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New £5.8m agricultural teaching centre to be built in Gloucestershire

The Royal Agricultural University (RAU) has won £5.8million of funding to upgrade its teaching facilities in Cirencester.

The money from The Office for Students will be used to build a Land Laboratory Teaching Centre on the ground floor of the existing Frank Garner lecture block.

It will replace the Gloucestershire university's ageing wooden laboratories and provide an integrated, state-of-art, facility to train students in climate-smart, resilient agriculture and land management.

The university also hopes to create a wet laboratory extension as part of the project, where experiments involving chemicals and other potentially hazardous substances can be handled.

Professor Peter McCaffery, RAU vice-chancellor, said: "These new labs will help to ensure that the Royal Agricultural University plays a crucial role in tackling global challenges like climate change, biodiversity and food security and that the University is able to engage a growing and diverse range of students and practitioners in that mission.

"It will help us to ensure students and learners from all backgrounds and abilities, especially those from disadvantaged communities, can be at the forefront of resolving climate change and the goal of a sustainable world."

Awarded in the OfS's Capital Funding Competition, the funding is the maximum amount available to any institution under the scheme.

Professor McCaffery said it demonstrated the OfS's confidence in the RAU's direction of travel. He added: "This award is a tremendous fillip for us that will markedly enhance the delivery of our curriculum, the quality of our students' learning experience, and the development of our research, as well as our ability to recruit students and staff."

The RAU has been at the forefront of agricultural education, research, and innovation for more than 175 years.

It has around 1,100 undergraduate and postgraduate students studying subjects ranging from agriculture, rural land management, and rural policy, to sustainable food systems, real estate, cultural heritage, business and entrepreneurship, and equine science.

The project will also enable the RAU to build on its success in employability, enterprise, and local partnerships supporting economic growth - through Farm 491,the leading agri-tech incubation and innovation space in the UK, the successful Catalyst investment, and with other local and regional initiatives.

Professor McCaffery said: "Agriculture, farming and land management are technical, skilled occupations. More needs to be done to equip a new generation of young farmers to address the challenges we face and this new centre will offer practical, hands-on experience for all students, bringing subjects to life beyond theoretical concepts via real world applications."

The University plans to complete the new teaching centre between August 2023 and March 2024. The wet lab extension will require planning permission but the University hopes to complete that in the summer of 2024.

The University's old wooden lab block will be demolished to create a village green at the centre of the main campus.

It is the second education institute in the county to receive OfS funding. The University of Gloucestershire also won £5.8m which will be used to build a specialist three-storey facility at the Park Campus in Cheltenham.


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