$18 million advertising for students they can’t take

Posted By TEU on Nov 17, 2010 |

Universities, polytechnics and wānanga are spending millions of dollars advertising to students even though there are more potential students than there are student places in New Zealand.

“Why would tertiary institutions spend all this public money promoting themselves when many of them are complaining that they have too many students already?” asked TEU president-elect Dr Sandra Grey.

Dr Grey was responding to figures from a Parliamentary Library query by Green Party tertiary education spokesperson Gareth Hughes. The figures show 16 tertiary education institutions are collectively spending over $18 million dollars of public funding and student fees to advertise and market themselves. New Zealand’s other fifteen public tertiary institutions that are not included in the survey either failed to respond to the parliamentary request for information, or have so far refused to provide the information.

“It’s appalling to see so many institutions that are struggling so much that they regularly lay off staff spending 1, 2 or even 10 percent of their budget advertising for students that they end up turning away”, said Dr Grey.

“If the government wants value for its investment why does it let institutions compete amongst themselves with our money. Advertising is not the best way to give students important information about education and career choices.”

“While these figures should be read with caution because of the wide and varying definitions of marketing we still reach the conclusion that, on average, these institutions are spending over $1 million each promoting themselves when they don’t need to,”  said Dr Grey.

Table 1: TEI advertising/marketing expenditure 2009 (information available as at 13 Sept 2010)

Institution $ amount spent on marketing Approx. % of total expenditure
Lincoln University $801,000 0.9%
Massey University $3,975,000 1%
University of Canterbury $660,000 0.2%
University of Waikato $623,000 0.3%
Victoria University of Wellington $1,764,000 0.5%
Aoraki Polytechnic $446,278 2%
Bay of Plenty Polytechnic $1,637,000 10%
Northland Polytechnic $765,000 2%
Open Polytechnic $2,346,000 4%
Tairawhiti Polytechnic $238,654 2%
Telford Rural Polytechnic $326,851 3%
Unitec New Zealand $2,519,331 2%
Waiariki Institute of Technology $602,913 1.5%
Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki $600,000 2.5%
Whitireia Community Polytechnic $613,000 1%
Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiarangi $350,000 1%

Caution in interpreting the above figures

The figures given above may not necessarily be directly comparable with each other because it is not clear that all TEIs are counting the same set of activities as advertising/marketing expenses. The University of Canterbury and the University of Waikato both expressed this concern when discussing their responses. As part of their response the University of Canterbury provided the following list of activities they normally classify as advertising/marketing:

  • Magazines
  • Directory listing
  • Radio advertising
  • School advertising
  • Television advertising
  • Newspaper advertising
  • Online advertising
  • Outdoor advertising
  • Postgraduate costs
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