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The University of Auckland is swapping traditional toilets for "squats" as it moves to meet the needs of a diverse student population.

Nine of the Asian-style toilets will be installed in the main library as part of an overhaul of the facilities. The remaining 40-or-so toilets in the library on the corner of Princes and Alfred streets will be the usual sitting variety.

University spokesman Bill Williams said the squats were being trialled and, if successful, the university aimed to swap about 10 per cent of its 1400 toilets on the Auckland City campus.

But the decision has been criticised by some who claim it is designed to keep wealthy fee-paying foreign students happy, while sidelining Kiwi culture.

"Where do we draw the line between accommodating others and cultural cringe?" said one staff member who declined to be named.

"It's being justified on 'sanitary' grounds, but quite frankly that is laughable. This is nothing more than economics."

He said it was being done because university staff were "sick of cleaning up the mess and repairing the damage" of inappropriately used toilets.

Squat toilets are common in Asia, parts of Europe and the Middle East.

They essentially consist of a hole in the floor surrounded by a white porcelain plate, with two slightly raised footprints.

It is argued that they are easier to clean, use less water and paper, and are more hygienic. But new users can struggle to hold their balance and keep clothing out of the way.

Mr Williams said the decision to install squat toilets at the university was taken "in response to the perceived needs of a section of our student population".

Yet Lian-Hong Lim, an international student worker at the university, said the vast majority of international students would be used to sitting toilets.