Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Boom time for Ag courses

With demand for agriculture and agri-business courses at record levels, we run the rule over the options for students

Ag students at UCD
Ag students at UCD

Ken Whelan

Applications for agriculture places in UCD have risen by 150pc in the last decade and students from urban as well as rural backgrounds are now vying for places in the college's School of Agriculture.

It will take in 320 first year students this autumn from over 3,000 applications and UCD's School of Agriculture registrar, Damien Dempsey, says the demand reflects the soaring interest in agriculture and agribusiness.

"If you compare the UCD figures from 2005 to the latest CAO numbers you see that there has been a 150pc rise in first-choice applicants to the school of agriculture over the decade.

"Certainly the economic collapse would have had something to do with this but the applicants are now coming from both rural and urban background. They are not all coming from a traditional farming background," he told the Farming Independent.

"The secondary schools and career teachers know that agriculture is our number one indigenous industry and is likely to be for the foreseeable future, and they are directing their students to the opportunities which exist in the sector.

"Ireland has a distinct advantage due mainly because of its capacity to use world-class research for its primary agricultural production and for food science, nutrition, engineering right through to food regulation.

"With more companies engaged in longer parts of the food chain - not only the farm to fork chain - but in the environmental and sustainability sectors right through to public health, the opportunities for graduates have never been so good," he added.

Dempsey's opinion is reflected in the numbers applying to UCD for undergraduate placements.

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There are 10 applicants for every single undergraduate place and this is likely to rise when the final choice CAO statistics are published shortly.

Overall, some 1,300 students will avail of the college's agri-related degree courses this year.


Course modules include: Animal and Crop Production, Animal Science, Food and Agribusiness, Engineering Technology, Dairy Business, Food Science Human Nutrition, Forestry Horticulture and Agri Environmental Sciences.

The scope of these modules delivers education and research on the complete food chain, said Mr Dempsey.

"Our curriculum is constantly evolving in response to employers' demands and global challenges and opportunities.

"A good example is the UCD Dairy Management Programme developed in the wake of the abolition of EU milk quotas.

"Many of the key stakeholders helped develop the new Dairy degree programme and this approach will in turn develop many of the future leaders in this economic sector," he pointed out.

At post-graduate level, the college - in association with the Smurfit School of Management - have designed a new MSc in Food Business Strategy which is attracting significant interest.

"We also have a new €2m dairy development research programme at the UCD Lyons research farm which will open later this year and has been generously sponsored by the dairy industry itself," added Mr Dempsey.

Indo Farming