Agriculture and food security is a hot topic, with numerous comprehensive food and land-based studies having been published in 2018. Considering new eating trends and the increased awareness of climate change, how we decide to use global farmland today will have an incredible impact on future generations.
The Royal Agricultural University (RAU) in Cirencester, UK, has recognised this trend and has been the recipient of a £2.2 million donation to further research the area.
Set in the beautiful Cotswolds across 25-acres of countryside, and just a short drive from Oxford and Bristol, RAU is a close-knit community of students and staff that has been at the forefront of agricultural education for over 170 years. So much so, RAU was the first agricultural institution in the English-speaking world. Since its conception, it has been recognised as being a stellar institution, reaffirmed by the RAU’s royal seal of approval, granted by Queen Victoria when it was first opened.
Today, the RAU has around 1,200 students, and the university prides itself on its personal approach, with the students being very much ‘a name not a number’. Guided by personal tutors in a home-from-home environment, RAU learners are well supported throughout their educational journey across all levels of higher education. The National Student Survey highlighted that 84 percent of RAU students feel part of a learning community – much higher than the national average of 77 percent for this measure.
The RAU community is inclusive, with an active student union that offers a range of activities, societies, clubs and social events to engage in. There are a host of sporting groups on offer, such as football, netball, clay pigeon shooting, horse riding and water sports. The student union also has a Racing Club, Beekeeping group and Entrepreneur Society, to name just a few activities to get involved with.
A recent donation of £2.2 million from the John Oldacre Foundation will continue to support ground-breaking PhD research projects being carried out at the Royal Agricultural University. A current example is a project exploring the growth of soybeans as a profitable, low-carbon crop – with a view to benefitting the long-term security of the UK’s food supply. The crops, which are a growing feature in our diet, are designed to have lower reliance on fertilisers, reducing production costs and benefitting the environment.
Dr Nicola Cannon, Principal Lecturer in Agronomy and supervisor to the soybean research being carried out by Zimbabwean PhD student Pedzisai Nemadziba, said: “Soya is now being incorporated into meat products including burgers and sausages to help reduce red meat consumption for environmental and dietary benefits. Growing soya in the UK would help improve consumer understanding of this crop whilst reducing food miles and hopefully in the near future, be a profitable and viable crop for farmers.
“It is an honour that the Foundation has chosen to build on its already generous support for research at the RAU. It means we can increase our focus on studies that offer benefits to farmers, the environment and the public by improving the carbon footprint of agriculture and reducing input costs,” concluded Cannon.
The RAU is also shaping future industry leaders by providing each student with opportunities to develop the skills and expertise needed to enter the working world. From the core academic modules to extra-curricular activities, students are taught by academics who are passionate about their subjects. Every course is designed to provide the tools, mindset and networks students will need to embrace future opportunities.
For some students, these opportunities will be recognised while they are still studying with the RAU. The university’s award-winning Enterprise Programme supports students in setting up their own business in an inspiring and supportive environment. So far, more than 50 businesses have been launched, with a high success rate compared to the national average.
Students, whether undergraduate, postgraduate or research-based, can study a range of topics at the RAU, including agriculture, animal science, business, environment, equine science, farm management, food, real estate and rural land management.
The university prides itself on its links with industry, and all courses are designed to prepare students for the demands of the employment market for land-based expertise, both in the UK and worldwide. Ninety three percent of RAU graduates are in employment or further study after six months, according to the latest HESA data.
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