In the first of a two-part series on training and education in agriculture,
Nick Bond looks at new courses available and provides a 3-page guide to the range of courses offered for 1995-1996
THE changing emphasis of activities at agricultural and horticultural colleges is reflected by the fact that only a handful of them still include "agriculture" or "horticulture" in their names. Colleges which only a few years ago were devoted solely to farming are now embracing an ever widening range of subjects, including such things as sportsground maintenance, building skills and food technology.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Scotland. The full title of what used to be known simply as the Scottish Agricultural College is now SAC – the National College for Food, Land and Environmental Studies.
Another new name is the Welsh Institute of Rural Studies which has resulted from the recent merger between the Welsh Agricultural College and the University of Waless Department of Agricultural Sciences at Aberystwyth. The new centre will be providing a range of courses from national diploma to degree and postgraduate qualifications.
An increasing number of colleges are offering top-up courses aimed at mature students who want to improve their qualifications or gain them for the first time. Typical of these is Warwickshire College which is launching a course to enable herdsmen to learn more about herd management, based on block release of three days a month over seven months, and a part-time HNC in Equine Studies for those already in the industry.
Equestrian courses have become particularly popular and are now available at most colleges, including two specialist horticultural colleges – Caple Manor and the Welsh College of Horticulture – and the Royal Agricultural College where 32 students will be completing the first BSc (Hons) in International and Equine Business Management course this July.
There is a growing emphasis on internationally orientated courses with an increasing number of colleges forming overseas links to enable students to spend part of their course in Europe or further afield. The University of Wales at Bangor is about to replace its existing agricultural degree with a new BSc (Hons) in World Agriculture which will offer opportunities to study temperate and tropical agriculture combined with forestry and other land uses.
The past few years have seen considerable changes in the qualifications available, with an increasing number of colleges either supplementing or replacing National Certificate and Diploma awards with National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) and Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) in a wide range of subjects.
One institution which will be introducing several new national diploma courses this September is Moulton College. These will include Outdoor Pig Production, Water Management and Land-based and Building Studies.
The changes in the education pattern have lead to a decline in the number of courses which include a sandwich year. The pressure which is now being put on students, with many local authorities only providing minimal grants towards travel, is reflected in the shortening of many courses from three year sandwich to two year full-time.
At the top end of the academic ladder there are an increasing number of degree and post graduate courses. Writtle College is introducing a range of new degree and HND courses including an MSc in European Horticulture linked with colleges in Holland.
The awarding of degrees by agricultural colleges is usually in conjunction with a local university or one which specialises in the subject in question. But the Royal Agricultural College, which has a portfolio of nine degrees and seven post graduate degrees, has recently been granted degree awarding powers in its own right.
Reading Universitys Faculty of Agriculture and Food is launching four new degree courses this autumn – an MSc in Dairy Animal Science, a BSc in Habitat and Soils, and BSc in Agricultural Botany and Crops Science, both with international studies.
A new approach to learning, is being developed at Harper Adams Agricultural College. The "Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme" – a credit scheme for "Lifelong Learning" has been designed to enable students to draw up their own tailor-made programmes of study to reflect their specific needs. It will allow people to study while working and can be used to upgrade previously gained qualifications.
At the University of Wolverhamptons Centre for Rural Development and Training, which is a leading centre for the study of land-based training and education qualifications, they are currently developing an MSc in Development Training and Education with students able to study modules from both the University and Harper Adams.
For further information about these and other courses available you should contact the individual colleges direct.
Details about all agricultural colleges are available from CETAC, c/o Warwickshire Careers Service, 22 Northgate Street, Warwick. CV34 4SR provided you send an A4 stamped addressed envelope.