“Agriculture in Australia is booming, and the best way of becoming involved is by studying the new Bachelor of Agriculture at University of Melbourne,” says Professor Ken Hinchcliff, former Dean of the Uni’s Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences.
The new Bachelor of Agriculture degree course is “a completely rewritten version” of the course the University has been teaching for more than a century, says Professor Hinchcliff. “We rewrote the degree from the ground up with extensive consultation from industry. This ensures that the graduates from the new Bachelor of Agriculture are ready to go into the profession from the first day they graduate.”
Agribusiness recruitment expert Nigel Crawley of Rimfire Resources, who has been involved in the development of the new curriculum, is confident the new course will turn out ‘industry-ready’ graduates. “I feel really comfortable that Melbourne Uni is on the right path,” he says. “The combination of soil and plant science, animal science and commercial economics [is] preparing graduates that connect to the workforce in a range of different sectors.”
Well-rounded, 'real-world' ag graduates
“It's a really exciting time for agriculture industry in Australia. There’s enormous interest in agriculture and tremendous investment in agriculture. And with that investment … comes the need for highly trained, skilled individuals to work in the agricultural sector,” says Liz Tudor, Associate Professor and Associate Dean, Curriculum Strategy at University of Melbourne (UoM).
“We want our graduates to have a really strong foundation in the enabling sciences. We also want them to have a really strong understanding in the core disciplines of plant science, soil science, animal science and economics,” she says.
Under the new course curriculum, Bachelor of Agriculture students will also have opportunities to study "breadth subjects" or to choose electives from other majors. "We want them to be able to work well in teams; we want them to be able to communicate very well; we want them to be able to apply this understanding to solving real-world industry problems,” says Associate Professor Tudor.
60+ academics, two campuses (one, a high-tech farm)
“At Melbourne, we're committed to educating agricultural scientists for the future and we’re well placed to do so with over 60 academics on four campuses,” says Professor Hinchcliff. “Most importantly, we have Dookie Campus, which is a living, working farm that is also our major teaching laboratory.”
“The Dookie farm is the largest agricultural education farm in the Southern Hemisphere,” says Ros Gall, Dookie Campus Director. “It's about 2,440 hectares and it has a number of enterprises: a robotic dairy, a large sheep enterprise, about 700 hectares of crops including wheat and canola, a piggery and a small apple orchard.”
“Here, students can be introduced to all the range of agricultural industries, including production industries within Australia, and also where Australia sits in the world as an agricultural producer,” Gall says.
In second year, every Bachelor of Ag student has the option to spend a semester at Dookie.
“The University of Melbourne Bachelor of Agriculture degree prepares students to be job-ready from day one,” contends Crawley. “Numbers-wise and activities-wise – utilising the resources at Dookie is a key one – and being one of the only universities to have an active teaching farm as part of their facilities is certainly a strong factor in developing students’ knowledge of the sector. The field trips and engagement with industry along the course of the degree is also a big part of it.”
“Employers are very complimentary of Melbourne graduates; they like the breadth of studies they’ve undertaken,” notes Gall. “They’ve been exposed to both plant and animal industries, agronomy, science and economics, and that tends to stand them in good stead for a range of different jobs. We're trying to set people up to be employable right into the future, able to be dynamic and to contribute to the industry long-term.”
“We need agricultural scientists who can … understand biological systems which are inherently complex; and … communicate effectively, internally and externally,” says Matthews. “One of the largest challenges over the next 30 years for the agricultural industry is just the sheer demand for food. Through to 2050, global food demand is going to increase about 60 percent – and we’re gonna need a lot of very cluey people to help us out.”
Rimfire's Crawley likes the new Bachelor of Agriculture's broad curriculum and focus on business skills. "The key challenge the industry is facing, apart from climatic conditions … is really the shortage of people and the ongoing need for talent, and for people that are prepared to learn about different areas as the industry changes," he says, citing the example of information technology, which he believes will become increasingly important to farm production and will be "a key driver of recruitment in the future”.
This year, enrolment in the Uni of Melbourne’s Bachelor of Agriculture saw the largest growth of any agricultural program in Australia, says Prof. Hinchcliff. “This clearly ddemonstrates that students see the value in an agricultural education,” he says.
“Agriculture in Australia is booming, and the best way of becoming involved is by studying new Bachelor of Agriculture at University of Melbourne."
Students can enrol in UoM's new degree course from 2016. For more information, visit the UoM's Faculty of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences.