2020 Annual Report of the University of Waikato

The Annual Report provides detailed information on the University's financial status and summarises the activities and achievements of the University.

2020 at a glance

From the Chancellor

Sir Anand Satyanand ChancellorE tēnā koutou katoa, ngā mihi nui

This contribution to the Annual Report of the University by its Chancellor, will be like none other, for a number of reasons – the challenge of survival due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic being paramount.

In years to come it will be no surprise to learn about pre-Covid and post-Covid years in the way that world wars of the 20th century are referred to. The growing presence of Covid-19 in many parts of the world including New Zealand, had an immediate effect, first on the numbers of overseas students available and able to be enrolled, and secondly on the way in which learning was delivered.

A 40% reduction in the stream of international students and the resulting diminution of income was a character-building exercise for the University management to absorb. It is a matter of pride to record the efforts of the Vice-Chancellor, and all of the staff at the University of Waikato, to achieve a satisfying set of results notwithstanding.

Alongside this, restrictions on travel and congregation caused by Government measures to combat spread of the virus, required lecturers to deliver courses online while at the same time preserving the quality of learning and, as much as possible, the student experience. It is a tribute to the staff that so much was achieved, and so much innovation introduced, in such a short period of time.

Other upsides include the move to working remotely in a University context, which has provided flexibility and, as surveys have shown, a maintenance of productivity and interest. Examination results have shown that the Covid-19 storm has been weathered without significant reduction in learning outcomes. We have also benefited from dramatically reduced commuting and air travel costs.

The momentum experienced by things moving forward on these items had other effects, such as the resolve that developed to continue with The Pā construction project, which will transform campus life with a multi-purpose hub at the centre of the Hamilton campus. Construction work began mid-year, with the footprint of the construction now very evident, and which will be completed mid-2022.

Controversy, which can be expected at any time in a university, arose with an employment matter about compliance with University policies turning into a social media campaign asserting that the University’s actions were motivated by racism. This was a serious challenge that the Council and management took both seriously and in accordance with relevant legislation. Two senior and respected New Zealanders, Sir Harawira Gardiner and Hon Hekia Parata, were engaged to conduct an immediate inquiry and report to the Council. They applied themselves with commendable skill. Their report found that the specific allegations of racism levelled at University management could not be supported and stood to be dismissed. However, they recommended the establishment of a taskforce to more fully examine the case for structural and systemic racism present in procedures and practices. That taskforce was immediately commissioned and is in the hands of two senior staff members with a report due in March 2021.

The University ended 2020 with graduation ceremonies at Claudelands Events Centre, Te Kohinga Mārama Marae and, for the first time, December graduation ceremonies at the Tauranga campus. The Tauranga graduations were particularly well received, with the campus proudly on display for attendance of the graduating students in a number of faculties, and in many instances, their families.

Twelve months of experience working as Chancellor have shown me how fortunate the University is to have a Council with people of diverse backgrounds and capabilities. This underlined the shock and sadness of one of our number, Scott Bartlett, losing a battle with cancer in December at the age of 40. He had been a student at the University of Waikato and brought to our governance work the approach of a successful entrepreneur in the electronic and security field, whose viewpoint and skills went further than New

His replacement and those of some other Councillors whose terms end in 2021 will provide a challenge to identify people whose background and capability fill the spaces well.

Lastly, on Council membership, Pro-Chancellor and secondary school Principal, Mrs Susan Hassall and Hamilton businessman Mr Simon Graafhuis, accepted appointment for further terms in the course of the year.

As a result of the above, the University is poised to begin a new year in 2021 which offers the danger of a possible return or reversion by the virus, but also the opportunities offered by a new era of digitally delivered education and other new developments on offer, once normal flows of goods and people are restored.

Rt Hon Sir Anand Satyanand GNZM QSO

Vice-Chancellor's Overview

Neil QuigleyE ngā mātāwaka o te motu, e rau rangatira mā, tēnā koutou katoa.

Rarau mai ki Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato, ki te ahurewa o tūmanako, o wawata, o moemoeā.

Pike mai, kake mai, whakatau mai ā te ngākau ki a koutou katoa.

New Zealand’s public health and policy response to the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in 2020 being a year of extraordinary challenges, not just for the University of Waikato but for the whole of the education sector.

