Lincoln may trim range of course options for new students

If you are thinking about studying what might be considered a less than popular mainstream course at Lincoln University next year, it may pay to also have a Plan B up your sleeve.  

The country’s specialist agricultural university is having financial difficulties – they made a $6 million loss last year – and staff have been asked to trim costs significantly. One way this could happen is to stop offering what their Vice Chancellor calls “unpopular courses”. 

Just what courses these are could be revealed after a major review currently being conducted internally called Refreshing Lincoln. As well as identifying and possibly eliminating unpopular courses, this review will also consider increasing the ‘attractiveness and flexibility’ of Lincoln’s courses and programmes and ‘better use of teaching technologies’.

Lincoln saw a drop in enrolments following the Canterbury earthquakes in 2010/11, resulting in staff cuts and a drive to grow the institution’s income in new ways. Lincoln gets around a quarter of its income each year from farming the 5,000 hectares it owns and the downturn in dairy prices has seen this income stream reduced as well.

It’s not all bad news for Lincoln though. Domestic student numbers are climbing (up 9% last year) and a big jump in international student numbers (up 30% last year) has also helped. Selling some of their farmland to boost the coffers is also a very realistic possibility.

Another bright star on Lincoln’s horizon is the planned Lincoln Hub (pictured). This brings together the Crown Research Institutes AgResearch, Landcare Research, and Plant & Food Research with DairyNZ, and Lincoln University.  The goal of the Hub is to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurial activity in the primary sector, and as a result to grow the productivity of the sector while improving its environmental impacts. The Government is investing over $100 million into this Hub and hope it will have a global impact.

Lincoln’s future will always be linked to the agricultural sector which employs almost half a million people and is New Zealand’s most important industry. The 136-year old institution may be required to change some courses, restructure, sell assets and perhaps even link up with other universities, however it will be around for a long time yet.

In the meantime though, if you were thinking about a first year course at Lincoln next year, keep an eye out for the results of the Lincoln Refresh. They may just need you to start thinking about your Plan B.