‘Agriculture returns to Cork’ as graduate possibilities ‘endless’

‘Agriculture returns to Cork’ – that was the message at the launch of the new agricultural science degree at the University College Cork (UCC), in collaboration with Teagasc, on Saturday last (September 8). Graduate possibilities were highlighted as being ‘endless’.

Professor Pat Fox, who compiled a history of UCC’s faculty of food science and technology, told AgriLand that there have been four professors of agriculture at UCC (which was formerly known as Queen’s College Cork).

The list compiled Edmund Murphy, from 1849 to 1868; Thomas Wibberley, between 1920 and 1922; Connell Boyle, from 1923 to 1964; and Thomas Raftery, between 1964 and 2000.

“Boyle and Raftery were professors in the faculty of dairy/food science, established in 1924,” Pat said. “Between 1911 and 1920, UCC tried to establish a department or faculty of agriculture and appointed Wibberley – with external funding.”

From approximately 1924, students could complete the first and second years of their agricultural science degree in Cork and then transfer to UCD for the professional third and fourth year of the degree.

This practice continued until 1975, according to Prof. Fox.

Prof. Tom Rafferty, former professor of agriculture in UCC and a former Fine Gael MEP, spent many years trying to establish a stand-alone agriculture degree for UCC to complement the strong dairy sciences degree, which was supported by the UCC dairy farm in Curraheen.

The college farms were primarily used for dairying and were part of the then dairy husbandry department.

Dairying commenced in Fota in 1978 with a herd of 250 cows. By 1990, when farming operations were wound down, the herd average milk yield had doubled to over 1,400 gallons/cow.

The farm in UCC is now associated with sports as it is used for rugby and football training and matches.

Knowledge-based teaching

The new agricultural science degree, which is delivered in partnership with Teagasc, will emphasise knowledge-based teaching and research to support graduate entry to agriculture and the agri food industry.

The course has been reintroduced in response to student demand in the Munster area and to complement UCC’s excellence in food to pre-farm gate, according to Dr. Karen McCarthy, research co-ordinator, UCC Food Institute and UCC-Teagasc Food Alliance.

“The collaboration with Teagasc has also been a definitive aspect of the new course, as without its meaningful and serious contributions to the curriculum, teaching and learning activities of the course, it likely would not have happened.”

The new bachelor of agricultural science programme will focus on practical skills; the scientific basis of agriculture; and supporting students to gain skills in farm management, business acumen and modern farm technology over their four years of study.

It will also encompass a placement opportunity which will provide students with a tangible experience of working in modern Irish agriculture.

The degree will be anchored in the school of biological, earth and environmental studies at UCC, and in the animal and grasslands research centre in Teagasc Moorepark, allowing students to learn and experience the excellence of both UCC and Teagasc.

Speaking at the launch in UCC, European Commissioner for agriculture and rural development, Phil Hogan, said that as a UCC graduate and former chair of the college Macra na Feirme branch, he was very proud to participate in the launch of the new degree programme.

“The possibilities are endless for agricultural science graduates, both in Ireland and abroad.

They may become farmers or farm advisors; they may code or build better machines; they can build new Irish companies and brands; and whatever they choose, they will contribute to keeping our rural areas vibrant.

Professor Gerry Boyle, director of Teagasc, said: “The Irish dairy industry is in an exciting time of significant expansion, presenting challenges and opportunities for enthusiastic, young, highly-skilled graduates.

“This degree will equip future leaders of the dairy industry with the scientific, technical and business skills needed to drive future expansion and competitiveness.

Innovation

“This new programme will further strengthen our excellent collaboration with UCC under the Teagasc/UCC strategic alliance and is further evidence of our commitment to collaborate with the university sector to help deliver the skills and innovation needed by our agri food sector.”

Professor John O’Halloran, deputy president and registrar of UCC, said that UCC is committed to supporting a strong agri food sector through the provision of graduate talent.

“We are very enthusiastic about delivering this very important degree through translating our agri food research into a connected curriculum to enable the future graduates to face the challenges of this dynamic global industry.”

Full details of the bachelor of agricultural science degree at UCC are available at: www.ucc.ie.