CSU proposes changes to strengthen agriculture programs

11 JULY 2007

Charles Sturt University released a proposal to staff today (Wednesday 11 July) to strengthen its agricultural profile as the national University of inland Australia.

Charles Sturt University (CSU) released a proposal to staff today (Wednesday 11 July) to strengthen its agricultural profile as the national University of inland Australia.
 
Under the proposal, the Schools of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences on CSU Wagga Wagga Campus, Wine and Food Science also at Wagga Wagga and Rural Management at Orange Campus will be merged into two new schools:
  • the School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences; and
  • the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences.
The proposed new schools will consolidate the University’s considerable agricultural expertise around the two major areas of plant science and management and animal science and management.  The new schools will work collaboratively to expand agricultural education and research under the umbrella of CSU’s Faculty of Science.
 
The University established the Agricultural Review Advisory Committee (ARAC), chaired by Professor Nick Klomp, acting Dean of the Faculty of Science, in May 2007 to review its agricultural schools in light of a downturn in enrolments in agricultural programs in all Australian universities.
 
Under the proposal recommended by the group, the School of Rural Management will be merged into the new School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences, bringing together the agriculture and horticulture disciplines in Orange and Wagga Wagga into a single school to build their profile across inland NSW.
 
The proposal also recommends a progressive reduction in staffing by up to 10 and a reorganisation of the delivery of some disciplines to consolidate around areas of strength.
 
“The proposed changes have been carefully considered as a basis for consultation with staff,” Professor Klomp said. 
 
“The Committee believes that the proposed approach will provide the opportunity for the University to focus on its strengths and strategically invest in areas of agriculture that will stimulate future growth and meet future needs.
 
“Universities around Australia are reviewing their agricultural programs in light of changing enrolment patterns and increasing costs. This is an issue confronting the whole of the higher education sector,” Professor Klomp said. 
 
While other universities have examined closing or transferring rural campuses, CSU Chancellor Mr Lawrie Willett, AO believes the time is right for CSU to strategically re-position its agricultural programs for the future.
 
“Agricultural production is a vital part of Australia’s economy representing 2.7 per cent of Gross Domestic Product and around 25 per cent of Australia’s merchandise exports,” Mr Willett said.
 
“Around 17 per cent of people employed in inland Australia are directly engaged in agricultural production and more than 670 000 Australians are employed, or dependent on someone employed, in agricultural, forestry and fishing industries. 
 
“Australia must continue to improve agricultural productivity and prepare for a significant expansion in worldwide agricultural consumption over the next 20 to 25 years. We must also confront a range of factors that will further impact on productivity, including climate variability, access to water, carbon trading, natural resource management, bio-security and the ageing of rural populations. 
 
“It is expected that these factors will increase demand for agricultural specialists and applied research in agricultural sciences and management at CSU.  It is important for the University to concentrate on its strengths and market its programs to ensure a steady supply of agricultural graduates to meet current and future demand.
 
“As a farmer myself, I know the importance of the research and agricultural extension work of departments of agriculture and increasingly rural merchandisers. They draw their professional workforce from universities like CSU. Our graduates help Australia maintain its place as one of the most efficient producers of agricultural products in the world.
 
“Agriculture is vital to the sustainability of inland communities - it is therefore central to CSU’s mission as the national University of inland Australia,” said Mr Willett.

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