University of Waikato a billion dollar business

Valuable: Waikato University generated $938m for New Zealand last year.
Valuable: Waikato University generated $938m for New Zealand last year.

It's a billion dollar business - or it could be shortly - if the figures in the University of Waikato's latest economic impact report are correct.

According to the report by economist Dr Warren Hughes, who was made an honorary economics fellow of the institute in 2008, the university generated $938 million in revenue for the New Zealand economy in 2013, up 10 per cent on the previous year. It will hit the $1 billion mark within the next two years, the report says.

It also showed the university generated more than 5200 jobs nationally, contributing a total of $474m to New Zealand's GDP annually. The figures were based on a combination of university operations revenue and student expenditure.

Chief financial officer Andrew McKinnon said the report's findings were encouraging given that 2013 had been a challenging year.

"We struggled to achieve our enrolment targets that we set at the beginning of the year and we achieved them as a result of a lot of hard work. It hasn't been an easy year, but it has been very rewarding."

He said fewer school leavers and competition between tertiary providers had contributed to a tough year. The boost in the university's revenue, despite struggling with student numbers, had come thanks to extra funding for sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as more money for researchand more funding for personal development in the Faculty of Education.

Mr McKinnon expected the university to meet its targets this year. The university would aim to enrol 1505 full time international students, and 8538 full time domestic students.

He said the university would continue to build on alternative revenue sources.

"We continue to diversify our income streams away from government dependence. So it's building research collaborations with other research organisations to build greater access to funds, so that's other CRIs [Crown Research Institutes] and Universities as well as building links with industry."

He said results were part of a positive growth cycle for both the university and the region.

"The university has grown, and hopefully that helps the region, and hopefully the region grows to help the university."