Ag students on the rise

By Janene Carey

After more than a decade in the doldrums, applications to study agricultural courses at Australian universities are up 15–20 percent for the second year in a row. Some institutions, such as the University of Western Australia (UWA) and Melbourne University, are reporting that student interest in the subject has almost doubled.

It’s a desperately needed turnaround, because demand for skilled graduates has been massively outstripping supply for some time. Five agribusiness jobs are waiting for every person walking out of a university with a relevant qualification, according to the Australian Council of Deans of Agriculture (ACDA), the peak body for tertiary education and research. In 2008, its analysis revealed universities were producing only 800 graduates annually to fill more than 4000 jobs, a finding that overturned the prevailing view among policy makers that employment prospects in agriculture were bleak.

“The government saw it as a sunset industry,” ACDA president Professor Iain Young says. “But the data showed that’s not the case. So we’ve been changing the story.”

This is an excerpt from a story in the June/July 2014 issue of Outback magazine

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