New Year, new beginnings for the Advanced Training Partnerships

Happy New Year everyone, as we emerge from the mountain of recent culinary excess and blinking at the new light of 2017. New year has always been a time to set new goals for the future but this year the Advanced Training Partnerships have been truly radical in their aspirations and commitments…..and this won’t be a resolution that we will have kicked into the long grass by mid-February either.

As you know, there are three Advanced Training Partnerships operating across the UK: Food ATP, Agrifood ATP and Pasture ATP that all launched at the same time five years ago, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Unsurprisingly, we talk to each other rather a lot, and some students have managed to study modules across more than one ATP. However, we have felt for some time that it would be much better for our collective student/participant population if we could operate under a single umbrella that provided a single source of information and streamlined access to all available training. We are therefore extremely happy to announce that we have secured a further £1.5M of funding from the BBSRC in order to unify the three ATPs into a single organisation that will be known as the AgriFood Training Partnership – abbreviated to the AFTP.

The AFTP comprises six core partner institutions: University of Reading, University of Nottingham, Aberystwyth University, Harper Adams University, Cranfield University and Bangor University. We still remain closely associated with Rothamsted Research, NIAB, Leatherhead Food Research and Campden BRI who will continue to assist with delivery of some training. We also have the capacity for affiliate partners, and the University of Birmingham is offering some modules on this basis.

So what does all this mean for our existing and future students? The ATPs as you currently know them will gradually merge their branding so that everyone identifies with the AFTP. However, there will continue to be offices at Reading, Nottingham and Aberystwyth with dedicated tutors who will support students registered for qualifications at each place, in addition to all your normal tutors who support you at the training sites across the consortium every time you register for a course or module. In the future the entire prospectus of available training will be available in one location on a central AFTP website and you will have a single online form to apply for training at any of the partners, thus saving you considerable paperwork. Online training will be accessed through virtual learning environments e.g. BlackBoard and Moodle, as you do now, and specialist tutors at each institution will maintain the course content. One of the big changes is that it will be much easier for you to pick and choose courses from across the AFTP prospectus in order to tailor your training and qualifications to your personal interests. This is potentially complex, since Universities place limits on the number of credits from outside their own organisation that can be counted towards a qualification; however, the AFTP has appointed a senior tutor who has the unenviable job of understanding all the rules in place at different universities so that you don’t have to…. You will therefore have plenty of support to make sure that you follow a training programme that best suits your needs; in our next newsletter we will introduce you to the AFTP operations, management and support teams so you know whom to turn to with questions and queries.

Apart from a more streamlined approach, what other benefits are there to launching the AFTP? As you may have realised, we have been steadily growing our student numbers over the last five years and gradually increasing the diversity of organisations and businesses that students come from. The goal is for the AFTP to be self-sustaining within five years from now and we therefore need to expand deeper into the UK market and make a name for ourselves overseas. It will certainly be much easier to do this as a single brand name rather than as three separate organisations. We are already recognised in some government circles as the ‘go-to’ place for high-level training in the agriculture and food industries, but we are determined to be the name on everyone’s lips in this regard so that we can start to drive policy on training for agrifood and be the organisation that best serves the needs of these businesses.

So…join us in raising a glass to new ventures in 2017 and please watch this space as we will shortly be inviting you to celebrate with us at an AFTP launch event.

Carol Wagstaff

Director, Food ATP/AFTP

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