Posted 19 April 2002PROFESSOR Wynne Jones, Principal of Harper Adams University College, Shropshire, will address the Harper Adams in Ireland Centennial Dinner at the Montague Hotel, Portlaoise, this evening.
In an upbeat address to guests from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, Professor Jones considers the past, present and future of Harper Adams, the UK's largest specialist institution of Higher Education for the land and food-based industries.
The University College has strong links with Ireland and draws approximately 10 per cent of its students from the island. These links stretch back to the very roots of Harper Adams history - a student from Cork was amongst the very first intake of students in 1901.
Reflecting on these links, Professor Jones says: "Our association with the island of Ireland goes back to the beginning of the college and it is an association that has grown and prospered and borne much fruit over the last 100 years."
Drawing parallels between the problems in the agricultural industry now and at the end of the 1800's, Professor Jones will tell guests that Harper Adams success to date has been based upon forward thinking and working in partnership with the industry.
"It is worth reflecting back a hundred years when farming was in a bad state, even worse than it is now. The founding fathers of Harper Adams certainly had the vision that the solution then to farming's problems was to invest in education, the pursuit of research and the application of science to improve agriculture. One has to applaud such vision and energy."
He continues: "We are now the only provider in England and Wales of teaching in poultry and the only provider in the UK of agricultural engineering education. We have adhered to our philosophy of forging very strong links with the industry and businesses that we serve.
"Without those organisations and many of you here this evening who represent those organisations, we could not achieve our mission which is to produce high quality graduates with a good knowledge of the scientific principles and technology combined with business, marketing and management skills. Skills which are necessary to join the industry and make a mark at the outset as well as being able to develop and transfer skills into new situations in the future.
"This partnership between the college, between the students and between the industry is at the heart of the college and it is indeed a core value."
Professor Jones will also look to the future and discuss how Harper Adams will continue to cater for the needs of a rapidly changing industry.
"The future really is about strengthening our position at the heart of the food supply chain, a food supply chain which is becoming more diverse and more global in operation. We at Harper have many initiatives to take the industry forward along these lines by working in partnership with everyone in the food supply chain.
"We will also be positioning ourselves strongly in all those areas to do with the careful management of land and the environment associated with agriculture and food production.
"Life is about people and the biggest challenge to farming, food and rural industries in the future will be a source of high quality manpower. There is currently evidence that these industries are not proving attractive to young people and that the numbers entering these industries for training are in decline.
"Because of the challenges of adapting, being innovative and competitive in this global environment, we need to ensure that we have the very highest calibre of entrants coming in and that those already in the industry are continually developing in comparison with global benchmarks. This will be our greatest challenge for the next decade at least."
NB: This constitutes a summary of Professor Wynne Jones speech only. Please check against delivery of the unabridged final version for full content and any changes.