Na­tional ap­proach to ag ed­u­ca­tion needed

North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - News -

A NEW na­tional ap­proach to agri­cul­tural ed­u­ca­tion is needed if Aus­tralia is go­ing to be able to meet the ex­pected agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion needs by 2020 ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased by the peak in­dus­try body for agri­cul­tural and nat­u­ral re­source man­age­ment pro­fes­sion­als.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased by the Ag In­sti­tute Aus­tralia (AIA), Vic­to­rian agri­cul­ture has been chal­lenged to dou­ble agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion by 2020 thanks to the Asian pop­u­la­tion ex­plo­sion, but this will not oc­cur with­out the best pos­si­ble agri­cul­tural ed­u­ca­tion.

Cur­rently in Vic­to­ria, a stu­dent can study agri­cul­ture at the Univer­sity of Mel­bourne, La Trobe Univer­sity, North­ern Metropoli­tan In­sti­tute of TAFE and Box Hill TAFE.

In­stead of “spread­ing re­sources thinly over all uni­ver­si­ties” the AIA be­lieves the re­sources should be con­cen­trated to achieve crit­i­cal mass in each of the in­sti­tu­tions.

“Think how much stronger the of­fer­ing of agri­cul­tural ed­u­ca­tion would be if a vir­tual fac­ulty was cre­ated where by the re­sources of both uni­ver­si­ties can be com­bined to avoid du­pli­ca­tion and wastage.

“Surely this would cre­ate a stronger fac­ulty,” the re­port states.

The AIA, to­gether with other in­ter­ested par­ties who sup­port the call for con­sul­ta­tion be­tween the Univer­sity of Mel­bourne and the wider agri­cul­tural com­mu­nity in­clud­ing the Vic­to­rian Farm­ers Fed­er­a­tion, Agribusi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion, Grass­lands So­ci­ety of Vic­to­ria and South­ern Farm­ing Sys­tems, aims to en­sure that Aus­tralian agri­cul­ture has an ad­e­quate sup­ply of bright young peo­ple who are suit­ably equipped as agri­cul­tur­al­ists or agri­cul­tural science re­searchers.

The re­port noted that uni­ver­si­ties, in­clud­ing Mel­bourne, “will need to en­sure that good fun­da­men­tal science and a sound knowl­edge of the mul­tiand in­ter-dis­ci­plinary ac­tiv­ity known as agri­cul­ture un­der­pin cur­ric­ula”.

“This is par­tic­u­larly needed in the nar­rower, spe­cial­ist dis­ci­plinary ar­eas such as meat science, soil science and an­i­mal pro­duc­tion and medicine,” the re­port stated.

“Em­ploy­ers ob­serve that stu­dents grad­u­at­ing from the Univer­sity of Mel­bourne (and many oth­ers) De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture can do so with­out ap­pear­ing suf­fi­ciently trained in agri­cul­ture nor the science of it.

“In­evitably, in the mod­ern ed­u­ca­tional en­vi­ron­ment, char­ac­terised by shrink­ing pools of tal­ent – both of po­ten­tial stu­dents and ex­ist­ing staff – uni­ver­si­ties will need to com­bine their spe­cial­i­sa­tions and strengths and co-op­er­ate in hitherto un­prece­dented ways to pro­vide high qual­ity train­ing for agri­cul­tur­al­ists and agri­cul­tural re­searchers in the fu­ture.”

The re­port also stated that there is a short­age of grad­u­ates that are equipped to en­ter the ar­eas of in­ter­na­tional trade ne­go­ti­a­tion, do­mes­tic pol­icy devel­op­ment and project man­age­ment.

Mean­while, In­de­pen­dent mem­ber for Indi Cathy McGowan re­cently called on the Fed­eral Govern­ment to meet with the Aus­tralian Coun­cil of Deans of Agri­cul­ture to dis­cuss the pro­posed bud­get changes and the im­pacts on ter­tiary agri­cul­tural stud­ies.

Ms McGowan said the pro­posed changes will have a detri­men­tal ef­fect on a $30 bil­lion in­dus­try if it was not sup­ported with world-lead­ing science.

“Not only will in­creas­ing fees make it less at­trac­tive for stu­dents to choose agri­cul­ture, but it will make our agri­cul­tural cour­ses less com­pet­i­tive, in­ter­na­tion­ally.

“It’s al­ready hard enough to at­tract post-grad­u­ate re­searchers be­cause of the cost and the 100 per­cent pro­posed in­crease in fees for post grad­u­ates will be­come an even greater dis­in­cen­tive,” McGowan said.

The Aus­tralian Coun­cil of Deans of Agri­cul­ture has just ap­pointed its new pres­i­dent – Hol­ger Meinke from the Univer­sity of Tas­ma­nia.

Pro­fes­sor Meinke said he would con­tinue to help the in­dus­try to­wards sus­tain­abil­ity through the pro­vi­sion of a world class ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

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