22 Apr 2021

Drop in foreign students: Auckland University spent $44m on redundancies

6:48 pm on 22 April 2021

Annual reports show the Covid-19 pandemic wiped millions of dollars off universities' balance sheets last year.

The University of Auckland

The University of Auckland Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

The impacts included a $44 million bill for redundancies at the University of Auckland and a multi-million-dollar dent in income from foreign student fees.

Five of the country's eight universities have so far published their reports and only AUT's showed a surplus from its core operations of teaching and research.

Donations and income from trusts and foundations ensured that Auckland, Massey and Canterbury were also able to record surpluses for the year, while Victoria's result was a deficit.

Despite the loss of international students, Auckland, Canterbury and AUT received more money from students' tuition fees last year than in 2019, thanks to an increase in domestic enrolments.

Victoria and Massey reported less fee income and fewer students than in 2019.

Auckland's report said it received $3m less in foreign student fees than it did in 2019, but $6m more from domestic students and $10m more in government grants.

However, some of the biggest impacts on its books were the $26m demolition of a building, and $44m for redundancies involving about 300 staff.

It reported a $38m deficit for its university-only operations, but its consolidated result was a $7m surplus thanks largely to $40m in donations.

The University of Canterbury spent $5m on redundancies last year, $4m more than in 2019.

Its international fees fell by $3m, but its income from domestic students' fees increased by $6m.

At AUT, domestic fees increased about $3.4m while international fees fell by about $4m and trading income fell $7m.

However, it recorded an $11m surplus for 2020.

Massey University reported that its international and domestic fee income fell by $6m and $1m respectively.

It reported a surplus of $6m thanks to income from trust funds, but its university-only result was a deficit of $120,000.

Victoria University's report showed a $5m drop in foreign student fee income and a $1m increase in domestic students' fees.

It received $6m less for student accommodation and services than in 2019, spent $5m more on IT costs, and about $10m less on travel and accommodation.

It reported a deficit of $9.9m for its university-only operations, but that figure fell to $3m thanks to income from the university's foundations.

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