Dr Andrew Hemmings

When did you join the RAU and what brought you here?

I joined the RAU in September 2000. It was my love of the natural world and horses in particular that attracted me. The global reputation for excellence in Equine Management and Science made this an easy choice.

How did you get into Equine Science?

I have had a love of horses from an early age, but my degree in Equine Science deepened my understanding of this species and I just had to know more! I have subsequently undertaken an MSc and PhD in equine science and now my research interests centre on the brain and behaviour.

What made you go into teaching?

I get a real kick out of communicating a complex scientific message with clarity and applications to the ‘real world’ of horse management. My teaching career started off in a Shropshire riding school in 1985.

What do you enjoy about it?

Although I have broader research interests my real love of this profession comes from meeting and interacting with students. It’s great to see students progressing through the RAU equine degrees and going on into successful careers in the sector.

What’s the most challenging aspect of teaching/learning about Equine Science?

Much of my teaching includes neuroscience- a complex discipline which can be daunting to some. My job [and primary challenge] is to make this area of study accessible and relevant to horse management.

What would be your top three tips for anyone thinking of....

  1. starting a UG/PG course?
  • See all the competitor institutions and make sure you visit in person- it’s the only way to get a feel for a University

  • Ask yourself where you would like to be in 10 years time- does the course equip you to excel in your chosen sector? All of our equine degrees feature a range of learning experiences and a network of contacts that do just that!

  • Make sure that the academic staff are either research active or have strong industry links. Both of these factors will ensure that the course contains up to date, industry relevant information.  

  1. studying Equine Management and Science?
  • All of our equine courses feature a range of visiting speakers and visits to meet industry leaders. Make sure that you take full advantage of the networking opportunity this provides.

  • All equine degrees feature a 20-week industry placement in year 2. It’s never too early to start thinking about where you might base yourself for this element, and we provide an extensive list of contacts along with regular tutorials to ensure you connect with the right employers.

  • Prepare yourself for a switch in learning style. At University you will be introduced to a more ‘student centred’ approach which will require quite a high level of independent reading around topic areas. This is often why we say you are ‘reading’ for a degree.  

How would you describe life at the RAU/Cirencester?

No other University I am aware of has such cohesion and interconnectivity between courses. Students on the equine degrees mix freely with those studying property and land management. As such life at Cirencester is defined by variety, and inclusivity (no two days are the same and you are always meeting new people from different cultures). We are a rural University united by a love of the countryside and the animals within it. However, our reach goes much further than that, due to the global outlook which embraces broader interests in business and science.

What makes it distinctive/special?

We are a small University. For me, therefore, it is the sense of community which sets the RAU apart from larger institutions. 

What’s your favourite spot on campus and why?

The dissection lab. There’s only one way to learn about horse anatomy and that’s via guided dissection. It may not always look (or smell) that pretty but the study of anatomical form and function still captivates me.

What are your top Cirencester recommendations?

  • Engage fully with the range of extra-curricular learning activities such as those run by the entrepreneurial society and research committee. There’s so much going on aside from your regular timetabled activities. 
  • Learn to network effectively and make sure that you meet students studying in a range of different areas. These will become your list of contacts after you leave.
  • Try something new. Our rural innovation centre offers a diverse range of courses (stone walling, trailer tests etc.). You could even join the team chasing club or take up Beagling!