This year’s National Qualification in Agriculture course at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) in Campbeltown was cancelled on only the second day. The full-time practical course was being offered to students for the last time after dwindling numbers in recent times had prompted senior management at the college to pull the plug after this academic year.

With a course target of ten students, a total of seven applicants came forward to study. However, on the day of the enrolment, only three students actually turned up, forcing the course to close. The college is now looking at alternatives to full-time delivery of the agriculture curriculum due to an ongoing downward trend in application numbers.

A spokesperson for UHI Argyll said: “The late withdrawal of the NC Agriculture course is extremely regrettable, and we understand the implications for those students affected. We have offered to reimburse anyone left out of pocket, e.g. for travelling expenses. We continue to view our Land Based Curriculum as critically important to the economy of Argyll. We are developing new learning opportunities to suit the needs of residents of our geographically fragmented region.

“The NC course has been delivered as a hybrid model of live online classes covering theory, and intensive on-farm blocks of practical learning in Campbeltown. Even with this approach, many applicants have withdrawn because of the difficulty of travelling for practical lessons, which is why workplace training options are now being explored. We continue to deliver Rural Skills courses as part of our Schools Link activity, which is critical in attracting young people into the industry.”

The lecturer to run the course is still to be employed as they have other course commitments within the college. No students had permanently relocated to Campbeltown for the course, but some had moved away from home on neighbour islands to attend during the semester. The study was aimed at school leavers and pupils on day release who were keen to start a career in agriculture.