RAU’s Alex Neason is first winner of groundbreaking bursary for students from non-farming backgrounds

27 Mar 2018

Teenager Alex Neason of the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) has become the first winner of a prestigious new bursary for students taking farming subjects without a family background in the industry.

The John Innes Foundation (JIF) Bursary will finance one student per year, who is aiming to make a career in primary crop production, rather than follow an academic or scientific research route.

The funding will cover all of 18-year-old Alex’s course fees at the RAU in Cirencester and is awarded on a competitive basis to students taking on a three-year degree course.

Students across six universities competed for the award, which is specifically designed to encourage those from non-farming backgrounds to apply to university, regardless of their financial circumstances.

It comes with mentoring from agriculture firm Velcourt, as well as the opportunity to complete summer work experience and to be considered for the company’s management training scheme after graduation. 

Keith Norman, Technical Director of Velcourt, said: “In farm management, we are dependent on a good supply of highly motivated new entrants, so we are proud to have an integral role in the bursary. Many students see it as a challenge to finance their degree courses and some feel disadvantaged not being from a farming background. This bursary will address these issues on a competitive basis for one undergraduate each year.”

Alex, from Wellington, in Somerset is studying Agriculture with Applied Farm Management at RAU and hopes to make farm management his profession. He is interested in working internationally and wants to gain as much experience as possible in every area of the industry.

Alex Neason - first winner of a prestigious John Innes bursary

He said: “This scholarship proves you don’t necessarily need to come from a farming background or have a family farm to be successful in the industry. With rising populations putting increasing stress on the UK food produce industry, we are going to need not just more people, but more highly skilled people, working within agriculture to keep up with such demands.

“Not only does the backing from JIF and Velcourt come with clear benefits, the significance of the financial support they are providing can’t be overlooked. It allows me to focus on my degree and put a greater proportion of my time and energy into my work within agriculture. I’m incredibly excited about my future, and delighted to be the first ever recipient of this amazing scholarship.”

Peter Innes, Trustee of the John Innes Foundation, said: “The John Innes Foundation, which for more than a hundred years has provided support for some of the country's foremost plant scientists, is delighted to be extending its remit into practical farming by funding this new bursary.  In Alex I'm confident we've found an exceptional candidate and we're very grateful to Velcourt for the part they are playing.”

As well as entering students for external awards such as the John Innes Foundation, RAU offers a range of scholarships and support packages including the Core Bursary for students from lower income families and the Widening Access Financial Support Bursary for those living in areas with lower progression rates to university.