Auckland University students say they are "incredibly disappointed" that in-person classes and Orientation events for the first week of the university year have been scrapped.
All Auckland campuses of Auckland, AUT and Massey Universities, Unitec, Manukau Institute of Technology and private training providers have been closed and lectures, which were due to start for the year today
, have been moved online.
Auckland University student president Anamika Harirajh said Orientation events have been cancelled and have not yet been rescheduled.
"We were going to shut down Alfred St. Our club expo was supposed to go ahead. We really wanted to give new students that first-year experience," she said.
"It's incredibly disappointing that we are not able to do that this year."
Universities and polytechnics were preparing to welcome their biggest numbers of domestic students for many years this week, as thousands of people who have lost their jobs due to the border closure and other effects of Covid-19 return to study in new fields.
Universities NZ chief executive Chris Whelan said domestic enrolments at the country's eight universities are expected to be up about 4 per cent, or more than 4000 fulltime-equivalent students.
Stephen Town, the former Auckland Council chief executive who now heads the national polytechnic Te Pūkenga, said his domestic enrolments are up by about 10 per cent, or just over 5000 fulltime-equivalents.
However the eight universities alone have cut staff numbers by about 1000 due to the financial cost of losing overseas students, so there will now be fewer lecturers teaching more students.
All tertiary institutes were preparing to return to normal face-to-face classes this week, in some cases for the first time after last year's lockdowns.
Institutes outside Auckland, who are now in alert level 2, are still open and face-to-face teaching is still happening this week, but with some restrictions.
Massey University vice-chancellor Jan Thomas said Massey's Albany campus has closed and students at Palmerston North and Wellington are being asked "to maintain a 1m distance from others while on campus, or wear a face-covering".
Some classes are being moved into bigger lecture theatres where it will be easier to maintain physical distancing, and some will be moved online.
A Waikato University spokesperson said all classes "continue as normal".
"As per Government guidelines, there are no size restrictions for lectures and classes at level 2," she said.
Canterbury University will still hold face-to-face lectures but has urged students to watch them online if they can so that physical distancing can be maintained in lecture theatres.
Otago University will move all lectures at its Dunedin campus online today
while teaching spaces are prepared for level-2 teaching from Tuesday. Face-to-face lectures are proceeding as usual at the Wellington and Christchurch campuses.
Harirajh said Auckland University had already prepared well in case a lockdown happened, and lectures were available on an electronic platform, Canvas.
"Some lecturers will livestream a lecture, others will upload a pre-recorded lecture," she said.
The university will lend computers and internet connections to any students who don't have them at home.
Domestic student enrolments are up by more than average at Wellington's Victoria University (up 9 per cent), AUT University (up 7.6 per cent), and most dramatically at Lincoln University, which reports a 33 per cent jump in students new to Lincoln, mainly in agriculture and horticulture.
Some polytechnics report even bigger jumps. New (mainly first-year) domestic student numbers have leapt by 48 per cent at Manukau Institute of Technology, from 2338 this time last year to 3451, and by 37 per cent at Unitec, from 2300 to 3142.
Total domestic enrolments have jumped by 30 per cent (800 students) at the online Open Polytechnic, 26 per cent (850) at the Waikato Institute of Technology Wintec and 25 per cent (776) at (Otago Polytechnic.
But Auckland University communications manager Lisa Finucane said about 300 staff have accepted voluntary redundancy to cut costs due to the loss of foreign students.
AUT said 62 of its staff have accepted an "enhanced leaving package" and staff numbers have been cut by 393 since December 2019.
Massey University has not yet finalised proposed cuts to about 100 jobs in its College of Sciences. It said staff numbers were down by 19 in the past year at Palmerston North but up by 33 at Albany and up by 11 in Wellington.
Victoria University said its staff numbers have been cut by 105 and a further 100 people have expressed interest in voluntary redundancy.
Fourteen staff have taken voluntary redundancy at Waikato and 55.6 fulltime-equivalents at Lincoln.
However Otago University said its staff numbers are up by two. Canterbury University has not made any redundancies.