The Royal Agricultural University (RAU) has announced a £2.5m initiative to help meet the needs of the land management and agri-food sectors in the post-Brexit era.
The plan will see the RAU and its academic partners, the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) at the University of Gloucestershire, and University College of Estate Management (UCEM), unite with industry stakeholders to drive future success in sustainable land management and food production.
Professor Joanna Price, vice-chancellor of the RAU, said: “This exciting initiative will address the unprecedented opportunities and challenges posed by the rapidly changing political, economic and natural environments by providing leadership training and education in the land management and agri-food sectors, especially suited to the post-Brexit era. Working closely with industry, we are establishing a new academic team and developing a set of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes that reflect the emerging needs of the sector.”
The project will bring together academics from different disciplines and the partner organisations who will work alongside a group of industry stakeholders. Professor David Main, a veterinary surgeon and international expert in farm animal welfare and knowledge exchange research, is the first member of this new team, having joined the RAU from the University of Bristol Veterinary School.
The RAU will be offering two new postgraduate programmes from September 2019 followed by two new undergraduate programmes in 2020.
This new offer will focus on leadership in the food and agri-business sector, rural policy and strategy, agro-ecology, sustainability and innovative land management.
A range of experts from the food supply chain, farming, land management, banking and NGOs, are supporting the project. Involving industry partners in programme co-design and delivery will create an ‘innovation bridge’ with industry and ensure there is sustained and meaningful engagement with students, preparing them to lead future change in their careers.
UCEM is a leader in online education and will build an appropriate infrastructure enabling programme delivery as supported through online learning, accelerated degrees and part-time programmes, thereby providing truly flexible learning opportunities upon which people already in the workplace, or seeking to enter the sector, can capitalise.
Professor Price added: “Brexit offers a once in a generation opportunity for the UK to embrace new approaches to managing land and the food supply chain, thus potentially enabling increased productivity while ensuring animal welfare, quality of habitats and the sustainability of rural communities.
“Our initiative enables the RAU to meet this need and, together with our academic and industry partners, drive the change and innovation required to capitalise on the opportunities and overcome the challenges which lie ahead.”
£1.1 million of funding for the project was provided by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), through its Catalyst Fund. The investment will continue to be monitored by HEFCE’s successor, the Office for Students.