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Royal Agricultural University
Royal Agricultural University

The Royal Agricultural University (RAU) is a university in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England. Established in 1845,[4] it was the first agricultural college in the English-speaking world.[5] The university provides more than 30 land-based undergraduate and postgraduate programmes to students from over 45 countries through the School of Agriculture, the School of Business and Entrepreneurship, the School of Equine and the School of Real Estate and Land Management.


The Royal Agricultural University was founded as the Royal Agricultural College in 1842,[6] at a meeting of the Fairford and Cirencester Farmers’ Club. Concerned by the lack of government support for education, Robert Jeffreys-Brown addressed the meeting on "The Advantages of a Specific Education for Agricultural Pursuits".[7] A prospectus was circulated, a general committee was appointed and Henry Bathurst, 4th Earl Bathurst was elected President. Funds were raised by public subscription: much of the support came from the wealthy landowners and farmers of the day, and there was no government support. Construction of the main building, in Victorian Tudor style, began in April 1845 and was designed by S. W. Daukes and John R. Hamilton, and built by Thomas Bridges of Cirencester.[8] The first 25 students were admitted to the College in September 1845.

Queen Victoria granted a Royal Charter to the College in 1845 and sovereigns have been patrons ever since, visiting the College in every reign. His Royal Highness Prince Charles became President in 1982.

The College gained full university status in 2013 and changed its name accordingly.[9] It had 1,280 students in the 2016/17 academic year[1] and saw a 49% rise in applications between 2008 and 2013.[10] The Royal Agricultural University was named the safest university in the South West in 2013,[11] and is ranked top in the UK for spending on facilities.[12]


The University operates three farms close to the campus:

  • Coates Manor Farm is predominantly arable cropped with some pasture land.
  • Fossehill Farm provides polo and hunter livery stabling and associated exercise facilities.
  • Harnhill Manor Farm was purchased in 2009 and with Coates Manor Farm totals[13] 491 hectares (1223 acres) of land. The farm was managed organically for many years but all the land apart from the outdoor-pig unit was taken out of organic management. The farm carries a 150-sow outdoor pig herd, managed as a joint venture with a business partner, alongside a 350-ewe breeding flock. Arable cropping is rotated with forage crops grown to support the livestock enterprises.[14]

In 2011, an old sheep shed at the front of the farm complex was turned into the 'Rural Innovation Centre' a building designed for the training of students and members of the public in vocational skills such as rough-terrain forklift truck driving, blacksmithing, chainsaw and welding course, etc. The building cost £1.2 Million to transform.[15] The RIC was officially opened in March 2014 by Sir John Beddington and the site was visited in November 2013 by HRH Prince Charles.


The University has a range of sports facilities on campus, including a gym, an all-weather pitch, and squash and tennis courts. Students participate in a wide range of sports including; clay pigeon shooting, cricket, equestrian, field sports (hunting, fishing and shooting), football, golf, lacrosse, hockey, netball, polo, rugby, rifle shooting, tennis and yachting.[16]

The Royal Agricultural University is just one of three remaining British universities (the others being the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford) to maintain their own beagle pack. Founded in 1889, the RAC Beagles is run by the students who whip in and hunt the hounds, and until the 2004 hunting ban, hunted hares in the countryside around Cirencester.[17]

The University competes in the BUCS League.[18]

Enterprise and entrepreneurship

The Royal Agricultural University[19] provides students with world class entrepreneurial extra-curricular activities. These activities include weekly inspiration and developmental sessions, a vibrant student enterprise society and an entrepreneurship programme titled: Think It, Try It, Launch It, Grow It.

This programme culminates with The Grand Idea competition, whose winners of the last ten years are:

  • 2009 - Lucy Woodthorpe & Adriana Vaux; Skeefs
  • 2010 – Charlie Hancock; Vermtek
  • 2011 – Katie Vincent; KV Studios
  • 2012 – Abi Erian; Poseidon (business has been sold)
  • 2013 – Sophie O’Meara; Sophie Cotton Art
  • 2014 – Ellie Sear; Cuprum
  • 2015 – Lewis Steer; Lily Warne Wool and Dartmoor Shepherd
  • 2016 - Jen Winnett; Find My Saddle and Jen Winnett Art
  • 2017 – Luke Craven; BiJimini
  • 2018 – Alex Dunn; Farm Pack
  • 2019 – Constantin Huet; Pre-O

Royal Agricultural University students also have the opportunity to be part of a team running one of the three student-led businesses which provide excellent skills development opportunities while running a real business:

  • Muddy Wellies – launched in 2007 a craft ale and cider which 10p from every bottle sold goes into the RAU’s First Steps fund to help students start their own businesses.
  • Cotswold Hills Wine – launched in 2017, Cotswold Hills white wine is produced from the grapes grown on our vineyard just outside Cirencester. Students have the opportunity to get involved in almost all aspects of the process from vine to retail. As with Muddy Wellies, proceeds support students develop their own concepts.
  • Cotswold Hills Honey – launched in 2018.

The unique proposition globally, which sets us apart from Universities is the development of entrepreneurial leaders. To achieve this the Business School is developing a progressive and connected community of practice in management, business and entrepreneurial education that delivers thought leadership for the long term future of our land, the rural economy and its supply chains. The Royal Agricultural University's Business School also has a strong curriculum emphasis on student entrepreneurship education with the aim of developing the agricultural entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs of the future. Their approach to entrepreneurship and small business management is based on practice informed by theory, undertaken in an experiential learning environment where students engage with agri-entrepreneurs, their businesses and our local rural entrepreneurial ecosystem. All students have access to the Growth Hub[20], Farm491 and Rural Innovation Centre to further develop their business idea both as students and after graduation.

The university has been recognised a number of times, most recently being shortlisted for a Guardian University award 2018 in the Enterprise and Employability category.


In the REF 2014, the university came 29th and last in the UK for Agriculture. Some of the staff have been evaluated in the Research Assessment Exercise which recognised the importance of their research at national and, to a lesser extent, international levels.[21]


The university library holds around 40,000 print volumes, nearly 1,000 current journal subscriptions, more than 40,000 e-books and a growing number of full-text databases. The main collection is supplemented by a support collection and a historical collection of texts, primarily on agriculture and estate/land management, dating back to the 16th century. The library also holds the RAU archive, a collection of documents relating to the institution since its foundation.


The patron of RAU was until 1982 the current reigning British monarch, at which point Prince Charles, the Heir apparent to the British throne, took on this role.[22]

Notable people

  • James Buckman - professor of geology, botany, and zoology from 1848 to 1863.
  • John D. Custance - professor of agricultural science in the late 1870s, later was responsible for establishing Roseworthy Agricultural College in South Australia.[23]
  • John Scott, on the staff shortly from 1880, later became known as a tractor pioneer.
  • Sir Emrys Jones, former chief adviser to the Minister of Agriculture from 1967 to 1973, and director of the Government's Agricultural and Development Advisory Service (ADAS), was Principal of the college from 1973 until 1978. He described his time at Cirencester as the most enjoyable period in his life.[24] In 2011, a new teaching facility at the college was named in his honour.[25] For university applicants with a connection to Wales, a scholarship has been set up that carries the former principal's name.[26]
  • Edward William Prevost Professor of Chemistry 1879 to 1881 then retired to be a farmer
  • John Wrightson (1840-1916), founder of Downton Agricultural College

Royal Agricultural University graduates have won a number of awards and prizes, including the Farmers Weekly Young Farmer Of The Year Award (James Price 2009[27] and Adrian Ivory 2008[28]).

Notable students from the institution include:

Arts and Media





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