The University of Otago needs to do more to increase international student numbers, Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce says.
The comments come as equivalent fulltime international students enrolled at Otago University fell almost 19 per cent from 2050 in 2007 to 1664 last year.
Numbers have continued to drop, with 109 fewer full fee-paying international students at the end of July compared to the same time last year.
Mr Joyce said he had asked Otago University to look at what it was doing to attract international students "very closely" and that the university "definitely" could do more.
"I met the chancellor and the vice-chancellor some weeks ago and they told me that they were working on it, so I am looking forward to seeing the progress there."
Otago University's "very low" cap on international students of 12 per cent of total enrolment was one policy he would like changed.
Increasing the number of international students would not only stand the university in good stead, but also provide a boost for the whole city.
Mr Joyce said Otago University was not the only university which needed to pick up its game, with international numbers flat across the whole sector at a financially tight time when there was a need to grow university incomes.
"Why hasn't there been more success, particularly when other sectors ... have had success in growing international numbers including the polytechnic sector," he said.
Otago University was unable to respond Mr Joyce's comments yesterday, but its director of planning and funding David Thomson last month said it was proving difficult to attract international students, with the South Island in particular not proving as attractive as other areas for single semester study abroad students from North America.
Otago University international pro-vice-chancellor Professor Sarah Todd earlier this year said that after the Christchurch earthquake the university had trouble convincing overseas tertiary institutions Dunedin was not an earthquake risk.
Mr Joyce's criticisms came after a group representing all eight New Zealand universities earlier this week took umbrage with him for comments he made about the performance of university councils.
Chancellors' Committee chairman Roger France said, contrary to what Mr Joyce had said, New Zealand universities were performing well compared to overseas counterparts.
"Contrary to the minister's claims that we are lagging in international education, New Zealand universities have the fifth highest proportion of international students in the OECD," Mr France said.
In response Mr Joyce said: "The point that I was making was that we have to be looking at all times at options to strengthen our universities and governance is one of the things we want to look at."
A review looking into university governance was under way, but it was "too early" to say what if any changes would be made, he said.By Vaughan Elder