Enrolments fell at three big Auckland tertiary institutions last year, while Canterbury institutions continued their recovery from the 2011 earthquake, annual reports show.
Overall, universities enrolled more than 133,000 full-time students and all but one recorded a financial surplus, while in the polytechnic sector four of the 16 institutions made deficits with a fifth financially-troubled institute yet to publish its results.
Lincoln University's 2016 annual report showed it had recorded its first surplus in a decade, of $490,000, thanks to $1 million from a land sale and the conversion of a $1.78m loan into a donation.
The report said unusual income and expenses such as earthquake insurance payments boosted the surplus figure by a further $17m.
Canterbury University grew its enrolments by about 500 full-time students to a total of 12,492 and made a small deficit of $1.84m.
Auckland University recorded a $46m surplus, but that leapt to $75m with the inclusion of donations to the university's trusts.
Most universities enrolled more students last year than in 2015. However full-time student numbers fell by nearly 300 at the University of Waikato and by 500 at the University of Auckland, where Asian students became the largest ethnic group on campus.
Enrolments also fell at Manukau Institute of Technology and Unitec.
Unitec recorded a $24m deficit after its enrolments fell 8.5 percent, while Manukau had 400 fewer domestic students than in 2015 and it made a $130,000 deficit due to a $1.5m restructuring programme.
Whitireia and the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki also recorded deficits for 2016, though the Western Institute's annual report said it made a small surplus after tax was taken into account.
Tai Poutini Polytechnic's annual report had not yet been published, but it received a $3.6m government bail-out in April this year and made a deficit in 2015.