This year is looking up for the University of Canterbury, with more students choosing to study in the quake-damaged city.
The university has struggled financially, but for the first time since the earthquakes student numbers are tipped to climb in 2014. And with help from a Government bailout, major developments are underway.
The university was left badly damaged following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, and with students choosing to stay away from quake-hit Christchurch, the university has struggled. But things are improving. Applications to enrol are up, and rising 1.7 percent year-on-year.
Vice-chancellor Dr Rodd Carr says young people are concentrating on the positives.
“The unemployment rates in the city have fallen to very low levels, there’s lots of part-time jobs becoming available,” he says.
“It’s a city where perhaps the older age group see what was lost and the younger age group see what it could be.”
The Government stepped in last year to bail the university out of its financial strife, announcing in October it would invest $260 million. Now the uni has become a construction hub. There are currently 12 construction sites on campus, with 600 workers.
One of the major redevelopments includes a $212 million science and innovation centre.
As well as a revamp of the campus, the uni has been looking at other ways of attracting students.
“We’ve revamped our whole marketing, branding, website, to make it easier for students to find us and find out about us,” says Dr Carr.
And it’s worked, with an increase in students from Auckland this year.
Billy Mabee and Sarah Caro have always lived in Auckland and had options to go to any university in the country, but chose Canterbury.
Ms Mabee says she’s not put off by the effects of the quake on the city.
“I think it’s a really exciting city ’cause lots of things are developing and going on, and they’re really focusing on the students, which is good,” she says.
Ms Caro says she was looking at other options but was drawn in by the campus open day.
“They were really welcoming, incredibly encouraging. They offer a lot of scholarships, which was something the other universities I sort of felt I had no chance with.”
The uni has now been working overtime to find accommodation for the increase in students. New houses are being built on the campus, providing accommodation for 60 students, and a new 240-bed hall of residence will be completed by 2015.
A final number for enrolments this year won’t be known until March. But while the university expects another financial deficit this year, if more students continue to choose to study here the budget should be balanced by 2017.