Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) (Maori: Te Whare Wananga o Murihiku) is one of New Zealand’s largest institutes of technology, with over 12,000 students in 2011.
Established in 1971, SIT has since become famous for its Zero Fees Scheme. The scheme, which is open to New Zealand citizens and permanent residents, sees students save thousands of dollars on the cost of their tertiary education. The Institute is also renowned for the quality of its facilities and equipment.
SIT’s three main campuses are located in Invercargill with other campuses located in Queenstown, Gore, Christchurch and Auckland. Students can study from anywhere in New Zealand and the world via SIT’s distance education faculty, SIT2LRN.
SIT offers over 200 programmes in a wide range of academic, technical and professional subjects at postgraduate, graduate, bachelor, diploma and certificate levels. SIT is a member of the International Association of Universities.
SIT has several campuses around Invercargill as well as campuses in Gore, Queenstown, Christchurch and Auckland.
SIT has three campuses in Invercargill. SIT’s main campus is situated either side of Tay Street. SIT Downtown is situated in the center of Invercargill’s business district and is home to SIT’s new media and arts programmes. SIT Sound in the Invercargill Radio Network Building is host to SITs audio production programmes. Its location encourages the development of links with the region’s radio and broadcast industry.
SIT has undertaken a major campus redevelopment plan over the past fifteen years. This includes the completion of new classrooms, development of the SIT Library complex which includes the Literacy and Numeracy Resource Center and Teaching and Development Support Unit, and the redevelopment of the Student Services area.
In 2012, SIT completed a $5.5 million redevelopment of the trades and technology teaching and learning areas which included a new Industry Training Center. 2012 also saw the redevelopment of the School of Nursing, which included the addition of a new multimillion-dollar Nursing Simulation Center and the refurbishment of related facilities.
The Gore campus has up-to-date facilities and provides a base for the Institute to deliver education and training to the catchment areas of Eastern Southland, Northern Southland and West Otago.
The Queenstown campus operates from a new facility in the Remarkables Park retail and commercial development area in Frankton. The campus has responded to local needs offering business, administration, computing, hospitality, tourism, sports, beauty therapy and hairdressing programmes.
SIT’s Christchurch campus is based in Hornby. The campus offers specialised training in a number of areas including carpentry, electrical, refrigeration and air conditioning, roofing, automotive, sports, and mental health support.
Zero Fees Scheme
SIT is famed for its Zero Fees Scheme where New Zealand citizens and permanent residents are only required to pay material costs and not tuition fees. The scheme has been credited with revitalising Invercargill after it attracted thousands of students south. The Zero Fees Scheme has also been extended to international students, in the form of Zero Fees English and Foundation Scholarships.
Savings for students
The Zero Fees Scheme delivers significant savings for students who study at SIT compared with other tertiary institutions. Since students need only pay for their material costs, many students graduate debt free. Students can save between NZ$7,000 to $14,000 on the cost of their bachelors degrees.
Background to the Zero Fees Scheme
The scheme was initiated in an attempt to jumpstart Invercargill’s economy. In the late 1990s, Invercargill was suffering from job losses, closing businesses and a declining population. In an attempt to reverse this situation, and attract more young people to the city, the Zero Fees Scheme was implemented.
The scheme saw community funders contribute $7.2 million over three years to effectively pay students’ tuition fees. All students had to pay was their material costs – for things like uniforms or textbooks. The expected boost in the student population meant that, after that time – with more government funding for the extra equivalent full-time students – the scheme would become self-funding.
During the first year of the scheme, SIT needed to attract 40 per cent more students in order for it to be viable. Economic forecasts suggested that, should the scheme succeed, during the first year alone Invercargill would enjoy an extra $11.5 million in business turnover, while the city’s GDP would increase by $6.7 million. Overall, the regional economy would get a $19 million boost after the first year and up to $30 million by the end of the third.
Reality proved even better. Far more students took up the offer than anticipated, they spent more money and many were older. They moved from up north and brought their spouses and children south with them. The 46 per cent increase in numbers saw the roll leap from 1781 equivalent full-time students in 2000 to almost 2600 in 2001. There was $25 million additional business turnover, $13.9 million increase in the city’s GDP and the number of full-time equivalent jobs rose to 266, more than double the anticipated 113.
Over a decade on, SIT continues to offer the Zero Fees Scheme to over 12,000 students in Invercargill and beyond. By 2010, SIT’s total economic impact was estimated to be in excess of $210 million. Southland’s regional economy was estimated to be $118 million and 734 full-time equivalent jobs better off thanks to SIT’s direct spending and spending by its staff and students.
Zero Fees for international students
The success of the Zero Fees scheme has meant SIT has been able to keep fees for international students low. The Zero Fees Scheme has even been extended to international students, in the form of the Zero Fees English and Zero Fees Foundation Studies programmes. These programmes allow international students to study English or Foundation programmes for free when they subsequently enrol in a one-year or longer mainstream academic programme.
SIT2LRN Distance Education Faculty
In 2003, two years after the launch of the Zero Fees Scheme, SIT launched its flexible mixed mode delivery (or distance education) faculty, SIT2LRN. SIT2LRN was made possible through a partnership with Southland TV (now CUE TV) where SIT could use television and internet technology to provide distance learning. Initially, SIT offered just one academic qualification – a Diploma in Tourism and Hotel Management – and attracted an online student body of just 22. By 2012, SIT2LRN offered over 30 different programmes in a range of subject areas.
SIT2LRN is particularly popular with students across New Zealand and the world who juggle work and family commitments and who can’t or don’t wish to study full-time. SIT2LRN is also popular with students who wish to go onto higher level programmes delivered on SIT campuses.
SIT2LRNs iTunesU Success
In 2008, SIT became the second tertiary institute in New Zealand, the eighth in Australasia and the southern-most in the world, to join Apple’s iTunesU project where people can download educational videos for free. Within a year SIT had surpassed world-renowned universities Cambridge, Oxford and Stanford to top the worldwide list of most popular education downloads on iTunesU, with its “Intensive English” series being number one for six months.
SIT was the first organisation outside the United States and United Kingdom to take the top spot and, at the time, was attracting more than 170,000 visitors a week from more than 100 countries. It recorded its two millionth download in November 2010 and Apple, the owner of iTunesU, was using SIT as an example of how a small institute could achieve so much on the educational world stage.