Aoraki faces worst student numbers in the country

Tertiary institute remains super optimistic

Aoraki Polytechnic continues to record a decline in student numbers, according to figures released by the Tertiary Education Commission.

The figures show that Aoraki is losing students at a faster rate than any other New Zealand university or polytechnic. In 2013, numbers dropped from 915 to 664 over the course of the year – a substantial 27.4 per cent.

The decline comes at a rough time for Aoraki, after finishing last year with a deficit of three million dollars and a string of redundancies. To make matters worse, Aoraki’s chief competitors in the South – the University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic – both recorded a growth in numbers, defying national trends.
However, Aoraki Polytechnic’s CEO Alex Cabrera believes the figures do not accurately reflect Aoraki’s “new focus.”

“Aoraki is in the process of transitioning into areas of priority for the region,” states Cabrera, “so our [numbers] do, and will, look different as we work through this process.”

Cabrera blames a “buoyant employment market“ for loss of students, with “prospective students securing jobs” instead of beginning or continuing study.
“We are making provisions for growth in part-time, flexible, work-based programmes of study to appeal to people already in employment,” states Cabrera.
These “provisions” include a cadetship programme, work-based and project-based learning, and a remodelling of the trades programme to now include two days of workplace engagement for every three days of study.

In addition, Aoraki plans to introduce a new Diploma in Agribusiness Management and Horticulture, alongside new Painting and Decorating programmes and a “more flexible delivery model” for Carpentry.

The Otago Daily Times reported that the Tertiary Education Commission figures only included “student achievement component'' (sac-funded) places and did not account for enrolments by international students, non-Government funded places and students participating in other Government schemes.

Otago Polytechnic communications director Mike Waddell reported to the ODT that the “Otago factor” was a key reason for the increase, stating that he believed Otago Polytechnic’s success was largely down to the “quality of the programmes and the quality of the staff.”

Sac-funded numbers grew from 2,425 to 2,647 at Otago Polytechnic, while student numbers at Southern Institute of Technology grew from 2695 to 2924.
In spite of facing some daunting figures, Aoraki’s Cabrera remains “excited for the future.”

“We remain committed to continue to support our community … Aoraki Polytechnic’s focus is on quality education most relevant to the students and industries in the region that we serve.”
This article first appeared in Issue 20, 2014.
Posted 12:53am Monday 18th August 2014 by Emily Draper.