July 2, 2008

First-Time Mature Student Roll Shrinks


ECONOMIC uncertainty is starting to impact on Victoria University as it grapples with a 21 per cent drop in first year non-school leavers enrolling.

Enrolments for school leavers fell 4 per cent, but in a report to the university council vice-chancellor Pat Walsh said people enrolling for the first time who had already left school to do something else before starting their university education needed to be monitored.

"The 2008 fall in new-entrant mature students and in female students may reflect the current labour market situation and pressures on household incomes."

It was a scenario also offered for "particularly hard hit" post- experience programmes in commerce, while the numbers down in the education faculty were also "quite steep".

That decline in the faculty was planned for and should now be stabilised, he said. It was being restructured from four schools to three with the loss of up to 29 jobs.

In an aggressive marketing , the university expeected to target postgraduate students as part of a 2009 enrolment strategy aimed at attracting more students to PhD level. Professor Walsh said that based on the university's investment plan, and mindful of its location, history and tradition, the number of "very able" undergraduate students from both within and outside of Wellington would also be targeted.

Maori and Pasifika students, students from low-decile schools, mature students and international students would also form part of the 2009 enrolment strategy.

But most focus would go on increasing the number of postgraduates and "in particular our thesis students", Professor Walsh said. "Postgraduate students feel at home here, attracted to the buzz that is Wellington with its eclectic mix of cultural, political, social and sporting opportunities," he said.

The university's investment plan, the document required to negotiate course delivery and funding arrangements with the Tertiary Education Commission, calls for postgraduate students to be 15.2 per cent of enrolments this year and 15.8 per cent in 2009.

Efforts to achieve the increase would include offering greater incentives for the university's many schools to boost postgraduate enrolments, active recruitment of PhD candidates, particularly international students, and a marketing emphasis to lure more postgraduates.

Enrolments for psychology continued to do well and Professor Walsh believed postgraduate enrolments in this subject should be positive in the future.

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