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    Harper Adams 2023 - a year in review part two

    Posted 20 December 2023

    2023 was another busy year at Harper Adams University, and as we look towards Christmas, we're also taking a moment to look back too: join us as we take a look at the highlights from July to December...


    July began with Harper Adams University Chancellor, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal meeting a group of scholars who will use their studies at the University to benefit communities in Africa and India. 

    Her Royal Highness met the 2023 Marshal Papworth Scholars during her visit to the University, during which she heard about some of the Integrated Pest Management research being carried out by the Entomology group, and received a briefing from University Vice-Chancellor Professor Ken Sloan about the University’s Together, We Will Make the Difference 2030 strategy.

    In the Entomology laboratories on the Harper Adams Future Farm, The Chancellor heard about researchers’ work examining the impact of the vine weevil.

    A tractor relay acting as a beacon of hope in memory of a Harper Adams alumnus was welcomed to the University’s campus. 

    The Len’s Light relay was set up by Lynda and Andy Eadon, the parents of Len Eadon, from Napton on the Hill in Warwickshire. 

    Len graduated from his Rural Enterprise and Land Management degree at Harper Adams in 2021 and was a well-liked member of the University community. 

    On January 1, 2022, Len took his own life, and in his memory, his parents have worked to raise funds for rural mental health charities and to ensure that people in farming communities feel they can talk about any issues they are facing. 

    In 2023, their efforts have been focused upon the Len’s Light tractor relay, which took Len’s parents and their message right across Great Britain, from John O Groats to Land’s End, with a tractor specially adapted to carry a beacon in memory of Len.  

    The relay’s route took in farmers’ markets, country shows, the Houses of Parliament, the Farmers’ Club, Harper Adams and more. 

    The aim of every single stop was to raise awareness and ensure that no-one in the rural community feels isolated or alone.

    Tesco and Harper Adams University’s School of Sustainable Food and Farming (SSFF) announced the launch of a major new multi-year programme which will help up-and-coming British farmers develop their skills in sustainable agriculture.

    The Future Farmer Programme – announced at the Royal Welsh Show - is providing more than 70 young farmers with face-to-face and live online training on how to implement sustainable agriculture practices and protect biodiversity.


    A long-term partnership which draws on two regional powerhouses to further level up the West Midlands economy was unveiled. 

    The proposals will see a strategic partnership between Harper Adams University and Telford & Wrekin Council, with new collaborative facilities based in the Borough’s towns boosting high-end skills and industry-focused research. 

    In Telford, Harper Adams University’s new flexible teaching and learning centre will be sited within Station Quarter, the newly developing knowledge district in the centre of the town.

    Find out more about the new Station Quarter development, and its exciting new courses, here.

    And in Newport, a state-of-the-art animal diagnostics facility, with spaces for learning and teaching, research, and business engagement is planned for the Ni.PARK agri-tech and science park on the edge of the town.

    Students at Harper Adams are some of the most satisfied in the country – according to the revamped National Student Survey.   

    The revised NSS uses different questions and measures to previous years, but still covered the same seven broad themes – and Harper Adams University outcomes were improved across all seven, showing that students are increasingly positive about all aspects of their university experience.  

    Notably, Harper Adams was in the top five highest-ranked providers across the whole of the UK for delivering courses that prepare their students for future careers.  

    The University achieved the 3rd highest position in the UK (92.3 % positive responses) for “Academic Support” and top 20 positions for both “Teaching on my Course” and “Learning Opportunities”.  


    September saw high rankings for Harper Adams in two separate national newspapers’ University Guides .

    In the inaugural Daily Mail University Guide, Harper Adams ranked as the top Modern University in the UK, taking the number one spot among the post-1992 universities. 

    It also received a top ten placing in the Guide’s ‘Teaching Excellence’ ranking. 

    The following weekend saw the University named as the inaugural Sunday Times Specialist University of the Year in the Times and the Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024.

    The University also secured a top 40 UK placing overall.

    Students from the class of 2023 graduated – with University Vice-Chancellor Professor Ken Sloan telling them the day was a ‘new beginning’ and adding: “Your commitment and determination to make the difference fills me with both optimism and pride.

