Interest in agriculture at UNE remains strong

Published 14 February 2012

Strong links with industry, updated and new courses, and an investment on campus have led to a significant increase in applications for agricultural courses at the University of New England.

The Head of UNE’s School of Environmental and Rural Science, Professor Iain Young, said applications had increased by 25% over the past two years.

“This is a significant achievement given the decline in agricultural courses at other Australian universities due to waning interest from students,” Professor Young said.

“At UNE we are constantly talking to industry bodies such as Meat and Livestock Australia, the Grains Development Research Council and the poultry industry about our courses to ensure that what we offer reflects the skills needed in the industry,” he explained. “For example, in 2011 we saw an industry need for UNE to offer a Bachelor of Animal Science degree program, and this year applications for that course are up 33% on the same time last year.”

This year UNE expanded its agricultural courses to include Bachelor of Ecology, Graduate Certificate in Agriculture, Graduate Certificate in Environmental Science, and Graduate Certificate in Precision Agriculture programs.

“We are finding that the Graduate Certificates are a good way for professionals to broaden their education and up-skill in a shorter timeframe than the traditional postgraduate qualifications,” Professor Young said.

“The multi-million dollar refurbishment of the Centre for Animal Studies is under way and will modernise the research facilities at UNE,” he added.

Professor Young said while it was positive that application figures were up in 2012, much more work needed to be done to address the growing skill shortage in the industry. “In 2011 there were approximately 700 agricultural graduates across Australia and there were around 4,000 job vacancies in the sector,” he said. “These types of shortfalls aren’t acceptable, and we will continue to work with industry and government to address the skill shortage issue.

“We will also continue to monitor our courses to ensure our agricultural students have the appropriate skills required to work in this modern industry.”