee waivers, up from $11.1m in 2009.

At least $4m of this was funded from endowments, gifts, philanthropists and businesses.

- The Press

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