Scotland’s Rural College and the University of Edinburgh have announced they are exploring a closer degree of collaboration - a move with the potential to create an influential force in agriculture.
Both parties see enhanced strategic alignment as an opportunity to further develop research education and consultancy. SAC Consulting Division would be a major beneficiary with the enhanced access that it would gain to the latest research across a wider range of disciplines. This represents a vote of confidence in the future of the sector.
SRUC’s Chairman Lord Jamie Lindsay said: “This is a very exciting agreement to further SRUC and the University’s existing relationship that not only has many potential benefits for the Scottish rural economy but could also create a leading force in addressing the complex challenge of feeding a world population that will reach nine billion by 2050.
“The ever-closer collaboration between SRUC and the University in recent years has encouraged the partners to believe that by enhancing our relationship we could, through leading research, education and consultancy activity, make an even greater contribution to addressing the challenges faced by Scottish, British, EU and global agriculture.”
Prof Sir Timothy O’Shea, Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh said: “We wish to explore this opportunity, as closer alignment would not only enhance the research education and consultancy that is so vital to Scotland’s rural economy, but would also contribute to the global challenges of health, environmental and food security.”
SRUC and its predecessors have worked closely with University of Edinburgh for more than one hundred years. Some of its degree programmes are validated through the University and it is an Accredited Institution of the University.
Most recently, based on the SRUC’s longstanding collaboration with the University’s Roslin Institute, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, and Schools of Biological Sciences and Geosciences, the partners submitted a joint submission to an important UK-wide research exercise - the ‘Research Excellence Framework’ - used to assess the value of publicly-funded research. This very positive collaboration led SRUC and the University to believe that there were further exciting opportunities that must be explored.
It is envisaged that SRUC would retain its identity and mission. This would specifically include the complete range of education currently on offer that both SRUC and the University of Edinburgh realise is vital to Scotland’s rural economy.
To SRUC students, clients and customers it would be business as usual, with services and courses uninterrupted, although it is anticipated additional opportunities and benefits would soon become available. Also to benefit would be the other Scottish research institutes*, with which partnerships could be strengthened.
The role of the SAC Consulting Division would be particularly enhanced. Its links with rural industry and communities means it is particularly valued by policy makers who want the lessons learned from the latest research disseminated to those who need them at ground level, helping sustain economic growth.
For learners there would be continued commitment to SRUC’s rural skills “escalator” offering courses from basic skills up to PhD and where students can progress as far as their ability and ambition take them. It would compliment the University’s strengths in veterinary medicine, distance learning and international education but would also concentrate the whole range of sector-relevant learning opportunities currently available in both institutions.
For researchers there are major challenges of food and environmental security and “One Health”, addressing the inextricable link between animal, plant and human health. Research in these fields is increasingly collaborative and the SRUC culture of applied, practical research complements that of the University.