Aoraki Polytechnic chief executive Kay Nelson has resigned.
Ms Nelson was almost four years into her five-year contract, and will work out a three-month notice period. She is considering several roles.
"After almost four years of change and growth I'm proud of the achievements of the polytechnic, but feel it's time to move on to new challenges."
The new investment plan, which dictated the courses for the coming year, should be approved this week.
It had prompted the timing of her decision.
"I have decided the timing is right for me to hand over the reins.
"I have had tremendous support from council and staff since 2009 and wish the entire polytechnic all the very best for the future."
The role had been isolating at times, she said, especially as she came to the area with no family or partner.
Her only regret was missing the targeted number of students for this year, which was forecast to be down 328 equivalent fulltime students.
"Of course I wish we had got to our student targets this year; I would love to see a full, vibrant campus."
Her tenure has had significant challenges. She was appointed in April 2009, and soon after had to realign the polytechnic to meet a new government direction.
In October 2011, dozens of Aoraki Polytechnic staff passed a vote of no confidence in their chief executive at a union meeting.
After losing $4.1 million in funding this year, it lost $1.6m in the 2011 financial year and faces a projected loss of $2.1m this year.
In September, independent adviser Malcolm Inglis was appointed by the polytech council to look at the future of the polytech and present options to the council in December.
Aoraki Polytechnic Council chairman Kevin Cosgrove acknowledged the challenges she had faced.
"It has been a huge role to implement changes and what she has achieved has been significant.
"She has achieved great completion rates and good academic results for Aoraki."
It would be at least six months before the position was advertised, with deputy chief executive Alex Cabrera to be the acting chief executive until she was replaced.
"We are going through the phase of looking at our options so it is not sensible to recruit at this stage."
The appointment of an adviser was not linked to the resignation nor had the council forced her decision, he said.
- The Timaru Herald