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Tertiary Education Institutions: 2019 Audit Results And What We Saw In 2020

Our report Tertiary education institutions: 2019 audit results and what we saw in 2020 was presented to the House of Representatives today.

Covid-19 was a sudden and significant shock to the operations of all tertiary education institutions (TEIs). There have been significant revenue implications for TEIs whose international students were not in the country when the border was closed. Universities generally ended 2019 in a better financial position than 2018. However, Covid-19 has brought significant financial challenges for universities. In 2020, universities have had lower revenue from international students, research, commercial operations, and charitable donations.

Many institutes of technology and polytechnics had been experiencing increased financial difficulty for several years before Covid-19. This is because domestic student enrolments had declined from the levels they had been at after the global financial crisis in 2008. Although they are still uncertain, the immediate effects of Covid-19 on wānanga are less obvious. The border closure did not affect their revenue in 2020 because wānanga do not have many, or any, international students. However, other economic factors related to Covid-19 might affect enrolments at wānanga in the future.

The response phase to Covid-19 was, and continues to be, important. Many TEIs are still in a “get-through” phase. They are focusing on short-term measures to address immediate issues, such as revenue shortfalls. When responding to Covid-19, TEIs must remember to maintain a focus on the long term. There is a risk that tactical response decisions being made now might be detrimental to successful outcomes in the long term.

The reforms of vocational education are progressing, but there is still a way to go. In future years, we will look at whether the reforms have delivered the anticipated benefits, including building a financially stable network of vocational education. The Government intends further actions to achieve its policies of strengthening the sector and transforming to a more sustainable future state.

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