Teagasc doubles teaching staff over Green Cert demand
Published 09/12/2015 | 02:30
Teagasc has nearly doubled its teaching staff to cope with the unprecedented demand for its Green Cert agri-education programme which will cater for 1,500 students this year.
The actual demand for the Green Cert has soared to 5,000.
The high numbers are due to the new requirements within the current EU Rural Development Programme and farm payment changes under the Young Farmer and National reserve entitlement scheme.
Professor Gerry Boyle, head of Teagasc, told the Farming Independent that he expected the state body to process all Green Cert applicants speedily but added it will take a few years to deal with all applications.
Teagasc has increased its teaching staff by 70 - all of whom are on two year contracts - to cope with the current level of interest after the Government gave the organisation a partial exemption from the public service employment embargo to deal with this new demand.
The scale of the demand facing Teagasc can be seen from the application statistics and the current educational capacity of the state body.
In a normal year Teagasc would expect to see about 1,500 students - a mixture of approximately 500 school leavers continuing their studies, mature students and students pursuing further studies online.
But the new CAP rules, which run until 2020, have led to the spke in applications.
Prof Boyle says many of the older students are coming from the north and north western counties.
"Many are coming from small farms in these regions and not from the big commercial and dairy farms further south in the country. It maybe that many are coming home after a period of emigration or are now getting back into farming.
"It will be interesting to see how these mature students adapt to disciplines of studying," he added.
"The teacher-pupil ratio at Teagasc's educational facilities in 2009 was 1-12 and this year this ratio has risen to 1-22, Ideally the pupil-teacher ratio at Teagasc colleges should be 1-15," he said.
These tight ratios are needed because much of the teaching involves close contact with livestock and other farm hazards, he explained.
Teagasc are confident they will work through this "temporary blip" from normal student levels over the next few years.
In any event, Prof Boyle welcomed the increased interest in agricultural education.
"Education in modern farming methods will only improve the standard of farming practice and management on farms throughout the country," he said.
"Education gives people confidence and this will be transferred to the way the farm is managed and will help farmers make important changes to their farm enterprise.
"This is good for the agriculture industry and for the country as a whole," Prof Boyle added.
Teagasc run agricultural courses to Level 8 or the equivalent of an honours degree. The Green Cert courses, where the demand is currently the highest, are at Level 6 and 7 and once completed successful students have the option of continuing to the higher levels.
The Teagasc Level 7 courses cover agri-business, environmental management, dairy farm management, horticulture, and ag science while Level 6 courses cover equine studies, higher certificates in agriculture and agri-mechanisation. There is also a Level 8 honours degree in agricultural science.