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Students turn to agriculture with resources downturn, food shortages

Media release

C302/08

14 November 2008

Student enrolment numbers for agriculture degrees at Curtin University of Technology have seen a marked increase on the back of the recent slump in the resources industry and growing concern around food shortages.

Curtin has reported a significant increase in agriculture enrolments for 2009, with early indications showing a 25 per cent increase on 2008 numbers for both its Muresk and Bentley campuses.

Muresk Director, Professor Graeme Robertson, said the boost in student enrolments could be the result of a number of current economic and social influences.

“Part of this may be due to the downturn in the resources boom, with more students looking to alternative industries,” he said.

“As well as this, we are seeing a bigger focus on agriculture and food production as the world faces rising prices and food shortages.”

Over recent years there have been many more careers available in agricultural industries in Australia than there have been graduates to fill them.

Recent research by the Australian Council of Deans of Agriculture found there were around 2,000 new positions for agricultural graduates in Australia each year, but universities were only producing 800 graduates between them.

“The problem of a lack of graduates has been exacerbated in WA by the high employment levels associated with the resources boom with young people being able to obtain well paid positions without further study,” Professor Robertson said.

“However, the international economic situation has changed this dramatically and young people appear to be reviewing their career options and looking to position themselves with the skills for long term careers.

“Agriculture will be an incredibly important industry moving forward, with the world needing to produce food for an additional three billion people over the next 40 years.

“This is looming as a major issue for farmers, scientists and the food supply chain, and climate change, limits on water availability and the loss of agricultural land in many parts of the world will add to the challenge.

“The required food production will not be achieved unless there are many more well trained professionals working throughout the supply chain from the farm to the consumer.”

Modified: 14 November 2008