Otago University says the number of postgraduate students may have fallen because of government changes to the student allowance scheme.
Figures released by vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne at a university council meeting on Tuesday show 115 fewer full-time equivalent postgraduate research students have enrolled at Otago this year, a drop of about 8% since last year.
Professor Hayne says it is almost certainly due to financial considerations.
Since the beginning of the year, postgraduate students have not been eligible for student allowances.
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce says it is possible some students have dropped out of postgraduate courses because of the changes, but there could be other reasons, such as a growing job market.