Andy Robinson came into the agricultural industry after a varied career where he worked in everything from building maintenance, to a pottery factory.

After taking a job as a general farm worker, he worked in agriculture for 15 years – including roles managing Kent Wildlife Trust’s livestock on conservation grazing projects, a diversified farm in New Zealand, and hill farming wood pasture in the Trossachs – before returning to education.

The 42-year-old has just been awarded a first-class BSc (Hons) Agriculture degree, as well as winning the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland Silver Medal and the James Anthony Moore Prize for outstanding work in the ‘Topical Issues’ module at the Edinburgh campus.

“Throughout much of my career I never really considered returning to education but following redundancy, I took a job on the farm at SRUC’s Oatridge campus,” he said. “By working closely with students, seeing their passion and drive and the great things they would go on to achieve, I decided that returning to education could open far more opportunities to me than I had once thought.

“For me, the most valuable part of studying at SRUC was having access to such highly qualified lecturers and researchers. The global impact of SRUC’s work was always evident when researching topics for essays and reports, where an author on a scientific paper would also turn out to be someone who’d delivered a lecture previously.”

Between his third and fourth year of study, Andy took a sabbatical to serve as student vice-president with SRUC’s Student Association.

“This was a great opportunity which I will always cherish,” he said. “Not only did it give me the opportunity to represent my fellow students, both within SRUC and the wider student movement, it also taught me new skills which I couldn’t have gained through my course alone.

“It gave me a better understanding of the education sector and how it all works. It also helped me understand the different barriers people may face either while studying or in the workplace.”

Andy, who is originally from Staffordshire and now lives in Edinburgh, has had his own mental health issues to deal with and has been receiving treatment for bipolar disorder. “Although I’ve had bad experiences along the way, while studying at SRUC I’ve always found the help and support I’ve needed,” he said.

“Although this is difficult for me to talk about, I think it’s important to let others who are living with mental health disorders know that they can succeed and surpass their own expectations, just like I have.”

Following his experiences working with students through his roles with SRUC and at the Oatridge campus, Andy is interested in moving into lecturing, or instructing.

“Being able to pass on my knowledge and enthuse the next generation of farmers and agricultural scientists would be a wonderful opportunity.

“However, my year as vice-president showed me there are many other ways to enhance the student experience. While my career path is not yet defined, working in a role in agricultural education is where I want to be in the future.”