UCD and the Irish agriculture and food development authority, Teagasc, signed an agreement at the end of 2011, which formalised their long-standing relationship and solidified the continuation of their co-operation in research and training.
A joint working party of representatives from both UCD and Teagasc, chaired by former I.F.A. Secretary General Michael Berkery, produced the ‘National Agricultural Research, Education and Innovation Partnership’, which was signed by UCD’s Dr. Hugh Brady and director of Teagasc Professor Gerry Boyle.
The programme sees the centralisation of UCD and Teagasc’s efforts under the leadership of a board staffed by three UCD and three Teagasc officials, chaired by an external, independent, chairman in the person of Michael Berkery, with UCD’s Professor Maurice Boland acting as Director.
Teagasc had already played an active role in the training of post-graduates prior to the new agreement, in the form of the Walsh Fellowship training scheme, of which a Teagasc representative maintains UCD were the major beneficiaries. This training scheme saw Teagasc staff actively involved in the education of students alongside the UCD faculty, which the new scheme aims to expand and solidify as a permanent feature of the UCD-Teagasc partnership.
Teagasc and UCD have previously worked together and so the aim of this agreement is to “strengthen the relationship, putting in place structures that will ensure that the relationship will work much better and that the two organisations will work together both for the betterment of the students in the education area and also for the betterment of Irish Agriculture” according to a Teagasc spokesperson.
The decline in available resources experienced by UCD and Teagasc as a result of the economic downturn played a major role in the development of the partnership, which sets out for wide-scale pooling of resources such as personnel and facilities. For example, both Teagasc and UCD have few researchers in the area of sheep farming, so the teams were combined to launch a focused programme last October. A similar solution is being looked at in the area of pig farming, where both bodies have few workers.
A Teagasc spokesperson explained that “it will ensure that we work closer together, where there are gaps we work together to fill those gaps, that we share equipment, that we share laboratories, we share all of the state-funded facilities that we both enjoy. There is an onus on state-funded organisations to be more efficient and effective in how they do their business; Teagasc and UCD are responding to that.”
Teagasc will have an input into the planning of degree courses in UCD, while the University will in turn have input into the planning of Teagasc activities. According to a spokesperson, this will allow Teagasc to “bring their knowledge and expertise as an input into the planning of courses in UCD into the future”.
A similar agreement was signed between Teagasc and University College Cork two years ago.