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"Wynne the Prin" looks to future in Harper Forum address

Posted 27 March 2009

There was standing room only when the Principal of Harper Adams University College addressed students on Thursday night, in the last of the current year’s regular Harper Forum events.

Billed as “Wynne the Prin” Professor Wynne Jones OBE took to the stage in a jam-packed Queen Mother Hall, where there was standing room only – and not very much of that – when he started his address.

He was introduced by Huw Lloyd, outgoing Harper Forum Chairman, who explained that Prof Jones had played a key role in setting up the forum, and therefore it was only right that he was invited as the guest of honour before his retirement in September 2009.

“I don’t want to use this occasion look back,” said Professor Jones, “That’s not my style. I want to look forward, at what really is an exciting future for all of you students, no matter what course you are doing.

“Things are very different for you, moving forwards, than they are for people looking backwards. The industry has seen big changes over the last 10 years. We have moved from a subsidy-driven protectionist European agriculture to a market-driven, knowledge-driven, global farming economy.

“That has been a very, very, very big change, and brings with it issues the industry is currently addressing and has had to address for the last 10 years. A lot of the lessons of 30 or 40 years ago are not really relevant now. You certainly have to look forward to this new scenario.”

The last 10 years have seemed like a period of pestilence, of plagues. We have had BSE, avian flu, and a lot of you will know more about blue tongue than me – we’ve never had that on this island before.

“We’ve had food and mouth and nitrate vulnerable zones; there has been a tremendous amount of other challenges. This industry has had a hell of a tough 10 years. It really has been in a bit of a recession over last 10 years but now, as the rest of the world is going into a big recession, we have a feeling that perhaps the agriculture and food industries have had their tough time and better times are ahead.”

Prof Jones highlighted the reduction in grain stocks, increasing demand for meat as the world’s population gets larger and wealthier, and the vital role he believes biotechnology can and must play.

He gave encouragement to any students considering working as soil and water scientists, because knowledge will be the key to protecting these valuable resources, and highlighted the overall importance of science in helping the industry adapt to the massive global challenges it faces.

After his speech, which was met with rapturous applause, the floor was opened to questions. Asked about his greatest achievement at Harper, Prof Jones said that being the leader of the University College had felt like a huge achievement, because he had been able to guide so many students through their studies and then see them go out and do great things and to lead "such a fantastic group of staff who are very innovative”.

Harper Forum is a student society which invites guest speakers to the college on a weekly basis to share their expertise and take questions from the students. In May there will be an Open Forum, to which members of the press and public are invited, with several guest speakers. Full details will be announced after the Easter break.

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