Muresk funding axe slated by businesses

Rueben HaleThe West Australian
Muresk Old Collegians’ member Graham Storer with disgruntled Charles Sturt University agribusiness students Matthew Richards and Jarrod Barton.
Camera IconMuresk Old Collegians’ member Graham Storer with disgruntled Charles Sturt University agribusiness students Matthew Richards and Jarrod Barton.

Two WA agriculture businesses have accused the State Government of “short-sightedness” over a decision to stop subsidising the Charles Sturt University agribusiness degree at Muresk.

Bayer CropScience and Primaries of WA are concerned about a shortage of graduates with agribusiness skills in the likely demise of the Bachelor of Agriculture Business Management course, which has been taught for the past four years at Muresk’s on-farm campus, and includes crop, livestock, and business management.

In a joint statement this week, CSU and Central Regional TAFE said from next year, students could no longer enrol in the BABM course at Muresk directly and instead will have to apply to CSU’s Wagga Wagga campus in New South Wales. CSU will also be responsible for marketing the course.

Bayer CropScience regional sales manager Craig Pensini, who is a Muresk graduate, said the University of Western Australia, Murdoch University, and Curtin University didn’t offer courses like Muresk, which developed sales and business acumen compatible with a sales role at his company.

“UWA is specifically training people for jobs in agricultural science and research, and the other two are not unique to agribusiness,” he said.

“A Muresk graduate on the other hand, ideally with a few years industry experience, is well-equipped for an agricultural sales role when they come to us.”

Primaries of WA general manager Andrew Lindsay sent a letter to Minister for Education and Training Sue Ellery urging her to reconsider the decision to cease funding the CSU course.

He said tertiary agricultural institutions had been in decline over the past 20 years and, despite being expensive to run, they were a vital part of cyclical rural commodity markets.

“We only have to look at the current booming agricultural markets across Australia, mainly wool, beef, and sheep, to see that this industry plays a vital role in our national economy,” he said.

“In 2014 the Farm Institute discussed the trend of universities favouring high volume courses that attract overseas students compared to degrees in areas such as agriculture that do require a high level of resourcing.”

Mr Lindsay said Primaries of WA, as part of the broader Ruralco network, employed more than 2000 people nationally.

“Each year we hire graduates and trainees to enter the agricultural industry,” he said.

“Over the past three years, Primaries have sponsored an annual scholarship to the value of $5000 for a third-year student at Muresk.

“We have done this as we believe the Muresk course provides students with an excellent foundation for a career in agriculture.

“We have been fortunate to not only sponsor this award but also employ graduates of this degree into our business.”

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