RAU to meet post-Brexit needs of agri-food and land management sectors through innovative multimillion pound initiative

The Royal Agricultural University (RAU) has today (8 May) announced a new £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.

£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.

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.  

Professor Joanna Price, Vice-Chancellor of the RAU

“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. 

Professor David Main

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.”

Yvonne Hawkins, the Director of Teaching Excellence and Student Experience at the Office for Students, said: “This initiative will enable the delivery of new teaching provision and skills which stand to benefit both students and employers, and the quality of their respective engagement will be crucial for success. These skills developments in agricultural training are timely, and build upon the University’s existing strengths.”

Professor Janet Dwyer, Director of the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI), said: “This will be a great opportunity to bring together the strengths of the CCRI and the Royal Agricultural University, working with other partners in the agri-food and farming sector to help develop the talented, resourceful and resilient business leaders that will be needed in the decades ahead.

“We are excited that we at the University of Gloucestershire, and University College of Estate Management, will be co-creating a new centre of applied teaching and learning excellence with our longstanding partners at the RAU, and key industry leaders, in this initiative.”

Lynne Downey, Vice Principal – Online Education at UCEM, said: “I am delighted that UCEM is part of this project with the Royal Agricultural University, helping to provide more flexible learning opportunities to the land management and agri-food sectors. At UCEM, we are proud to have a significant pedigree in developing and offering programmes through supported online education and are excited to be able to extend our offering into new industries.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to further develop future talent within these sectors and we look forward to working with both the University of Gloucestershire and RAU to achieve great results.” 

Editor's notes

£1.1m of funding for the project was awarded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) through its Catalyst Fund, in December 2017. HEFCE closed as an organisation on 31 March 2018.

The Office for Students (OfS) was established as the new regulator for higher education in January 2018 and began operations in April 2018, taking over many functions from HEFCE. The OfS will continue to monitor the investment in the Royal Agricultural University initiative.