A high-flying student from the Ayr Campus of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) has been shortlisted for another national education award – just weeks after being named Agricultural Student of the Year.
Swiss-born Claire Simonetta, who lives on Mull, is one of a select band of students from all corners of the UK to be selected for the prestigious degree category in the British Education Awards (BEA).
News of the latest nomination award comes just a few months after Claire lifted the Agricultural Student of the Year title at the Farmers Weekly Awards in October.
The 25 year old student is currently in her fourth and final year of a BSc degree in Agriculture at SRUC’s Ayr campus – while helping run a beef and sheep hill farm on Mull with her partner.
The BEA aims to recognise students who have excelled within the British education system – acknowledging their personal endeavour and application.
The citation for the awards sates that Claire has been shortlisted “for your brilliant academic result and other achievements.”
Claire – who came top in her third year exams - said: “I am honoured to be one of finalists and hope that I can win another prestigious award.
“One of the keys to my success is the ‘open-doors’ studying environment at SRUC’s Ayr Campus. It is a great place to learn with good facilities and helpful and friendly staff and tutors who take an interest in the individual student.
“In the last three years, I have gained an incredible amount of knowledge that has been invaluable on the farm at home on Mull, where I can apply the theory of what I have learned.”
Dr Jan Connell, Senior Tutor and Programme Leader for Agriculture at SRUC Ayr, said: “This is another fantastic achievement for Claire and so deserving. Claire excels in everything she puts her mind to and we are so fortunate that she is a student with us at Ayr.
“We have thoroughly enjoyed having Claire as a student and it is so rewarding when we can see both the hard work of students and teaching staff being recognised in this way.”
Claire’s journey into farming is somewhat unusual. Five years ago she was working as a paralegal while saving up to embark on a degree in astrophysics.
The dramatic change in Claire’s studying direction followed her mother taking on a role as the secretary for the Swiss Highland Cattle Society. Claire tagged along on a visit to Scotland and was instantly hooked on the Scottish landscape, people and culture.
She quit her job in Zurich and moved to Scotland working on a series of placements on farms. It was during that voyage of discovery that she decided to apply to study agriculture at SRUC – which was how she met her partner, a tenant hill farmer on Mull.
Claire is now a vital part of the farming operation – taking full responsibility for the record-keeping and accountancy side of the business. And despite English not being her first language is in demand – locally and nationally – as an adviser on topics ranging from Scottish land reform and the challenges facing women in agriculture.
The winners will be announced at the British Education Awards ceremony being held at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London on 30 January 2017.
Photo caption: SRUC Ayr student Claire Simonetta – a finalist in the British Education Awards - on the farm on Mull.