As the 2024 academic year is about to kick off, many colleges and universities are doing final touch-ups to ensure that agriculture students choose the correct courses and are fully supported as they embark on their new journey.
With the grade 12 results a thing of the past, agriculture colleges and universities have confirmed space availability for first-year students who want to study agriculture.
The doors of learning are open
Stellenbosch University (SU) manager of the faculty of agrisciences Dr Michael-John Freeborough said the university has an agreed enrollment target with the department of higher education and training of 450 first-year students in the faculty of agrisciences.
“We aim to fill this target and add 20 students to cover any possibility of students that are unable to complete the first semester,” Freeborough said.
He explained that the university offers a three-year bachelor’s degree in agriculture primarily at the Elsenburg Agricultural College, linked to the department of agriculture in the Western Cape.
“The university’s main campus offers a four-year BScAgric qualification which covers seven programmes linked to animal production, plant, and soil sciences, conservation ecology, food science, forestry and wood science, viticulture and oenology, and agricultural administration and management (agricultural economics),” he said.
However, Freeborough warned that first-year applications need to be aware that capacity is limited, but the university has grown the number of students allowed into the programme through enrollment planning from 390 to 450 over the past five years.
Training future agricultural leaders
“The BScAgric programmes are difficult to scale up much more as students require a variety of facilities such as lecture theatres, laboratories, as well as specialised equipment, assets, and access to plants, orchards, vineyards, forests, and animal species.
“It is possible to increase numbers by a further 25 or so students, but agriculture is poorly understood, students do not have a direct affinity for the sector or subjects and are poorly educated about the applied scientific nature of agriculture,” he explained.
Freeborough said agrisciences is a viable career opportunity, linked specifically to the business and science of growing food and addressing food security.
He added that the objective is not to train farmers, but to train business leaders in the agricultural sector, from production to retail, logistics (transport and storage), breeding, associated pathology services, and ultimately marketing of agricultural products.
“Stellenbosch University trains students in the full value chain of agriculture and offers advanced degree options up to PhD in these fields,” he said.
Creating opportunities for success
Meanwhile, Malose Mokgotho, the president of the South African Agricultural Graduates Organisation (Saaga) is confident that first-year students should be able to find space in agricultural tertiary institutions.
“Agriculture has a variety of courses you can pick from, the challenges might be the score and it goes to all the faculties. I would not say we should worry about the space availability. The only major thing to worry about is creating a variety of reliable opportunities post the graduation of the students,” said Mokgotho.
According to Lethabo Malope, head of academics at Toutele Agriculture College South Africa, the allocation of space for students at their college is influenced by funding availability.
‘It is important for stakeholders to collaborate transparently to ensure there is enough space which is crucial for fostering a conducive learning environment for students pursuing agricultural studies.
“In ensuring academic success and growth, our facilities are designed to accommodate a significant number of students comfortably,” he said.
Malope explained that the college’s proactive approach to addressing capacity challenges involves strategic investment in infrastructure, faculty development, and innovative teaching methodologies to ensure an enriching educational experience for all stakeholders.
The course offerings for first-year agriculture students at Toutele, Malope added, are beyond agriculture-focused programmes and first-year students have access to courses tailored to their interests and career aspirations.
“These may include introductory modules in agribusiness, sustainable farming practices, agricultural economics, crop production, animal production, and agriculture extension, all the above-mentioned range from national certificate to national diploma level,” he said.
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