Applications for places at the Agricultural and Horticultural colleges increased dramatically this year, following year-on-year increases for the last four years. Since 2008, 17 teachers/technicians have retired from Teagasc and this combined with the increased demand for courses has created difficulties accepting all students.
Teagasc are pursuing a number of measures to try and provide places on courses for as many potential students as possible. Over the last three years the average student/teacher ratio has increased. Advisory staff have been transferred to the colleges to teach certain modules. Additional courses are being offered in the Teagasc regional education centres around the country and online. A mechanism of contracting out the teaching of certain modules/skills is being put in place. Practical class sizes will increase and skills assessment procedures will be streamlined.
Teagasc has received sanction from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, to recruit 6 additional new teachers on contract.
In a statement yesterday, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine stated: “The availability of a well educated and skilled work force has a vital role to play in supporting sustainable farming and in enabling the agri-food sector meet the Food Harvest 2020 targets for growth. The achievement of these targets will contribute significantly to economic recovery.
In the light of the above and following consultation with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, the Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine Simon Coveney TD has agreed to prioritise six new contract teaching posts in the Agricultural Colleges for a three year period as an exception to the moratorium on recruitment. The Minister expects that this exceptional approval of new posts will be matched by further initiatives by Teagasc to devote more resources to the Agricultural Colleges including redeploying staff from other areas of the organisation, examining class sizes in certain programmes, use of remote teaching and subcontracting where feasible.
The Minister understands that the combined impact of these measures will allow Teagasc offer a significant number of additional places to students over the coming weeks.”
Director of Knowledge Transfer in Teagasc, Dr Tom Kelly welcomed the Minister’s decision to allow Teagasc recruit 6 additional teaching staff. He said:” This decision combined with a package of other initiatives being introduced by Teagasc will allow more students to attend agricultural courses this year compared to last year. We will endeavour to accept as many students on courses as possible in the 2011/12 academic year.”