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Mean on Sunday: a feather in the cap for Cirencester RAU

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By Ian Mean

Business West Gloucestershire director

Cirencester’s Royal Agricultural University has just received excellent results in this year’s National Student Survey (NSS) with student satisfaction scores beating even those of the best performing Russell Group universities.

This is a big feather in the caps of the relatively new Vice Chancellor, Peter McCaffery and his team.

Ian Mean, Business West Gloucestershire director asked Peter McCaffery about his plans for the world’s first English-speaking agricultural college founded in 1845.

*What is your vision for the future of the RAU?

“It’s essentially to aspire to be the world’s leading university for sustainable farming and land management. That’s one dimension.

“The second one is that we were set up to help others. So, we have always been a solution provider for government, commercial bodies and voluntary agencies with an emphasis on farming, food security, land management and rural living.

“I believe if you want to be a great university, you also have to be a great local university. I see us as a global player, a national leader and a local community developer.”

*What will be your differentiation offer and your USP for recruiting students?

“We have a track record of achieving and since 1845 we have been developing leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators.

“The RAU has a flourishing, well connected world-wide alumni of 17 000 plus and 165 of them are currently directors in major international companies so that gives us a niche which is attractive and others do not have.”

*How can you make the RAU less elitist?

“I understand where that’s coming from but when you look at the evidence, we are not nearly so elitist as you might think.

“For instance, 70% of our new intake are the first in their household to attend university.

“We are trying to target under represented groups with a new ethnic minority excellence scholarship which gives full remission for tuition fees.”

*You have ambitious plans for a Rural Innovation Village on your land which could cost £80m-how are you going to raise the money?

“We are very excited about this proposition. We want to help revitalise local communities, build resilience and work with food producers, farmers and land owners.

“You are right. We made it clear at the outset that we can’t put capital into it.

“My understanding is that we have at least three blue chip companies interested in the project.

“They have told us not to worry about the money-just focus on the research and education.

“We want to provide a long-term legacy for generations to come.”

*Ian Mean is vice chair of GFirstLEP

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