Saskatchewan university sees record growth in ag program

Agriculture continues to be the hottest choice of study for students at the University of Sask-atchewan.

Registered enrolment numbers are up .6 percent at the university this year, but the agriculture college has exceeded its enrolment goals with an increase of 11.5 percent.

“It’s a record for the college,” said dean Mary Buhr.

“Our goal for 2016 was to be at 850 undergraduates. Where we are at in 2015 is 1,100 plus.”

Another 275 graduate students are enrolled in master’s and PhD studies.

A combination of factors created “kind of a perfect storm,” said Buhr.

She said new innovative programs and creative changes to existing programs have helped attract more students, who are coming from a variety of backgrounds.

Programs such as renewable resource management, animal biosciences and agricultural business are separate degrees, which appeal to people who do not necessarily come from a farming background.

However, about half of the college’s undergrads are from a rural background.

Agriculture studies are also attracting foreign interest with 10 percent of undergraduate and 50 percent of graduate students coming from other countries. China and India lead the way, followed by African nations.

Buhr said agriculture is viewed as a growth industry, which will continue for some time.

“The world is recognizing that agriculture is something we’re going to need for the long term, particularly given all the concerns about climate change and population growth,” she said.

“Virtually all of our graduates get jobs and they get good jobs.”

However, she also said growth brings challenges.

“There’s definitely space issues and there’s some teaching issues,” she said.

“We need spots to get these kids into class and we need good in-structors for them.”

The college is using classrooms across the campus and have added different lab sections. It is also exploring different class times and offering courses online.

“It’s a challenge but it’s a wonderful challenge,” Buhr said.

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