Record numbers of students are graduating from equine colleges this summer, but will they be able to secure jobs?

Over the next few weeks, equine students across the country will be donning robes and mortarboards for their graduation ceremonies.

They are among the first students to have paid the £9,000 annual tuition fees, and so will be graduating with huge debts.

So was it worth it? Will signing up for an equine-based education course have set them up on an equestrian career path?

Due to the double-dip recession, unemployment figures previously made for grim reading.

According to UK poverty statistics the unemployment rate for 16-24 year-olds rose from 15% in 2008 to 20% in 2010 (features, 17 January 2013), and competition for jobs was tough.

However, are things looking up? That figure is now at 16.7%, with 735,000 16-24 year-olds unemployed in January to March 2015, down slightly on the previous quarter and down 140,000 on the last year.

There are signs that the industry is recovering, which may bode well for current graduates. H&H reported earlier this year that the equestrian industry appeared to be emerging from the recession, with a rise in spending.

Results from the National Equestrian Survey run by the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) showed that spending in 2014 was £4.3bn, up from £3.8bn when the previous survey was carried out in 2011. This compares to £4.15bn in 2006.

And according to the latest figures from equine colleges the future looks positive.

A recent survey of Royal Agricultural University (RAU) students who graduated in 2014 showed that 98.2% of respondents were in full employment or further study within six months of leaving the university.

RAU vice-principal, Professor Paul Davies, said: “We are very encouraged by this latest survey. Student employment has been high for very many years at the RAU — but the figures this year are particularly pleasing. Employers clearly find RAU graduates attractive, and long may this jobs record for Cirencester continue.”

Employability is one of “the key factors we are asked about by prospective students”, said Jessica Taylor, the RAU’s head of marketing and student recruitment.

The university’s most popular equine degree is international equine and agricultural business management, which includes a five-month work placement and field trips to equestrian businesses in Kentucky, Germany and France.

This summer the RAU has a record number of equine students graduating, and the hike in fees has not deterred applicants.

“Overall our undergraduate courses, which include equine, have recorded a 9% increase in applications this year,” added Ms Taylor.

This compares to an increase of 3% in the number of applications made to UCAS overall.

Olympic boom continues

“London 2012 really shone a light on our industry and the opportunities available, and this has translated into more applications for both our diploma and degree equine courses,” said Rosie Scott Ward, director of equine at Hartpury.

The RAU has expanded its equine department and told H&H it has received increased applications.
And the post-Olympic rise in the number of students studying equine courses has continued at Moulton College in Northampton.

Student numbers at the college, which runs a range of courses from equine therapy to performance and coaching at its jumping and dressage academies, have increased by 18% since the London
2012 Games.

“Our most popular courses are undoubtedly within our jumping academy, particularly our Level 3 extended diploma. This is closely followed by our range of equine rehabilitation and therapy courses,” said Moulton’s press officer.

Half of Moulton’s Level 3 students go on to a university-level course; the remaining 50% go into employment, over half of whom — 30% of all Moulton’s students — enter the equine industry.

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“Moulton College equine students study a variety of courses that allow them to enhance their employability skills. Students have the opportunity to undertake 300 hours of work experience and can develop their skills — on which they are assessed and graded — at our state-of-the-art commercial equine therapy centre. This, coupled with their academic studies, helps to prepare students for the world of work,” said Craig Jackson, assistant director of curriculum at Moulton College.

Moulton currently has 136 equine students, of whom 95 are on further education courses and 41 are in higher education studies.

Applications up for 2015

At Hartpury College the most popular equine courses starting in September 2015 are business and technology council (BTEC) diplomas in horse management (Levels 2 and 3) and degree courses in equine business management, equine science and management, equine science and equestrian sports science.

The college currently has 162 students enrolled on equine programmes at college level, and 327 on equine programmes at degree level. Applications for September 2015 courses are up 10% compared with the same time last year.

This September the college is running a new course in equestrian sports coaching, which is proving popular. Also new is an integrated masters in equine science enabling students to get finance for a four-year masters course.

A new rider performance centre is also opening this September, to give equestrian students more opportunities to apply the theory learnt in a classroom in a practical setting.

Rosie Scott-Ward, of Hartpury added: “There is an increasing recognition within the equine industry and by prospective students that studying for an equine programme alongside gaining practical and work experience is the ideal preparation for a good career.”

More than 70% of Hartpury’s equine business management graduates “are in professional or managerial positions within six months of graduating”, she added.

Eloise Caisley worked for four years as an apprentice saddler at Colne Saddlery after graduating from the BA (Hons) equine business management course at Hartpury in 2010.

“I carried out my work placement at Colne Saddlery and used my experience there as a basis for my third-year dissertation, which focused on updating a business,” she said.

Last June she set up her own bespoke leather goods company after winning a Queen Elizabeth Scholarship.

“Having now started my own business, everything I studied on the business management side has come flooding back,” she said.

Judging by the success of the current crop of equine students, the mortarboards will be flying high this summer as more students celebrate moving from education into employment.

Ref: H&H 18 June, 2015