Agricultural training has been boosted after four colleges merged to become Scotland’s Rural University College (SRUC).
The four college partners – Barony, Elmwood, Oatridge and the SAC – have combined more than a century of experience in research, education and rural business consultancy to establish SRUC.
The SRUC will unite six campuses and provide further education and training for 8,000 students in food and agriculture courses, as well as a rural business consultancy for more than 12,500 customers.
“Within the lifetime of today’s SRUC students, world food production must almost double to feed the growing population,” said SRUC chairman, Lord Jamie Lindsay.
“This must be done on less land, with diminishing resources, while protecting the environment and addressing the challenges posed by climate change.
“In addition, the growing need for innovation in the rural industries and increasing diversity in food production means ever more complex jobs requiring appropriately skilled and qualified people.
“Here in Scotland, we need to continue to raise the competitiveness of the agri-food industry, which is currently worth more than £12bn a year.”
SRUC is aiming to become the UK’s leading agriculturally-focused higher education institution, with increased global links and effect.”
The university is hoping to begin its first degree courses in 2014, and it will offer courses from access level up to PhD.
Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said: “Rural communities have a huge part to play in Scottish life and Scotland’s successes, but it’s vital people have access to the right skills to help their communities flourish in a modern Scotland.
“This merger of our land-based colleges will ensure that Scots have access to the highest-quality training and research, which will stand our rural communities in good stead for generations to come.”