UL criticised for failing to develop agri-related courses by farm group

The ICMSA has criticised University of Limerick for failing to develop any agri-science or agri-economics faculties as part of its latest €224m capital spend plan for 2014-18.

ICMSA president John Comer said his group has met with UL representatives in 2011, and had pointed out UCD is the only university in the state offering a course in subjects directly applicable to farming — the country’s biggest economic activity, in which in excess of 150,000 people were directly or indirectly employed, and responsible for almost €9bn in exports annually.

“We pointed out that UL was situated ‘slap bang’ in the middle of the most intensive dairy regions on the planet and yet had not even a single interaction with farming or the processing or, for that matter, the specialised economics or marketing necessary to complement the technical excellence of our dairy farmers.

“We thought we’d made our point and UL seemed to understand the opportunity we were highlighting.

“We tried on several occasions to progress the matter with them but, despite increasingly feeble protestations of interest, they really never seemed to understand either the huge opportunity on their doorstep or the national and regional imperatives to get into this relatively untapped and nationally strategic area.”

Mr Comer acknowledged the excellent food-related courses offered in UCC and in some of the institutes of technology, most notably in Waterford.

However, he said UL has missed out on an opportunity to partner with the ICMSA’s nearby head office in developing targeted courses for dairy farming.

Mr Comer said the ICMSA would have been willing to fund specific dairy-related projects or research and incorporate postgraduate work into its own policy papers.

This, he noted, would have been very timely given the imminent growth expected for dairy farming with the abolition of the EU’s milk quotas due in April 2015.

“UL has our best wishes but we cannot help but think the money allocated to another world class 25 metre swimming pool or more world-class flood-lit training pitches might have been better employed being allocated to founding a world-class faculty that would give the world-class education in agri-science and agri-economics to the young talent we need to lead our world class farming and food sectors forward. The failure of vision we have seen here represents an astonishing missed opportunity for UL, the mid-west region and, not least, our flagship dairy and food sector.”

A spokesperson for University of Limerick noted that the €224m detailed in the Capital Development Plan 2014-2018 related to funding for capital projects and did not have any relation to funding for the provision of courses. Senior university executives were not available for comment at the time of going to print.


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