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by Sonia Filby, SAC
The Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) was designated a Higher
Education Institution a year ago this month, and is taking time to reflect on the past year.
Of course, SAC isn't a new institution – it was formed from the merging of three agricultural colleges based in the west, north and east of Scotland. Each college has a long history of over 100 years of educating and supporting those working in the land-based and rural sectors, and today this history is still reflected in SAC's three main teaching campuses in Ayr, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh. In addition, SAC has advisory offices, vet services, research farms, and a range of other services and facilities spread throughout Scotland, and undertakes a wide range of work,both in research and consultancy, in the areas of agriculture, business, rural development, environment, food and science.
Being designated a Higher Education Institution has confirmed SAC's place in university-sector education and the College works in partnership with a number of Scottish Universities and further education Colleges. SAC offers degree courses with degrees awarded by the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, and Higher National Diploma and Certificate courses awarded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).
In July, SAC held its sixth joint graduation ceremony in the beautiful Bute Hall at the University of Glasgow. SAC Principal, Professor Bill McKelvey, reflects: “For me personally, graduation day is the highlight of the year; the day when we have the opportunity to reward success and achievement in our student body, and a day to publicly congratulate a number of staff and key supporters of SAC who have helped make the organisation one that we can all be proud of.”
Professor McKelvey highlighted the range of skills listed amongst the latest group of graduates. SAC now offers courses in a wide range of subjects relating to the land-based and rural industries and the way in which we make use of our land and natural resources. These include the traditional subjects of agriculture, science, horticulture, environment & conservation, and business, to the new areas of activity tourism, garden design, sport and recreation, and green technology.
“You, with your new skills, are important to the future of our country” Professor McKelvey told the audience.
“Between us we can help provide many of the solutions that will assist not only rural people but create a more sustainable future for society in general.”
what of the future? SAC is a forward-looking organisation and there is much good news to report. Student
numbers are on the increase – Agriculture applications are up by 40% on last year, and applications
overall are up by around 15%. SAC still has places available on some of its courses which start in September/
October this year and is still anticipating applications throughout the summer.
“It is great to see an increasing interest developing again in the rural sciences amongst our young people. We hope to encourage that interest further through our much closer working relationship with Scotland's three Countryside Further Education Colleges at Barony, Oatridge and Elmwood. Jointly we have ambitions to form a Federation which will enable students to progress seamlessly from rural courses taught at the FE level, into SAC, where we can help them reach their full potential at the Higher Education level.”
SAC is investing in education for the future. Planning permission has now been secured for the development of a new teaching campus in Ayr, in collaboration with the University of the West of Scotland. Joint facilities are expected to open there in 2011, when SAC staff and students will relocate to this vibrant new site from the current campus at Auchincruive.
Professor McKelvey acknowledges that the future of many things is uncertain, but is focussed on the areas where he knows SAC is growing and can make a difference:
“We can predict” he says “that
we'll need to produce twice as much food per annum in 40 years time, that we'll need renewable energy resources to
replace the fossil fuels that are running out, and that we will face growing water shortages and new pests and
diseases in the future. We are going to need new solutions to new problems, as well as better answers to existing
problems, and those answers will have to come from a much better understanding of how to best use our natural
resources. These are some of the reasons why SAC is so important to the future of our country.”