15 October 1999

What to study – that is the big question

People hoping to start college

or uni next autumn are busy

choosing courses. But is

agriculture the best option?

Or should you study something

completely different? FW

asks the question

THE influence of David Lloyd George on British politics is a subject close to John Owens heart.

Its a subject with which hell become familiar over the coming months – forming, as it does, the dissertation for his history and politics degree at Exeter University.

John, from Stockley Farm, Pembridge, Herefordshire, reckons opting for a course unrelated to farming made sense considering the current state of the industry.

"Everyone was advising me to stay away from agriculture. Its very uncertain. Hopefully it will get better – ideally, I would like to come home and farm, but youve got to keep your options open."

Plus, there is also always the option of a top-up course or further study in an agricultural subject, says John.

That was the route taken by Matt Ware, who studied geography at Cambridge between 1989 and 1992, then went on to Seale-Hayne.

According to him, there are pros and cons of both approaches. "You go to University not just to learn a subject, but to develop yourself."

And if thats the route you take, pick a subject as general as possible. "Geographys great – but if you study, say, Anglo Saxon and Norse history, youre not qualified for anything," says Matt.

The downside of steering clear of agriculture, however, is that youre missing an opportunity to learn more about the business in which you might end up working. "At about the age of 22, you get that sinking feeling – that all your mates know more about it than you do."

&#42 Job hunting

But sooner or later you catch up, he says. "Its starting to even out now. Besides, a lot of people say what they learnt at agricultural college has no relevance to what they are doing now."

According to Daniel Crawford, who left Seale-Hayne in 1997 after studying agriculture, a relevant qualification can give you the added edge when job hunting in farming.

"The industry may be in a mess – but things will turn around sooner or later," says Daniel. "Anyone applying for uni now wont be looking for jobs for at least three years. Things could have changed drastically by then."

John Owens: Consider a study course unrelated to agriculture.