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    Graduation Class of 2021 equipped for challenge and change

    Posted 13 July 2022

    “It’s crucial that we secure a diverse talent pipeline for young people like yourselves, so we need to change the perception and we need to accelerate innovation – which also brings me back here to Harper."

    A group of graduates in front of the Harper Main Building

    The importance of a Harper Adams degree in equipping its graduates for challenge and change has been underlined during the second set of Graduation Celebration Ceremonies this week.

    Today’s ceremonies, which ran in both the morning and afternoon, were for students who completed their courses in the 2020-21 academic year. Students from the 2019-20 academic year took part in their celebrations on Monday.

    Both days saw morning and afternoon ceremonies recognise the successes of those graduates whose events were delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Harper Adams Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ken Sloan, addressed the congregation – and noted some of the many milestones Harper Adams has passed since the 2019 Graduation Ceremony.

    He said: “We opened the Harper Keele Vet School, a stunning and innovative collaboration.

    “According to Graduate Outcomes 2021, national figures showed that Harper Adams has a higher proportion of UK-based graduates in work or further study than any other university. In the most recent National Student Survey, published last week, we were ranked fifth of all UK Universities for overall student satisfaction of full-time students.

    “Thanks to the feedback from our students, the What Uni Student Choice awards – the WUSCAs – has awarded the Best University in the country for Career Prospects every year since 2016 – a truly remarkable achievement.

    “In the most recent Times and Sunday Times University Guide, we were top-rated modern University for the sixth successive year – similarly, the publication of the Complete University Guide last month placed us 29th in the UK and, again, the top-ranked modern University. In the same ranking, we made significant progress in our core disciplines as well.

    “The Research Excellence Framework confirmed that 60 per cent of our research is of world or international standing – for a University that’s 10 years old, that’s a phenomenal achievement. It also sets us the challenge to go further and beyond in the future.

    “Finally, in this year’s New Year’s Honours, I was delighted to see that my predecessor, and the person who was the Vice-Chancellor when you were here, Dr David Llewellyn, was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire – CBE – for his services to higher education, agriculture, and rural industries.

    “David served this institution for 23 years – 12 of those as Principal and then Vice Chancellor, and I’m sure we would want to pass on our best wishes and thanks to David for his contribution to Harper Adams over almost a quarter of a century.”

    Harper Adams Student Union President 2021-22, Emily Brown, addressed the congregation – shortly after standing down from her role and on the day she, herself, was part of the graduating cohort.

    She said: “Reach out and seize the future and all it has to offer as a Harper graduate.

    “I will leave you with a quote from Winnie the Pooh – ‘you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.’

    “Best wishes to everyone, and thank you!”

    As with Monday’s event, two Harper Adams alumni were invited to give speeches as Guests of Honour during the ceremonies on Wednesday.

    The morning ceremony was addressed by Harriet Wilson, Head of Agriculture and Sustainable Sourcing at McDonald’s UK & Ireland, while the afternoon event heard from Chris Megarry, Head of UK GP Farming at Aviagen.

    Harriet told the congregation: “I’ve always been passionate about food and agriculture and I am constantly inspired by the people who work in the industry – particularly the fantastic network that I came out of Harper with, who are not only my friends but also my mentors and my role models.”

    However, she also told the crowd that recent research she had been involved in with Mcdonald's had shown not all young people had similar role models in agriculture and food. Of those spoken to, 64 per cent said they lacked a role model, and 75 per cent of young people said they didn’t know enough about the industry to consider it a career.

    She added: “It’s crucial that we secure a diverse talent pipeline for young people like yourselves, so we need to change the perception and we need to accelerate innovation – which also brings me back here to Harper.

    “Towards the end of last year, we set up the School of Sustainable Food and Farming, a joint initiative with Harper Adams, McDonald's UK & Ireland, Morrisons supermarkets, and the National Farmers’ Union.

    “We set this up to address the challenge, with the aim to educate, inspire, and empower current and future farmers on their net zero journeys.

    “We’re investing in innovation together, training opportunities, and later this year, we’ll drill further into that research I spoke about to formulate a plan of how we can kickstart more careers for young people from a diverse range of backgrounds.”

    And Chris added: “Harper has set you up well for what lies ahead, your placement year is one of the things that sets you apart. That’s not to say you have been work shy before, but in many cases in the past, if you didn’t like a job, you could move on. Your placement year will have been a challenge for many reasons, but you stuck it out.”

    Reflecting on the changing world that the Harper graduates he was addressing would face, Chris added: “As the war in Ukraine continues to ravage the lands and people, the effects are being felt globally. Food security has never been more important.

    “What does the future hold? I sat in on a Defra-led presentation at the Pig and Poultry Event at the beginning of May to listen to how they were going to steer agriculture as the industry moves away from CAP payments. What I took away from that event, was everything I expected - more unanswered questions.

    “The way we farm has changed considerably over the last 20 years - but you will now be at the forefront of this change.”

    Watch today’s ceremonies again here.

    Learn more about the guest speakers here.

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