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Established in 1845, the Royal Agricultural College (RAC) was the first centre of agricultural learning in the English speaking world. When it first opened its doors, it admitted only 25 students. Now, around 1,000 students from more than 40 countries take advantage of the College’s unparalleled resources, industry knowledge and teaching within the agricultural sciences.
The Royal Agricultural College offers more than 30 courses across its three schools: the School of Agriculture; the School of Business; and the School of Real Estate and Land Management. The College’s internationally renowned BSc/MSc degrees make good use of the four College-owned farms, state of the art laboratory technology, and modern lecture theatres.
It has 1000-plus acres of farmland, split between the four holdings. One farm combines crop and livestock; one is purely arable; another is pastoral (large-scale dairy); and the fourth, equine. Two of these are working commercial farms. The Royal Agricultural College is certainly equipped, then, to expose students to all of the diverse farming systems and situations that crop up (pun intended!) in the agriculture industry.
Despite these sprawling farmlands, the Royal Agricultural College is compact and has a pretty intimate atmosphere: you will know everyone by the third year, if not the third week.
The Royal Agricultural College is set in stunning parkland on the edge of historic Cirencester in the idyllic Cotswolds. Its buildings aren’t bad either, all Oxbridge-style quadrangles and 16th century conversions: this is a campus university with style. It’s almost completely self-contained: with a Student Union, bar, gym, campus shop, surgery, accommodation; plus the standard medley of lecture theatres, classrooms and laboratories all on campus. Add to that squash courts, 24hr computer rooms and the College library and why would you ever leave?
You aren’t just restricted to the campus. A free shuttle bus connects the College with Cirencester, onetime major Roman city and now touristy market town replete with beautiful cathedral and countless traditional pubs. Who knows; while you are there you might even bump into Princes Charles, William or Harry at the Cirencester Polo Club.
Cirencester is something of a transport hub for the Cotswolds (somewhat oxy-moronic, we feel). There are regular coaches to Heathrow Airport and Victoria Station and trains to London Paddington and Bristol. It’s nearby the M4, M5 and M40 motorways and not far from Birmingham too.
The Royal Agricultural College is able to offer a large variety of accommodation, from standard and shared to en-suite. Accommodation is split into eleven areason campus, seven of which are undergraduate and four postgraduate.
All accommodation offers 24hr security, free internet access, close proximity to the library and lecture halls, and a canteen serving three meals per day, seven days per week. Prices for rooms range from £100 to £205 per week.
Sadly, however, there is only space for 350 students in these halls. So while first year undergraduates can be reasonably sure of getting a place, the majority of students must secure private sector accommodation in Cirencester or its immediate environs. The College runs a lettings website (http://lettings.rac.ac.uk) to make the whole process as seamless as possible, with private accommodation usually setting you back around £80-£90 per week.
The Royal Agricultural College has announced it will charge the full £9,000 fees for all full-time courses (undergraduate and postgraduate) delivered at the College from 2012. Select courses incur additional fees of between £400 (BSc Business Management) and £3,000 (BSc International Equine Management/Agricultural Business Management) for associated international placements and study tours.
Living costs in the Cotswolds are quite high, albeit not as scarily high as living inLondon. In terms of your weekly shop, it’s Tescos versus Waitrose. Telling you something about the area, Waitrose is the larger of the two. For traditional countryside pursuits, the College manages to tack on extra charges for gun storage and even a ‘beagle fee’.
The Royal Agricultural College is a participant in the National Scholarship Programme, as well as running a series of its own awards, bursaries and scholarships. Upon starting their course, all new undergraduates are given a £100 voucher towards the cost of a bike, books, or computer equipment.
Scholarships are wide-ranging and eclectic: there are the usual Outstanding Achievement and Sports awards available, as well as more oddball scholarships, i.e. McCain Foods RAC Scholarships, for those interested in a career in the potato business.
In terms of bursaries, up to £1,695 per year is made available to all undergraduates with a family income below £25,000 (potential for a further £500 awarded on certain criteria). See here for the full range of awards and scholarships, and for financial details.
The 16th Century Tithe Barn bar is the epicentre of the College’s social scene: there are on-going drink deals and themed nights galore. With live music, good ol’ pub quizzes, weekly sports nights, parties and discos, the Student Union keeps a tight ship and a pretty full calendar. And it should, given that students pay a £100 fee upon arrival for the privilege.
The Student Union organises four Balls throughout the academic year, and even arranges coaches to nearby urban centres for a taste of their bright lights. With only a couple of clubs, nearby Cirencester won’t sate your clubbing appetite, but Cheltenham is pretty close and Bath, Bristol and Swindon are no more than an hour away.
One of the Royal Agricultural College’s strengths is its outdoor facilities: it has various football and rugby pitches, tennis courts, a floodlit Astroturf pitch, a cricket green and a clay pigeon shooting range to name but a few. In Cirencester there are further sports halls, a swimming pool, an ice skating rink and golf courses.
In terms of student clubs, there is a staunch Hunt Supporters’ Society, complete with a Master of Beagles, cosily juxtaposed with an Animal Rights society. Then there are the Student Business Club, the Food and Wine Appreciation Society, and the Cinema and Debating societies.
Enough pubs in town for more pub golf than you could shake a 5-iron at, and an active Student Union, ensure there’s plenty going on during Freshers’ Week. It must be said that this is the Cotswolds, and the organised fervour of Freshers’ Week may be one of only a few chances you get to let loose. So make the most of it!
The Royal Agricultural College’s careers service is impressive, most of all for its vast contacts within the gentlemanly Old Boy/Girl network spread throughout the country. It does still offer the usual Careers Service tricks, with three full-time staff on campus and the standard drop-in/careers fairs/lectures calendar.
Furthermore, the various compulsory study tours and overseas placements attached to some degrees are excellent for starting to build your own network, and there is an annual fund of £65,000 (distributed in vouchers worth up to £200) for students finishing their respective programme of study, redeemable at the College’s Rural Skills Centre, aimed at enhancing employability. Finally, the RAC’s ‘100 Club’ focuses on connecting students with some of the major players in agribusiness.