Harper Adams Past and Present
Harper Adams was established in 1901 following a major bequest by local landowner, Thomas Harper Adams. Throughout its history it has been dedicated to the founding principle of ‘teaching practical and theoretical agriculture’, bringing these traditions together in academic practice whilst serving the needs of rural businesses and communities.
Combining applied scientific investigation with the provision of support to industry, from short courses to consultancy, has remained a feature of all the activities the University has developed over the years and has resulted in strong relationships between the institution’s academic work and the business world and its position as a leading UK academic institution in its field.
Today, Harper Adams has an enviable, award winning reputation within the higher education and rural sectors as a centre of academic excellence.
The University has a headcount of nearly 5,000 students, just under 600 staff, a third of whom are academic staff, and a turnover of over £41 million in 2019/20. The University has a national recruitment base with satisfactory student intakes over the last few years. Further growth in student numbers is projected as part of our Strategic Plan, focusing in particular on UK students, a small number of international partnerships, maintenance of our workforce development programmes and growth of our postgraduate community.
National Profile and Reputation
Harper Adams is the leading specialist institution of its kind within the UK, as measured by scale and through a number of key indicators and league tables across the higher education sector. It was ranked in the top 30 HEIs in the UK in the 2021 Sunday Times University Guide, a significant achievement given that this was only the 13th time the University had been included in the full league table. This was also the highest position achieved by a post-1992 university.
The last 10-15 years have been immensely important in the evolution of the institution. Harper Adams became a University College in 1999 and was granted research degree awarding powers in 2006. During this period the institution grew in stature and reputation through the high quality of its teaching activities and the relevance of its research.
We were awarded the only HEFCE-funded Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning for the land based HE sector and some of its activities continue today. A major programme for workforce development, starting in earnest in 2008/09 and financially supported by HEFCE until 2012/13, evolved from our Employer Engagement activities. This continues to be one of the key ways that Harper Adams supports its industry partners to remain abreast of innovation and best practice.
Harper Adams gained University Title in December 2012 and has since developed rapidly as a centre for research with impact and as a major contributor to the supply of graduates for the agri-food chain and related sectors.
Harper Adams, by virtue of its campus and rural location, offers a great experience for its students, whether domestic or from overseas. With some of the strongest ratings in the National Student Survey (fifth in the HE sector in 2020) the community feel of the University underpins its ethos and its student- centred approach.
Whilst Harper Adams has a relatively high proportion of students from lower socio-economic groups in the UK, it also has some of the highest continuation rates and is routinely within the top 20 institutions in sector employability performance indicators.
Broadening the Academic Base
Although its roots lie firmly in the world of agriculture, the University has sought to ensure that it tackles a wider range of subjects of importance to the well-being of rural businesses and communities whilst maintaining its distinctive character and mission. As such, our traditional subject mix has been broadened with new areas such as food, off-road vehicle design, veterinary nursing and, most recently, environmental science, veterinary physiotherapy, veterinary medicine, mechanical engineering and applied zoology. The University is widely regarded as a centre of excellence in land based and rural higher education, as witnessed by the institution being ranked ‘Best Modern University’ by the Sunday Times University Guide in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 and its 2014 and 2019 shortlistings for the title of University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards.
Harper Adams has also sought to extend the international scope of its work at a time when high quality applied science is a critical factor in addressing global problems relating to food supply, environmental management and climate change. The strategic international aims for the university focus on maximising the university’s international presence and reputation with respect to UK government agencies and overseas agencies, institutions and businesses, developing greater cultural diversity in the campus community and maximising internationalisation for the benefit of teaching, learning, research knowledge exchange and graduate employability. Our courses are structured to make the most of the University’s multidisciplinary environment, and each involves a sandwich placement period in a relevant business.
Investment in the Estate
The University farms a 635ha estate in rural Shropshire, made up of owned and leased farmland, all in the local area. The central campus is surrounded by the University Farm, which is an important resource for the institution’s academic activities.
The original purpose-built facilities have been complemented by major recent investments in halls of residence, a new Student Centre in the heart of the campus, a modern dairy unit, the Bamford Library and new teaching facilities such as the Weston Building, the Elizabeth Creak Laboratories and the Agricultural Engineering Innovation Centre. A Regional Food Academy and a Postgraduate and Professional Development Centre were opened in 2009/10 and other smaller capital developments have included additional veterinary nursing facilities and a new Entomology laboratory. Other parts of the University farm and academic facilities have recently been refurbished or are scheduled for medium-longer term investment.
The University partnered with Dairy Crest (now Saputo) in the creation of its £4m Innovation Centre on our campus. The Innovation Centre is the home of Saputo’s 40-strong R&D and new product development team, and is providing a route to collaboration with the company in a variety of fields.
The new Harper and Keele Veterinary School saw a major capital development completed towards the end of 2020.
Development of Research and Knowledge Exchange
Harper Adams receives funding for its research from industry sources as well as from other funding bodies including Innovate UK, the Research Councils and, recently, European research programmes.
In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, all of the University’s submitted research was rated as internationally important and 56% was rated as internationally excellent or world leading.
Our submission to the 2021 Research Excellence Framework is nearing completion. Our research strategy is based on the theme of sustainable agri-food and land systems with particular strands in livestock and crop production and engineering and precision farming and their impact on, and relationship with, the food supply chain, food security, land use and natural resource management. There is a strong emphasis on sustainability throughout our strategy.
The University has excellent infrastructure to support its research including modern laboratories, engineering facilities and ready access to the University Farm, as well as technical staff and a thriving community of postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers. We have also successfully recruited researchers from a number of other leading universities.
We are strongly connected to a wide range of industries and professions that contribute to the rural economy, and are active in knowledge exchange with these organisations ranging from specific short courses to support for business development. We are also engaged in policy matters at national level, including in the area of skills development for the agri-food sector and in other bodies that impact on practice within the industry. With a tradition of providing practical and theoretical education, knowledge exchange is a key component of our work, and is embedded in our teaching and research activities.