With the downturn in the wool industry during the 1970's, the Wool and Pastoral Sciences (WAPS) degree at the University of NSW's Faculty of Science was unfortunately one of the casualties of reduced enthusiasm for sheep and wool and little academic interest in the wool industry.
The academic study for the degree had provided enormous service to the industry and in 2006 specialized sheep and wool elective units were introduced at the University of New England (UNE), Armidale to support the tertiary education gap.
During the Sheep CRC conference held in Dubbo, Dr Emma Doyle, lecturer - School of Environmental and Rural Science, UNE bought delegates up to date on the tremendous success of the course.
Dr Doyle is a graduate of the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Honours) which was followed by PhD research at UNE on the physiological responses of resistant sheep to internal parasites which has been published in three Veterinary parasitology journal articles, investigating the mechanisms of resistance and resilience in Merino sheep.
RELATED READING:In the grip of drought, NSW sheep industry is a shining light
"I have great pleasure in presenting the next generation of graduates who will be entering our sheep and wool industry," Dr Doyle said.
"All of the technologies presented during the past two days at the Sheep CRC conference are fed into our undergraduate sheep and wool program."
Addressing the delegates, Dr Doyle explained the background to the current course offered through UNE.
"We were in limbo when the Sheep and Wool Pastoral Science degree finished at the UNSW until Wool CRC picked up and developed some wool wise material for students to learn online," she said.
However, it wasn't until Sheep CRC started in 2001 that they really re-invigorated tertiary education in sheep and wool.
"We were very fortunate that they developed ten specialised sheep and wool units that can be taught as electives in a bachelor of agricultural or animal science degree from anywhere in Australia," Dr Doyle said.
"All the technologies have been presented at Sheep CRC Conference are fed into our undergraduate sheep and wool program."
Academic study key to sheep and wool success
These units were licensed to the Australian Wool Education Trust (AWET) in 2006 which is a Trust fund supported by the Australian Wool Testing Authority (AWAT) and Australian Wool Innovation (AWI.)
"They fund vocational and tertiary education in sheep and wool science and supply scholarships and the delivery of these units at UNE," Dr Doyle said.
"From 2007 until now the AWET has been supporting the delivery and over the course of this program since 2007 we have had a five-fold increase in the number of students studying sheep and wool science."
Dr Doyle said those students are studying at UNE but many are also able to study through the 'hub and spoke' model which is available to other universities.
"We are the hub at UNE and there are nine universities across Australia enabling students to specialise in sheep and wool," she said.
The units offered are six specialised units, on-farm units, sheep production fundamentals of sheep and wool science and sheep management.
All of the Sheep CRC programs ASKBILL, PARABOSS, RAMSELECT are all integrated into these units and students get hands-on exposure to those APPS and skill sets.
"We then go off-farm and look at wool technology and the AWTA supports this unit and students get to go and see the labs in Melbourne," Dr Doyle said.
Students also have the opportunity to talk with Philip Attard, director Gostwyck Merino, Uralla who has developed the Henry and Grace range of baby clothes.
'For our wool marketing and clip preparation unit, we visit Phillip Attard at Uralla," Dr Doyle said.
"He is a big supporter of this unit and allows us to come and see his on-farm wool testing and speaks to the students about the supply chain of his products."
With the wool processing unit which covers from the greasy wool right through to the garment and fashion, Dr Doyle said all the bases of the sheep and wool industry are covered in Victoria during a three day trip.
"The interesting thing we have found in recent years through surveying our students is that because UNE is the hub for sheep and wool science we are actually drawing a lot students from across the country coming to UNE to specifically study sheep and wool," she said.
"Students are enrolling from all states and territories where the other universities are only really drawing from their own home state."
Dr Doyle said UNE has become the hub for specialist sheep and wool education with graduates in demand from industry.
Graduates are making careers in the broad ranges available and Dr Doyle said they are embracing consulting, extension and research among other options and many are returning to the family sheep property,
"Which is great knowing we have an ageing population of sheep producers," she said.
"Over 50 percent of our students who studied the sheep and wool units are going into the sheep and wool industry and we have estimated over the ten year period through which we gathered the information, about 400 students had made careers with sheep and wool.
"In conclusion, I think we are in very safe hands ... the hub and spoke method supported by Sheep CRC and AWET allows us to educate the next generation who are very passionate and driven and want to contribute to the sheep and wool industry
"I think we are going to continue having success in the industry because of these people."