Agricultural degree gets UWA boost

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UWA Assoc. Prof. James Fogarty with agriculture students Bryce Thomas, Gerelee Enkhbat and George Mercer at the University.
Camera IconUWA Assoc. Prof. James Fogarty with agriculture students Bryce Thomas, Gerelee Enkhbat and George Mercer at the University. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper / The West Australian

The University of Western Australia is bringing back its specialised Bachelor of Agricultural Science degree for the first time in a decade.

The move comes after alumni and industry partners called on UWA to bring together several degrees to improve the employability of future graduates, with the specialised Agribusiness degree also set to make a comeback.

UWA School of Agriculture and Environment head of school Associate Professor James Fogarty said students who were studying a major in Agricultural Science, Agricultural Technology or Agribussness as part of the Bachelor of Science degree would be able to transfer across to the new degrees.

“The 2022 student intake will be the first opportunity to directly enrol in these named, specialist degrees, since 2012,” he said.

“Before re-establishing these degrees, students enrolled in a Bachelor of Science degree, with majors in Agricultural Science, Agricultural Technology, or Agribusiness.

“If a student chose to combine two of the three agriculture-related majors, the unit sequence students took was essentially the same as that offered in the newly named degrees.

“That students were able to study many units in agricultural science but not have this officially recognised in the title of their degree is one reason the university approved the introduction of specialist degrees.

“Once students completed a Bachelor of Science degree, students then had the opportunity to enrol in either a Master of Agricultural Science, or a Master of Agricultural Economics degree.”

UWA Assoc. Prof. James Fogarty with agriculture students Bryce Thomas, Gerelee Enkhbat and George Mercer at the University.
Camera IconUWA Assoc. Prof. James Fogarty with agriculture students Bryce Thomas, Gerelee Enkhbat and George Mercer at the University. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper / The West Australian

The course structure was changed in 2012 to align with that used in many European countries, where students complete a general, broad undergraduate degree — such as science, commerce or the arts — followed by a specialist master’s degree.

But Associate Professor Fogarty said while that model worked well for certain degree combinations, it had proved “less suited” to some specialist discipline areas such as Agricultural Science.

“Prior to 2012, around half of all students at UWA enrolled in study programs involving two undergraduate degrees, for example, a double degree in Agricultural Science and Commerce, so the change to focus on vertical double degrees rather than horizontal double degrees was reasonable,” he said.

“UWA has expanded the course model to allow for two types of undergraduate degrees: specialist undergraduate degrees, and comprehensive degree.

“Two new specialist degrees officially approved in 2021 were the Agricultural Science degree and the Agribusiness degree.”

Associate Professor Fogarty said UWA still had a focus on creating vertical double-degree pathways that combined an undergraduate degree with a master’s degree.

“These combined degrees are very focused, and because of this focus, it is possible for students to graduate with a combined bachelor and master’s degree in only four years.

“For students on this accelerated study pathway it is also possible to graduate from UWA after three years, with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Advanced) degree or a Bachelor of Agribusiness (Advanced) degree.

UWA will continue to offer the Bachelor of Science degree.

Murdoch University is the only other WA university to offer a Bachelor of Agricultural Science degree.

Curtin University students have the option to major in Agriculture Science as part of a Bachelor of Science degree, while Edith Cowan University and the University of Notre Dame do not offer agricultural science as an area of study.

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