The farming industry was already suffering low incomes from BSE before the foot-and-mouth epidemic. Agricultural colleges have mostly responded positively to such changes in the rural economy. Maintaining support for farming is central to their mission, but it is only one part of provision. The two independent land-based institutions have been in the forefront of delivering change and expansion. At Harper Adams University College, undergraduate and postgraduate intake in 2000 and registration at 1,761 were the highest ever. Writtle College can evidence similar increases. Both provide a comprehensive service to the rural sector. A range of outreach activities has led to collaborative activities, particularly with regional development agencies and other colleges.
The country needs a thriving rural economy. Institutions such as Harper Adams, Writtle and the further education agricultural colleges are helping provide this and, with support, can do more.
Principal, Harper Adams University College, Newport, Shropshire
Principal, Writtle College, Chelmsford, Essex