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Enrolments are rising across the region's tertiary institutes causing some to create extra classes to accommodate demand.
But the Tertiary Education Union believe more staff were needed to help the ever-growing student numbers.
Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology had 5250 enrolled domestic students as of last week, chief executive Dr Leon Fourie said.
Toi Ohomai has campuses across the region in Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupō, Whakatāne and Tokoroa.
"This is 15 per cent more than this time last year and may become higher as our inquiries and applications continue to rise. We have put on extra classes to accommodate the additional demand.
"Covid is a big factor, we are seeing people wanting to re-train or study in areas which are needing more staff."
While Fourie was seeing a higher demand in most areas, trades, construction and primary industry courses had the highest demand alongside those wanting to learn te reo Māori.
The institute has seen a 64 per cent decline in international students with the borders still closed.
The maximum number of students the Tertiary Education Commission had agreed to fund was 4518 equivalent full-time students (EFTS), Fourie said, which was similar to the delivery in 2019.
There are 3325 EFTS currently enrolled.
Fourie said Toi Ohomai was tracking to meet or exceed this number and would work with Te Pūkenga New Zealand Institute of Technology for additional funding if needed.
Te Pūkenga, the national institute of which all 16 polytechnics are subsidiaries, said it had government funding for 69,800 full-time students this year, an increase of 3000 over last year.
However, with additional students comes a bigger workload and Tertiary Education Union national president Tina Smith said many staff across the tertiary sector had been working beyond capacity for years.
"Staff in the tertiary sector are committed to student learning and student success. But they are also human beings.
"It's like having a cart pulled by four horses, then you take away one or two horses but put 15 to 20 per cent more weight in the cart; something has to give."
Smith said decent staffing numbers were essential to meet students' needs.
"With increasing domestic enrolments staff numbers do not match student numbers or student need.
"We need to put people first in education because the working conditions for staff are the learning conditions for students.
"By investing in people and education we are investing in the future of NZ and both individuals and the communities will do better in the future."
In response, Fourie said this was not true for Toi Ohomai.
"We have increased the number of cohorts and teachers due to the higher demand, and our staff to student ratio remains the same."