Rural college looks to future with ambitious strategy

SRUC chairman Pat Machray, left, and vice-chairman Sandy Cumming flank college principal Wayne Powell. Picture: Contributed
SRUC chairman Pat Machray, left, and vice-chairman Sandy Cumming flank college principal Wayne Powell. Picture: Contributed
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Scotland’s Rural College has laid out a future strategy that builds on the links between its three main legs; education, research and consultancy advice.

In addition, it plans more partnership working with other rural agencies in providing a wide range of scientific knowledge, rural skills and technical training for those operating in the rural economy.

SRUC’s regional presence is part of the agricultural fabric of this country

Scott Walker

Although SRUC covers the whole of Scotland, the future strategy sees the country divided into three main zones, which coincidently resemble the old North of Scotland college, West of Scotland college and East of Scotland college areas.

• READ MORE: Sandy Cumming takes the chair at rural college SRUC

Under more devolved management than presently exists, the strategy would see the north area focusing on veterinary information as well as supporting the food and drink industry, the central or east area on research, education and training and the south and west on research and consultancy in areas including dairying, renewables and bio-refining.

SRUC principal and chief executive Wayne Powell admitted that the proposed changes would have to come from within the present financial boundaries. He brushed aside any suggestion that the plan would involve any rationalisation of the present property portfolio, even although his predecessor said there needed to be some sorting out of land and buildings after the amalgamation into SRUC in 2012.

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A central aspect of the strategy involves the proposed unification of SRUC’s research and education activities in a single College of Agriculture & Rural Economy.

This would be closely integrated with another new organisation – SAC Ventures, which will comprise SAC Consulting, Veterinary Services, the Farm Advisory Service, and new companies formed as a result of increased commercial activities.

Powell said he believed this structure would allow SRUC to maximise the generation and communication of new knowledge of benefit to rural industries and communities.

He also pointed to the role SRUC could play in the wider world claiming “the institution can make a significant contribution to tackling the ‘grand challenges’ of providing nutritious food for a growing world population and mitigating the effects of climate change”.

NFU Scotland chief executive Scott Walker stressed the need to maintain SRUC’s regional presence, commenting: “SRUC’s regional presence is part of the agricultural fabric of this country and many farmers and crofters, their families and their employees will have studied at one of its rural colleges.”

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