Carlow IT Ag degree course remains in limbo
Institute 'can't confirm' when degree course will commence
Published 03/06/2015 | 02:30
The Carlow Institute of Technology is remaining tightlipped about the start-up date for its long awaited agricultural degree course which was approved earlier this year by the college's governing council.
A deadline for applicants interested in delivering the planned course is tomorrow but a college spokeswoman told the Farming Independent that the application phase was "simply the beginning of the processes".
Pressed to confirm if the degree course would be up and running by the autumn the spokeswoman, stated she could not confirm when the "course will be available".
Carlow IT advertised some weeks ago for an assistant lecturer in agricultural science to head up the degree which will cover Sustainable Farm Management and Agribusiness to BSc (Hons), BSc and Higher Certificate levels.
However it has been confirmed the interviews for the position will be completed by the end of June and the college expects the successful candidate to be in place by September 1 next.
The new course was first proposed four years ago by farming and farm business interests in Co Wexford with the backing of the IFA.
At the time the level of interest among young farmers in the region in pursuing further agricultural studies was substantial with VEC sources in Wexford having upwards of 100 potential students on their books.
It is understood from farming organisations that the level of interest remains strong.
The farming/IFA proposers financed the academic design of degree course and then pitched the idea to the nearest IT in Carlow.
However, the slowness of the educational bodies in developing the idea caused heated exchanges between the college and the proposers.
One of those calling for the course - Tom Kelly, a VEC principal from Enniscorthy - describing the lethargy in sanctioning the course as "bureaucratic" wrangling.
John Doyle, a Wexford farmer involved in the campaign from the beginning, welcomed the fact that the recruitment stage had begun but was sanguine about the chances of the course being available this autumn.
"I hope everyone puts their shoulders to the wheel to ensure that this degree course is opened in the autumn," he said.
"There's some talk of an on farm launch of the degree course at the end of June but we will have to wait and see. This has been going on for four years now," he added.
Teagasc has already flagged an "unprecedented" increase in demand for agriculture courses in recent years.
There were 3,700 students on Teagasc further education and linked higher education programmes last year.
A further 1,500 students - three times the usual volume - have enrolled in part-time and distance education programmes in recent months.
Demand has been fuelled by education requirements under the young farmers scheme, with a further 2,500 to 3,000 young farmers seeking to enrol in the Teagasc part time and distance education green cert programmes in the current year.
Research by Teagasc last year showed the rate of return on investment in agricultural education was 8.8pc, compared with 5.8pc from other areas.