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UCAS Listings: Agriculture is back in bloom

Forget about the bad publicity over BSE, there are plenty of jobs - and courses - in farming, writes Diana Appleyard
The number and diversity of agricultural courses grows year on year. Whereas originally most courses were based solely around the farming industry, now

students have an almost bewildering choice. Coventry University, for example, offers a recreation in the countryside course, and at Plymouth you could opt for fisheries studies. Many colleges offers combined degrees with languages, and most involve business management and economics.

For most, science subjects are required, with preferred subjects including geography, geology, environmental science and biology. At GCSE, maths and English are essential requirements.

At the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester, one of the most popular new courses is equine management, which is a business-related course affiliated to all aspects of the horse industry.

Sue Burton, the registrar at the college says the student target for this year is around 500. Two-thirds of the places have been filled, so there is scope if you decide agriculture could be an option.

This is a pattern repeated across the country, and the courses are well worth considering if you have an interest in the environment, conservation or even just business - the agricultural industry, despite the recent bad publicity over BSE, is extremely vibrant. As Sue Burton says, the jobs are there.

Around 30 universities or independent colleges offer some form of agriculture- related course. Aberdeen, for example, runs courses in agriculture economics, animal science or crop science.

There are also courses in soil science, ecology and forestry. Bangor has a degree scheme in world agriculture, with opportunities to study both temperate and tropical agriculture. Nottingham offers plant and crop science, animal science and

biotechnology in agriculture - each of which is offered with European studies, as well as the more usual straight agricultural degrees.

Most colleges offer sandwich courses, many with placements abroad. Cirencester, for example, sends students to Germany, France and Holland on exchanges.

The Royal Agricultural College also runs individual courses for the professions, such as chartered surveying. Since the early Nineties, the college has had its own degree-awarding status. Sue Burton says students numbers have declined marginally over the past few years, with the industry as a whole going through such a rough patch, but says they seem to be picking up again.

"We are also seeing a number of students who hadn't thought of agriculture before. Of course we get a lot of students from farming families, but the jobs available now are so varied that many more people are seeing this as a viable profession," she says.

The number of jobs in straight farming have gone down - but there are many more in allied industries. Sue says: "We offer an international agribusiness management course, which trains people for all these other industries. On this course, students either do a year or five months in the business of their choice."

The college at the moment is around 30 per cent female - most women choosing management or business-related courses.

All of the equine courses have a high percentage of women.

The college is fairly typical in that it is looking for students with around 12 points, which equates to two Cs at A-level or three Ds, with a preference for the sciences.