Volume 93, Issue 2

Friday, May 21, 1999


Tuition grabs attention of election platforms

Movies on the Wave's menu

First-year concerns plague dissolved council

Structural face-lift for campus bars in the works

Recent study says future looks bright for university grads

Mail-in ballot to determine negotations

Agriculture a trend out West but lags in Eastern Canada



Caught on campus

Agriculture a trend out West but lags in Eastern Canada

By Aaron Wherry
Gazette Staff

University students across Ontario are reluctant to reap the crop of benefits in the agricultural industry their western counterparts are enjoying.

Rob McLaughlin, dean of agriculture at the University of Guelph, said despite measures taken by the school in the early '90s to meet the demands of employers, they now find themselves with below average numbers of enrolment in the area of agricultural studies.

McLaughlin said in the agricultural science program, which can accommodate up to 150 students, only 104 students have registered. Much of the blame, McLaughlin said, lies with misconceptions surrounding this area of study. "We're not making it known to people that agricultural studies doesn't just concern farming," he said.

"The field deals with business, technology, science, finance and many other areas of concentration. Less than five per cent of our graduates start work on farms after obtaining their degrees," he said.

McLaughlin added the situation is different in the western provinces where agriculture as a way of life is more accepted and encouraged.

Ian Morrison, dean of agriculture at the University of Alberta, said the situation has been continually positive for the university. "Our enrolment in agricultural studies is up, due to a number of factors including a strong job market," he explained.

Although the U of A is enjoying popularity in the agricultural science program, Western has no plans to create a similar curriculum.

Norm Huner, chair of the department of plant sciences at Western, said while the university has not established a specific faculty of agriculture, it has created and maintained strong links with the provincial department of agriculture and with the industry. These connections have helped to push students pursuing plant biology degrees towards the area of agriculture, but tradition prevents students from a shift in focus, he said.

"It's the same situation that you will find at the University of Toronto or Waterloo. Historically, you won't find agriculture studied where the primary focus is medical and doctoral science."

Morrison said many of the problems stem from the fact secondary school students in the eastern provinces are not completely knowledgeable of the opportunities agriculture presents.

"The message isn't getting through because their teachers, counselors, communities, etc. just aren't promoting the field. We recently surveyed high school students and found that only one quarter knew a substantial amount about our agricultural program," Morrison said.

Both Morrison and McLaughlin agreed part of the solution can be found by informing university students currently enrolled in science programs that there may be many opportunities available to them in agriculture.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999