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    Graduate Stuart secures Tilhill 'Top Student' award

    Posted 16 October 2023

    The Tilhill ‘Top Student’ Award  2023 has been awarded to Stuart Rowlands, a graduate from Harper Adams University.

    As part of Tilhill's work to strengthen links with future forestry, harvesting, and ecology managers, the Company presents awards to top performing students at universities offering degrees in forestry-related subjects across the UK.

    The award to Stuart Rowlands was presented by Ricky Dallow, one of Tilhill’s Senior Forest Managers who was also a university alumnus at Harper Adams University. Stuart, from Staffordshire, won the ‘Top Student Award’ for achieving the best results in the Sustainable Forestry and Forest Products module on the BSC (Hons) Rural Property Management course with the University.

    Stuart spent 10 years as a Royal Marine Commando before undertaking a degree as a mature student at Harper Adams, whilst volunteering his time for organisations that support the employment of former military personnel such as Highground.

    Stuart was attracted to gaining knowledge in different areas of forestry and enable different work opportunities in the land-based industry. Highlights from the course included gaining scholarships with the CLA and the Harper Adams club and fieldtrips organised by the university. Stuart spent his placement year with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation who is responsible for maintaining the Ministry of Defence’s estate as an Assistant Rural Surveyor working across Wales and West England.

    Upon receiving the Tilhill award of £250 prize money and a wooden carved trophy, Stuart said: “I am extremely pleased to get this award. I really enjoyed the forestry module which made studying it easier! I worked hard so it is great to receive recognition for it, so thank you.

    “During the module we had a field trip to a Tilhill managed site in mid Wales, it couldn't have rained harder all day but it was a really captivating and informative day! Particularly learning about the role of a forest manager and how tricky it can be to manage woodlands on sensitive sites.

    “Following graduation, I have chosen to undertake a PhD at Harper Adams. The PhD is in partnership with Morrisons investigating the relationship between biodiversity and carbon net zero farming. I really enjoyed my dissertation and the research title of the PhD felt like a natural progression from it. I left the Royal Marines looking for exciting career opportunities and undertaking a PhD on such an interesting and relevant topic is beyond what I could have imagined when I left the Armed Forces.”

    The PhD Studentship is a partnership between Harper Adams University's School of Sustainable Food and Farming and Morrisons.

    Nick Covarr, Lecturer in Forestry and Woodland at Harper Adams University said: “Congratulations to Stuart for this well-earned award. Stuart has been a fantastic student with a strong presence in the classroom throughout the year and it was no surprise to see him achieve such good results. He has a wide range of interests in the natural world but demonstrated particular enthusiasm in the forestry sector. Good luck to him as he starts the next stage of his journey, conducting research into the relationship between biodiversity and net zero, a topic which trees and woodlands will undoubtably play a key part.

    “Harper Adams would also like to recognise the ongoing support and partnership with Tilhill who contribute so much to our forestry courses, including facilitating an inspirational trip to Lake Vyrnwy for Stuart and his classmates this year.”

    Ricky Dallow, Tilhill Senior Forest Manager, Wales & Marches said: “It’s a pleasure to see such a high standard of graduates coming through Harper Adams. Stuart is a great example of a motivated individual looking to change careers into the land-based sector where boundless career opportunities will arise in the future. Best of luck to Stuart in his PhD in partnership with Morrisons.

    “It’s important to keep a link between quality forestry related course providers taught by organisations such as Harper Adams University and Tilhill to ensure that future graduates like Stuart are of an equally high standard and ready for employment in environmentally important roles.

    “We hope to see enthusiastic graduates like Stuart applying for the Tilhill 2023/24 Graduate Programme which opens for applications in November. Visit for details on how to apply.”

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