Askham Bryan College is now laying claim to being the biggest land-based agricultural college in the north of England following a large-scale expansion programme.
Nine months ago the York-based college acquired the renowned Newton Rigg College at Penrith in Cumbria and now finds itself able to recruit students from across the north west as well as the north east of England.
The college’s principal, Liz Philip, said turnover at the college had increased to £24.7m from just £9.5m during 2007 as a result of the college’s expansion in the past five years.
And, at a time when higher education institutions are witnessing a fall in applications from students put off by higher tuition fees, Ms Philip said that applications for September were looking “quite favourable”.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, she said: “Since we took on Newton Rigg things have been going very well. We are investing in a new dairy unit which will be able to house 460 milking cows which we hope will develop a contract with major supermarkets.
“It will be a £1.9m investment and work as a very high welfare unit.”
The dairy unit at Newton Rigg was highly renowned until 2001 when the herd had to be culled after becoming infected by Foot and Mouth.
Some of the cattle that will be used to restock it will be supplied by the well-known Dalesend herd of pedigree dairy cattle at Patrick Brompton, near Bedale.
“We now have a very large catchment area, right up into the north east as well as the north west, across Yorkshire and pretty much all of northern England.” Ms Philip added that the new college, given its geographical location in the Lake District, was ideal for providing training and education regarding upland farming.
“Our network is now pretty massive. We can provide training in pretty much every aspect of farming now across our various bases.
“We have students who look to spend time across the various campuses. If you are on a hill farm in the Lake District you will work a great deal with wet weather farming whereas in the Vale of York things tend to be very dry.”
As well as York and Penrith, Askham Bryan College now has campuses in Bedale, Bradford, Guisborough, Harrogate, Thirsk, Wakefield and Scarborough.
The number of students studying farming and other rural-related matters at Askham Bryan has increased massively in recent years, something Ms Philip attributes to large increases in interest in the farming sector.
“Student growth has been massive, we are three times the size we were four years ago.
“That only comes about through a lot of hard work and having a high quality of staff. At Newton Rigg, we have recruited as many students as we had at the start of last September, and we still have six months to go until the start of term.”