The Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) is working in partnership with the University College of Estate Management (UCEM) and the Royal Agricultural University (RAU), who led a successful bid for funding to stimulate and support enhanced leadership in the land management and agri-food sectors, post Brexit, that meets the challenges of the 21st Century.

£1.1m of funding for the project was awarded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) through its Catalyst Fund, in December 2017. [1]

The funding period is between April 2018 and end of March 2021.

The project brings together academics from different disciplines and the partner organisations who will work alongside a group of industry stakeholders.

The RAU will be offering two new postgraduate programmes from September 2019, followed by two new undergraduate programmes in 2020. This new offer will focus on leadership in the food and agri-business sector, rural policy and strategy, agro-ecology, sustainability and innovative land management.

A range of experts from the food supply chain, farming, land management, banking and NGOs, are supporting the project. Involving industry partners in programme co-design and delivery will create an ‘innovation bridge’ with industry and ensure there is sustained and meaningful engagement with students, preparing them to lead future change in their careers.

UCEM is a leader in digital delivery and will build an appropriate infrastructure enabling programme delivery as supported online learning, accelerated degrees and part-time programmes, thereby providing truly flexible learning opportunities upon which people already in the workplace can capitalise.

Download RAU media release

The overall aims and objectives of the project are:

  1. To establish a new academic team working in key disciplines who will build an “innovation bridge” and develop a programme offer that reflects the sectors’ emerging needs;
  2. To build academic capacity in key disciplines This new team will include specialists in- agro-ecology; sustainable food supply chains and international agri-food business; animal welfare; rural leadership and behaviour change and policy.
  3. To develop a new undergraduate and postgraduate programme offer This suite of complimentary programmes, championed by the new academic team, working in partnership with existing academics at the RAU and the CCRI and the wider sectors, will be designed to meet the sustainable land management and the agri-food sectors’ increasing need for holistic thinkers and innovative leaders with a local and global outlook:

1 x MBA programme - Leadership in Sustainable Food & Agri-Business

1 x MSc programme –Sustainable Rural Policy & Strategy

2 x BSc programme – Agroecology and Sustainable Land Management

These new programmes will be co-designed with industry partners and all will involve students engaging with industry (placements, internships, project assessments etc.).

In addition, the RAU will enhance and extend its existing portfolio of PG and UG programmes in agriculture, food, business management and rural land management following a “Brexit focused” module review.

All new post graduate programmes will be offered as full time, part time and blended (distance plus block teaching) routes. Accelerated PG learning will offered for the MBA via an Executive MBA route, depending on industry demand. The two BSc programmes will be offered as 3 or 2 year (accelerated learning) degrees.

The CCRI is a key HE partner in this project, which includes four joint CCRI/RAU appointments with one of them being based solely at the CCRI.

Rationale for the project

Brexit offers a once in a lifetime opportunity for the agri-food sector to embrace new approaches to managing land and the food supply chain that enable increased productivity while ensuring the welfare of habitats, animals and rural communities. It also creates an historic opportunity for the UK to develop gold standard policies for agriculture, land use, biodiversity, animal welfare, habitat and resource management etc. that meet the demands of the twenty-first century in terms of climate change and economic, environmental and social resilience

Addressing the post Brexit paradigm will require farmers, land managers and those employed in the agri- food (and drink) sectors to develop new skills and knowledge. Labour shortages must be addressed. Improved collaborative leadership and greater innovation will be essential to succeed, following the current mantra of ‘get bigger, get out or do something different’. Adaptive capacity and greater resilience will be required and the ability to learn and adjust to embrace both change and innovation. Larger commodity producers will seek new export markets, entrepreneurial activities and further sustainable intensification, while smaller farmers may need to focus on local environmental delivery, niche/value added markets, diversified incomes and more collaborative land management arrangements.

The overall impact on the sector highlights the need for leadership and innovative solutions to land management, environmental and governance issues.

[1] HEFCE closed as an organisation on 31 March 2018. The Office for Students (OfS) was established as the new regulator for higher education in January 2018 and began operations in April 2018, taking over many functions from HEFCE. The OfS will therefore continue to monitor the investment in this initiative.