1883 Australia’s first agricultural college

Roseworthy College 1926. State Library of South Australia

Australia’s first agricultural college was founded at Roseworthy, 50km north of Adelaide in 1883. It was followed in 1886 by Dookie in Victoria, then Hawkesbury Agricultural College in New South Wales in 1891. Queensland’s first agricultural college, at Gatton, opened in 1897.

Roseworthy at first offered a two-year course, leading to a Diploma of Agriculture.  In 1893, this was extended to three years and by 1891 graduates could obtain a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in the fields of agriculture, viticulture and oenology. Roseworthy went on to become a leading educational institution for the Australian wine industry. It became part of the University of Adelaide in 1991, and the wine industry courses have been moved to the university’s Waite Campus. The Roseworthy Campus now concentrates on dryland farming and animal production.

Dookie Agricultural College, near Benalla in Victoria,  initially offered a two-year course. Students had to be male, at least 14 years old and have completed State School education. The three-year Diploma was introduced in 1911. Entrants then had to be 15, with passes in certain Intermediate Certificate subjects (equivalent to today’s Year 10). It is now a campus of the University of Melbourne.

Hawkesbury Agricultural College, now part of the University of Western Sydney, started with 26 students in 1891. It was an all-male college until 1971 when two female students were admitted. At that time the college was still a small, specialised agricultural college with just 285 students. Like most of Australia’s agricultural colleges, it subsequently became a university campus offering a range of courses. Areas of study today include tourism, agriculture and horticulture, animal sciences, food technology, general sciences, nursing, forensic science, medical science, and nanotechnology.

The Queensland Agricultural College opened as a combined agricultural college and experimental farm. This concluded a 20-year debate by farmers and politicians on ways to boost agricultural production in Queensland. It is now the Gatton Campus of the University of Queensland.

The ABC reported in 2013 that teaching of agricultural sciences was in decline, noting that ” in the 1980s, there were 23 campuses around Australia providing agriculture and agricultural science degrees, while in 2011 there were just nine. The problem now is that not enough graduates are coming out with the necessary skills to fill an estimated 4,000 agriculture-related positions advertised each year.”

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