    “The world needs Harper Adams and its graduates more than ever before. I know I can rely on you to step up in your own way in response to world events now and in the future.”

    The same week, it was announced that Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Butchers, Margaret Boanas had received an Honorary Doctorate from Harper Adams University. 

    The award was made at the inaugural Harper Together staff conference at the University, with Margaret as a Guest of Honour throughout the day before receiving her award at a ceremony in the afternoon.

    She said: “"It was wonderful to take part in such a great event, and to meet so many members of the Harper Adams community during the day.”

    At the end of the month, it was announced that Harper Adams had secured Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) for the third time.

    The University also secured Gold status in both 2017 and 2018.

    Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and Students at Harper Adams, Dr Simone Clarke, said: “This result will be celebrated across our learning community of staff, students and employers.  

    “We always strive for the highest standards of teaching and learning, and this Gold Rating is a resounding affirmation of our success in achieving those standards.”


    Harper Adams University student Harry Davies was named as the 2023 Farmers Weekly Agricultural Student of the Year

    Originally from Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire, fourth-year BSc (Hons) Agriculture student Harry secured the prize at the annual Farmers Weekly Awards ceremony in London. 

    He said: “I was over the moon to be a finalist, let alone win Ag Student of the Year. Yeah - it's a fantastic way to end four great years at Harper.” 

    The awards also saw the parents of Harper alumnus Len Eadon -whose tractor relay visited the campus in July - honoured for the profound difference they have made on raising awareness for mental health.

    NFU president, Minette Batters said: “Despite many worthy contenders this year, there can be no better winners than Andy and Lynda Eadon.

    “Few of us can imagine what they’ve been through, but their reaction to Leonard’s tragic passing has been incredible. Their tireless campaigning is testament to their selflessness, drive and bravery and is matched only by their compassion for their fellow farmers and their families.

    "They are truly extraordinary people, and the legacy of good they are building in Len’s memory will benefit countless others in our industry.”

    A report launched at this year’s party political conferences underlined the untapped potential of the UK’s agri-food sector – and the importance of Government investment in ensuring its skills requirements are met.

    The report, supported by Harper Adams University and the School of Sustainable Food and Farming, was launched at an event at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, with a second event taking place at the Labour party conference in Liverpool.

    Harper Adams Vice-Chancellor Professor Ken Sloan said: ““Being able to feed all of our population, in as equitable way as possible, with nutritious, sustainably produced food, is of the utmost importance both in the UK and around world.

    99.2 per cent of our students take up employment within the sectors we serve, with alumni from Harper Adams accounting for 25 per cent of graduate positions within UK food and farming.

    “This is a strong basis on which to help shape the provision of life long skills acquisition and development across these sectors and 'Hungry To Learn' provides some tangible recommendations to help shape this critical sector for the better.”

    Harper Adams alumnus Stephen Evans was named the Farming Life Agricultural Student of the Year 2023.

    Despite not hailing from an agricultural background, BSc (Hons) Agriculture graduate Stephen, from Fintona, Co. Tyrone, was chosen by the judges as the prize winner – mere weeks after celebrating his graduation.

    The impact of the work of the Farms for City Children charity was detailed in a new report produced by a Harper Adams postgraduate researcher.

    The charity brings children from all areas of England and Wales to farms in Devon, Gloucestershire and Pembrokeshire, for an immersive residential farm stay that aims to boost each child’s confidence and self-worth during the visit.

    Researcher Liz Tree, originally from Croydon, worked with 43 children from four London primary schools and their teachers to assess their views of their visit – with the children’s thoughts captured through a ‘rich picture’ design process.

    Farms for City Children Chief Executive Officer, Donna Marie Edmonds, said: “Liz’s research has been gratefully received by Farms for City Children.

    “It asserts that a week of muck and magic on one of our heritage farms is highly impactful on children, young people and on their teachers. It increases learning and engagement; it improves connections and wellbeing, and it enhances a child’s sense of environmental citizenship.

