Ag student numbers lift

Boost in uni ag numbers


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AGRICULTURE has proved a popular choice with school leavers, with an increase in the 2016 university intake.

AGRICULTURE has proved a popular choice with school leavers, with an increase in the 2016 university intake.

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Australian Farm Institute director Mick Keogh said a number of factors have contributed to a national rise in agricultural enrolments.

Australian Farm Institute director Mick Keogh said a number of factors have contributed to a national rise in agricultural enrolments.

The University of Adelaide has noted a boost in the numbers of students in its agricultural program, with the Bachelor of Agricultural Sciences experiencing a lift of 20 per cent from 2015, and a jump of 75pc from its 2014 intake. This year there have been 93 offers made in the course.

The university’s deputy vice-chancellor and vice president (academic) Pascale Quester said the increase could be attributed to a change in attitude within the industry.

“Students considering the undergraduate courses at Waite are seeing the potential employment opportunities across the sector, not just in SA but nationally and overseas,” she said.

“The focus on ‘feeding the world’ in the future and developing sustainable agricultural industries, against the realities of climate change, present an important and appealing challenge.”

This lift is not just confined to the University of Adelaide.

The University of Melbourne this year reported a record number of first-round offers for its Bachelor of Agriculture programs, with almost 200 domestic students invited to enrol.

This intake offering of 198 students was up from 148 in 2015.

Charles Sturt University in NSW has also experienced a surge, with its Wagga Wagga campus reporting a 13pc increase in applications. The most popular courses are veterinary science, animal science and agriculture.

Australian Farm Institute director Mick Keogh said there had been a significant growth in the demand for agricultural graduates in recent years.

“Not so much on-farm; the number of people employed at farm level has been relatively stable,” he said. “It seems the growth is very much in the service industry.”

Mr Keogh said farmers were increasingly outsourcing roles like advice, and well as looking at contractors for livestock and harvest jobs, which has created a number of job opportunities in the sector.

He said one of the major areas where there had been growth was in the financial sector, with business advisory companies looking for an increased number of agriculture graduates.

“We’re certainly seeing an increase in university enrolments,” he said.

Mr Keogh said nationally there was a low point in enrolments in 2011 and 2012 for most of the major agriculture-oriented faculties.

“It has grown significantly since then,” he said.

Mr Keogh said there was a combination of factors leading to the lift, including some universities, such as Melbourne and the Western Sydney University, restructuring their courses.

But, even universities where little has changed have experienced a boost to numbers.

“It is a reflection on the end of the drought and an end to the mining boom,” he said. “More recently, a resurgence in agriculture has flowed through and changed the vibe, if you want to call it that, for school leavers.”

The University of Adelaide has also reported an increase in its Bachelor of Science (Veterinary Bioscience) of almost 66pc, from 62 offers in 2015 to 103 offers in 2016. This was the second year the vet science degree included an oral interview as part of its application process.

Professor Quester said demand continued to be strong for the places available in the vet course and the Bachelor of Science (Animal Science).

“The range of job opportunities post-graduation, or the option of further study and research, are attractive to students who want to combine their outstanding academic achievement with a passion for animal studies,” she said.

The Bachelor of Applied Biology, offered for the first time in 2015, has also encountered a lift of 47pc, while Viticulture and Oenology intake has remained steady.

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