Our challenges began early in the New Year as we moved to support our students at our joint institute in Hangzhou with access to online learning, and quickly escalated as we moved our entire operations online in the face of New Zealand’s nationwide lockdown just two months later. We successfully transitioned more than 13,000 students and almost 1,500 staff into an entirely digital environment with only a one week break to facilitate this, supporting our students to continue learning and our staff to keep teaching online, and moving all administration operations into remote online mode.

I am proud of the way the University put students at the forefront of every decision made throughout the pandemic.

Key decisions included:

  • A freeze on accommodation payments over lockdown.
  • Distribution of 260 Chromebooks and 129 internet connections to students who needed access support.
  • More than $650,000 in hardship funding issued to students in need. In establishing a scheme to supplement the existing budget and government funding for student hardship, I committed to contributing the equivalent of 15% of my salary for six months, other members of the executive team agreed to contribute 7.5% of salary, and in total over 90 University staff made payroll contributions to the University Foundation.
  • More than 200 staff who volunteered to call every student over lockdown to check on their welfare, raise any further support needed in the form of pastoral care, academic support or hardship grants.
  • Student success and student retention during the year both validated the quality and impact of the University’s response.

While 2020 Ministry-Funded EFTS were on par with 2019 (8,262 compared with 8,264 in 2019), the University’s 2020 on-shore Full Cost International EFTS were significantly impacted by the closure of the border to international students (1,659 compared with 2,074 in 2019). The shortfall in international student numbers was the principal reason for the University not achieving its budgeted surplus and instead having an operating deficit. In the latter part of 2020 the University took steps to reduce costs without impacting on the provision of teaching, research and student support, as well as long-term budget planning to model a return to financial sustainability by 2026.

The University’s Tauranga campus has seen further growth, with an increase of Ministry-Funded enrolments of 17.6% - up from 693 in 2019 to 815 in 2020. The launch of a new state-of-the art algal research and aquaculture facility is a key part of our strategy to further coastal and marine research opportunities in the Bay of Plenty, and provides a point of difference in our programme offering both nationally and internationally.

Growth in our research income proved to be one of the highlights of 2020 as we set a new University of Waikato record for external research grant income received in a single year ($36.147M). This funding is further evidence of the success of our research agenda and the quality of the research teams that we have established in recent years. In addition, much of the funding secured is for multi-year programmes, securing a strong pipeline of funding for new knowledge creation over the medium term.

Construction started on The Pā, a landmark project that will transform the on-campus experience for students, staff, visitors and the broader community. Due for completion mid-2022, The Pā will provide a new main entrance to the campus, a student hub (including food outlets and social learning spaces) and a new University marae. While The Pā is being completed we have taken steps to increase community engagement with our campuses, including the Boon: Street Art Festival, Local Night Bites market and adding the Hamilton campus to the global public running event, parkrun.

A number of new appointments to academic leadership positions joined the University of Waikato team during 2020, including Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Professor Bryony James, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Waikato Management School, Matt Bolger, and Pro Vice-Chancellor Arts, Law, Psychology and Social Sciences, Professor Patrick Leman. The University also welcomed Professor Sarah Strasser as Dean, Te Huataki Waiora School of Health and Professor Roger Strasser as Professor of Rural Health to further advance the University’s role in addressing key issues and shortages currently facing New Zealand’s rural health sector.

During the year Hon Hekia Parata and Sir Harawira Gardiner were commissioned to investigate claims of racism from some members of the University staff. While their investigation found that the specific claims of racism made against the University were incorrect, inaccurate or matters of opinion, its recommendations have resulted in the establishment of a Taskforce to consider structural and systemic racism within the University resulting from its heritage as a European institution. I would like to thank all staff and students who participated in the consultation process as part of the review and those who have engaged with the Taskforce to share their own experiences.

On behalf of the leadership team, I acknowledge the support and guidance we have received from the University Council this year, and the dedication and engagement of all University of Waikato staff. In responding to the pandemic the University has been true to its motto ‘Ko Te Tangata’ in putting people first in all that we have done. Our staff and students have demonstrated incredible resilience and supported each other through a very challenging year, and everyone in the University of Waikato community should be proud of the contribution they have made.

Professor Neil Quigley

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