Oldest agricultural university in the world celebrates 175th anniversary

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The oldest agricultural university in the English-speaking world marked its 175th anniversary with a special cake cutting ceremony – with only six people attending.

15th of September marks the ‘official’ 175th birthday of the Royal Agricultural University (RAU); for its first 169 years the Royal Agricultural College (RAC). The occasion was marked with a special cake cutting ceremony, with Vice-Chancellor Jo Price joined by Chair of Governors, John Pain, and Earl and Countess Bathurst.

This small event was held in line with current government guidance with less than six people present – but students didn’t miss out. The stunning cake, featuring a replica of the RAU’s iconic main building, was later portioned out to share with the more than 400 Freshers who settling in to their first term at University in unprecedented circumstances.

RAU_175_birthday_celebration[3]Despite strict social distancing measures, one way systems, blended learning, and domestic bubbles, the first years are not only enjoying birthday cake but also a full programme of specially-adapted Freshers’ Week activities, laid on jointly by the University and the Students’ Union.

Meanwhile, good wishes flooded in from alumni across the globe, in the form of video messages describing what the RAU means to them in just three words. These have been edited together and shared widely on social media.

RAU Vice-Chancellor Jo Price said: “When we launched our programme of 175th anniversary celebrations at the beginning of 2020, we could never have anticipated that it was going to be a year like no other. I am incredibly proud of the way our community of students and staff have adapted to lockdown, and to new ways of working, teaching, and learning.

“As a University, we were also able to contribute to local initiatives such as the Feeding the 5,000 project, supporting vulnerable groups around Cirencester, and accommodating the homeless, while at the same time leading research into how rural communities, businesses, and farms have adapted to the Covid crisis.

“We may be rooted in the Cotswold countryside but our outlook has always been, and remains, truly global. Yesterday, we proudly welcomed our first 300 students who are starting their studies at the new RAU Joint Institute for Advanced Agritechnology at Qingdao Agricultural University (QAU) in China, a major initiative that will help to expand transnational higher education in the land-based sector.

Royal Agricultural University
Royal Agricultural University

“That outward-looking spirit of innovation, resilience and service can be traced right back to our foundation in 1845 when this institution pioneered advances in farming productivity, as more and more people left the countryside for the expanding, industrialised cities. The impact of those who have studied at the RAU since its foundation has been extraordinary, not just in the UK but globally. Equally, it will be our responsibility in the coming years to continue to lead and to innovate and ensure that our graduates can navigate the great challenges of Brexit, climate change, and food security.

“We hope many of the 175 anniversary events we had planned can be re-scheduled in due course, but for now we are reaching out digitally as never before, with webinars, CPD, and lectures. 175 years on from when we welcomed our first students, we continue to adapt and embrace change.

“Happy Birthday, RAU!”

The RAU remains grateful to its 175th anniversary sponsors: Cheltenham-based Creed, the foodservice company, law firm Irwin Mitchell,  and property agents Savills, each of which has partnered the University during lockdown on a number of initiatives benefitting the community and the land-based sector.