    “It is transformational, and the effect of the residential continues to impact upon the character and behaviour of the child long after they return to school.”


    The agricultural philanthropy of two of Britain’s leading literary figures was recognised with Honorary Degrees from Harper Adams University. 

    Sir Michael Morpurgo and Clare, Lady Morpurgo received the awards at an intimate London ceremony at Glazier’s Hall from Harper Adams University’s Chancellor, Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal. 

    Each received their Honorary Doctorate for the work they have done over the past five decades to develop an interest in food and farming among young people through Farms for City Children. 

    Speaking after accepting his award,Sir Michael said: “While they work with young people at, perhaps, different times in their education, both Farms for City Children and Harper Adams University are striving to develop an understanding of food and farming which changes lives. 

    “I have said before that honing that nurturing that understanding is more necessary than ever as children become even more disconnected from the countryside, from the environment and from the source of the food they eat. 

    “With that in mind, I am pleased to see the work which Harper Adams does to broaden everyone’s understanding of food and farming – and delighted to accept today’s honour.”

    A new scholarship was launched bringing together a leading food company and the expertise of Harper Adams University.

    The scholarship sees the University partnering with Dunbia to offer a significant £4,500 contribution towards the successful student’s education - as well as a one-year employment placement with the company in its food safety and quality department.

    With sites across the United Kingdom, Dunbia, a division of Dawn Meats, processes cattle and sheep for national and international markets.

    Harper Adams students who serve as NFU Student and Young Farmer Ambassadors took part in the annual Lord Mayor’s Show in central London.

    Among them was Darcy Johnson, a third year BSc (Hons) Agri-Food Marketing with Business student from near Westbury in Wiltshire, who said: “Our presence on the streets of London was well received by the supporters gathered up to watch the parade. We had cheers and hollers of support from the crowds, and I don’t think any of us have had so many high fives in all our lives!”

    A delegation from Harper Adams headed to the COP 28 UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai after the University was granted observer status.

    Harper Adams Chief Global Impact Officer Ian Rowley said: “As an institution, our work is focussed on both food security and planetary sustainability – at a global scale.

    “It is a testament to this role and to the knowledge exchange and leadership which we, as an institution, can provide to the food and farming sectors that we have been recognised by the UN and granted Observer status for this COP – and for future conferences too.”


    A final year Agriculture student is celebrating after being nominated as Young Farmer of the Year at a 2024 national awards ceremony.

    Eleanor Gilbert, from near Newbury in Berkshire, is studying for a BSc (Hons) Agriculture with Crop Management at Harper Adams and has been nominated for the trophy at the upcoming National Arable and Grassland Awards 2024.

    Eleanor – who is set to graduate in 2024  – has already been named as the Countryfile Young Countryside Champion 2022 at last year’s BBC Food and Farming Awards because of her passion for promoting the best of British food and farming.

    (Thanks to David Gregory-Kumar and the BBC for use of this piece)

    The work of a multi-million pound research project into new approaches to slug management was featured on BBC News.

    Strategies Leading to Improved Management and Enhanced Resilience Against Slugs (SLIMERS) is a three-year £2.6m research project involving more than 100 UK farms and six industry partners, funded by Defra’s Farming Innovation Programme which is delivered by Innovate UK.

    It is the UK’s biggest ever farmer-led slug-monitoring project - and the culmination of a series of experiments conducted by Harper Adams University over the past eight years.

    BBC correspondent Dr David Gregory-Kumar spoke to Professor Keith Walters, Professor of Invertebrate Biology and Integrated Pest Management at Harper Adams University, about how quirks in slug behaviour mean that the patches they make can be predicted.

    M&S announced the launch of its new Farm of the Future programme, which aims to support livestock farmers to rapidly decarbonise, demonstrating leadership on the road to Net Zero.

    The seven-year programme, which sees M&S collaborate with suppliers and Harper Adams University’s School of Sustainable Food and Farming, will work with seven M&S Select Farms as ‘Farm of the Future’ focus farms across six key production sectors to identify and implement practical, on-farm activities that will help farms achieve Net Zero.

    Read the part one roundup - from January to June - here.

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