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VC's comment: COVID-19 creates growing demand

28 April 2021 | news

Professor Bruce A McKenzie
Acting Vice-Chancellor, Lincoln University

How does New Zealand's smallest university view its place in the world and what is its future?  We sat down with Lincoln University’s Bruce McKenzie, acting Vice-Chancellor and this is what he told us:

The fundamental change wrought by COVID-19 across many sectors of New Zealand’s agriculture industry has triggered a steeply rising demand for tertiary education in the land-based sciences and management—which has meant strong growth for Lincoln University, New Zealand’s smallest university.

Lincoln provides graduates, research outputs and expertise to New Zealand’s land-based industries and is in the midst of significant growth in domestic student numbers and of a major campus rebuilding programme.

The institution is ranked in the top 50-100 universities in the world in Agriculture and Forestry and has strong programmes in a wide range of subjects related to agribusiness, land management, farming, tourism and other land-based industries.

Student growth

New Zealand’s primary industries are confronting a number of distinct challenges in the COVID-impacted marketplace, and Lincoln has moved swiftly over the last 12 months to tailor our course offerings to meet the demands of the country’s thriving food and fibre sectors, and ultimately produce graduates who will help drive the economy forward.

Despite the expected drop in international students this year—down by nearly 50% from this time last year—the numbers of domestic students enrolled at Lincoln University so far this year are significantly ahead of target at 35% higher than at the same time last year. These figures represent the highest number of domestic equivalent full-time students (EFTS) enrolled for Lincoln University Semester 1 programmes since before 2010. This increase shows the university’s ability to anticipate and respond to the changing demands of students and employers in the COVID-19-affected environment.

Six of Lincoln’s sub-degree programmes, in its specialist fields of food and fibre, became fees-free when the Government’s Targeted Training and Apprenticeship Fund took effect last year. The University extended this initiative to offer its own fee waivers on targeted courses until December 2022.

Lincoln introduced tuition fee waivers in mid-2020 on a number of our postgraduate programmes, including taught Master’s degrees, to encourage people to gain the knowledge and skills to contribute to a more productive and sustainable future.

Lincoln has also recorded its highest total of Māori students since before 2010, with 161 students, an increase of 17% since the start of 2020. This increase is particularly significant for the university, which has a key strategic focus on boosting the achievements of Māori and Pasifika.

As expected, the university has experienced a drop in international student enrolments due to the COVID-19 border restrictions, with its 2020 total of 359 Semester 1 EFTS reducing to 195 EFTS in 2021.

Campus development programme

A major rebuilding programme at Lincoln has seen the recent opening of a number of facilities:

  • Grounded, our new student space in the Forbes Building
  • a rebuilt and expanded recreation centre
  • new student flats
  • an expansive new outdoor events space featuring native plantings and a cultural heritage-inspired paved pathway
  • new science facility for our animal scientists will open in July of this year.

Our university has always been a chief driver of innovation in the agritech sector, particularly in the food and fibre industries and in February the university broke the first ground on its flagship science facility. The ground-breaking ceremony capped off a 10-year journey for the university, beginning with the Canterbury earthquakes in 2010/11 and concluding with formal Government approval for the construction of the new facility. The official Government approval reflects the Government’s support for Lincoln University and signalled the important role the university continues to play in shaping a more productive and sustainable future for New Zealand.

The fit-for-future science facility will feature state-of-the-art teaching, research and collaboration spaces complemented by multi-use adjustable workstations and social zones, all set within a regenerative and bio-diverse park-like environment. In line with the university’s sustainable infrastructure goals, the new flagship science building will have a minimal environmental impact, incorporating roof-mounted and wall-mounted solar arrays, a ground-sourced air conditioning system and a rainwater-fed bathroom flushing system in its design.

Construction on the new building begins this month and is expected to be completed in mid-2023. AgResearch will build its corporate headquarters and new laboratories on the Lincoln University campus close to our new science facility.

Lincoln University is currently ranked 51 out of 912 universities on the UI Green Metric World University Rankings. In partnership with Meridian Energy, Lincoln has recently boosted its commercial-scale solar energy generating capability, with several roof-mounted solar installations already delivering 250,000 kWh of clean renewable energy to the campus network per year.

Further campus projects include an ambitious and comprehensive decarbonisation programme, which supports the university’s goal to be carbon-neutral by 2030 and to cease the combustion of coal by 2024.