Writtle College is part of a landmark project to transform the teaching of agriculture in Uzbekistan.
The £752,000 EU-financed project over the next three years sees the College working alongside four European partners and five Uzbek universities to re-design the curriculum in the country.
The College – which has been teaching agriculture for more than 120 years - was commissioned by the European Union to represent agricultural teaching in the UK and will look at the undergraduate and postgraduate training in the former Soviet country.
This will encompass new curricula for degree and Masters levels, a new PhD school, improved teaching, enhanced cooperation between universities and businesses as well as quality assurance policies to ensure teaching meets European standards.
The project has been launched in order to react to the changed needs of the labour market in Uzbekistan after transition, adapt to the globally changing conditions and the need for sustainable development, plus the need for ecological and economically sustainable farming.
Henry Matthews, Senior Lecturer in Agriculture and Farm Management – is coordinating Writtle College’s involvement in the project and has recently returned from Uzbekistan.
He said: “For Writtle College to be involved in this major EU project and to represent UK agricultural teaching is a major achievement and is testament to the established reputation we have in the sector both at home and overseas.
“The purpose of the Tempus project is to redesign the agriculture curriculum in Uzbek universities to make their graduates more employable and more useful for their country. It involves us delivering training in the country and their staff coming here and to other areas of the EU to see what we do in seminars and workshops.
“The curriculum and the methods of teaching in the country need transforming to embrace the change in the sector internationally and within Uzbekistan. As a former Soviet country, the economy has been based on the state telling what farmers should produce and when. We are giving the lecturers the ability to train their graduates in a more market-orientated way so they make decisions based on science and economics rather than what they are told by the government.
“At the moment the country’s main crops are cotton and wheat. The curriculum reform will therefore also look at issues of sustainability - as water is a big issue, particularly with a thirsty crop like cotton - as well as the use of cultivations and artificial inputs.”
Mr Matthews said that two of the modules currently taught at undergraduate level at Writtle College are likely to be adopted in Uzbekistan - Farm Enterprises & Diversification and Crop Quality Assurance & Markets – as well as the postgraduate module on Sustainable Resource Management.