University status for Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester

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Yesterday, the Royal Agricultural College declared that, following the announcement by the Minister for Higher Education extending the use of the title of ‘university’ to higher education institutions with more than a thousand students, it will be applying to the Privy Council for University status and will hence become the ‘Royal Agricultural University’.

The Royal Agricultural College was the first agricultural college in the English-speaking world. Queen Victoria granted the Royal Charter to the College in 1845 and His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales became President in 1984. The change in name will be a big step and I personally have mixed feelings as to the action.

I have had it mentioned to me by a past student of the RAC/U that there may be problems regarding numbers of students and University status. After all, numbers of entrants will have to remain above the higher level, and perhaps the courses available expanded to retain the much coveted ‘University’ status.

On the one hand I agree that adding the word ‘University’ as opposed to ‘College’ gives the institution a certain sense of ‘greater importance’ on a more international scale. However, anyone who knows the College respects it for what it is anyway. Is a name change really necessary? If the RAC/U are looking to draw in new entrants then this may be a clever marketing plug but that is, I believe, all it can be. I for one part will continue to look on it and call it the RAC or simply ‘Cirencester’. However, I don’t think that this is a big enough story for there to be widespread protests over the change. I wish the institution a bright future under its new appellation.

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