Weekend Herald

How uni fi­nances cope with travel ban

- Matt Nip­pert Infectious Diseases · Health Conditions · Waikato · Otago · University of Auckland · Canterbury · New Zealand

A in­ves­ti­ga­tion into univer­sity fi­nances has found widely vary­ing re­liance on in­come from in­ter­na­tional stu­dents, with newer uni­ver­si­ties with lower as­set bases more vul­ner­a­ble to the ef­fects of Covid-re­lated travel bans.

The spread of the pan­demic has trig­gered cost- cut­ting in the ter­tiary sec­tor with fears a thou­sand jobs could be at risk.

While all uni­ver­si­ties flagged the new virus in their most re­cent an­nual re­ports — most were pub­lished midyear and Vic­to­ria flagged “po­ten­tial for a sig­nif­i­cant multi- year ma­te­rial neg­a­tive fi­nan­cial im­pact” — some are shown to be bet­ter- placed than oth­ers to cope with longer- term bor­der clo­sures.

Across the sec­tor, in­sti­tu­tions re­port 16.2 per cent of full- time equiv­a­lent stu­dents in 2019, or 22,528, were full fee pay­ers from abroad, with the per­cent­age vary­ing from 11.5 per cent in Vic­to­ria to 44 per cent at Lin­coln. AUT and Waikato also re­ported around 20 per cent of their stu­dent body were from abroad.

But stu­dent fee rev­enue is far from the only source of univer­sity in­come, with rev­enue break­downs in an­nual re­ports show­ing a com­plete ces­sa­tion of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents would shave be­tween 6.8 per cent ( Otago) and 22 per cent ( AUT) off uni­ver­si­ties’ op­er­at­ing rev­enue.

Auck­land Univer­sity’s an­nual re­port was the only set of univer­sity ac­counts to fail to break out full- fee rev­enue, and a re­quest for data to en­able sec­tor- wide com­par­i­son went unan­swered by pub­li­ca­tion time.

Across the sec­tor wealth­ier uni­ver­si­ties — par­tic­u­larly Otago and Can­ter­bury — were both more fi­nan­cially se­cure prior to the pan­demic and less re­liant on in­ter­na­tional in­come com­pared to their rel­a­tively poorer coun­ter­parts such as Waikato, Lin­coln and AUT.

This analysis was borne out by no univer­sity hav­ing claimed from the wage sub­sidy scheme, which re­quired a 30 per cent drop in rev­enue.

“It i s bad, but not quite bad enough,” Chris Whe­lan, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of sec­tor um­brella group Uni­ver­si­ties New Zealand, said of the qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the sub­sidy scheme.

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