Royal Agricultural University (Redirected from Royal Agricultural College)

Royal Agricultural University
MottoLatin: Arvorum Cultus Pecorumque;
(from Virgil's Georgics)
"Caring for the Fields
and the Beasts"
Established2013 - University status
1845; 179 years ago (1845) – College
PresidentCharles III
Vice-ChancellorProfessor Peter McCaffery
Students1,125 (2019/20)
Undergraduates1,015 (2019/20)
Postgraduates110 (2019/20)
51°32′35″N 1°59′42″W / 51.54306°N 1.99500°W / 51.54306; -1.99500
Chair of Governing CouncilDame Fiona Reynolds
Royal Agricultural University logo
National rankings
Complete (2024)73

The Royal Agricultural University (RAU), formerly the Royal Agricultural College, is a public university in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England. Established in 1845, it was the first agricultural college in the English-speaking world. The university provides more than 30 land-based undergraduate and postgraduate programmes to students from over 45 countries through the School of Agriculture, the School of Business and Entrepreneurship, the School of Equine and the School of Real Estate and Land Management.


The Royal Agricultural University was founded as the Royal Agricultural College in 1842, at a meeting of the Fairford and Cirencester Farmers’ Club. Concerned by the lack of government support for education, Robert Jeffreys-Brown addressed the meeting on "The Advantages of a Specific Education for Agricultural Pursuits". A prospectus was circulated, a general committee was appointed and Henry Bathurst, 4th Earl Bathurst was elected president. Funds were raised by public subscription: much of the support came from the wealthy landowners and farmers of the day, and there was no government support. Construction of the main building, in Victorian Tudor style, began in April 1845 and was designed by S. W. Daukes and John R. Hamilton, and built by Thomas Bridges of Cirencester. The first 25 students were admitted to the college in September 1845.

Queen Victoria granted a royal charter to the college in 1845 and sovereigns have been patrons ever since, visiting the college in every reign. King Charles III became president in 1982.

The college gained full university status in 2013 and changed its name accordingly. It had 1,125 students in the 2019/20 academic year and saw a 49% rise in applications between 2008 and 2013. In 2021 the RAU expanded with the creation of a Cultural Heritage Institute based in Swindon.

The university moved up 22 places in the Complete University Guide 2024 coming in at number 73. Of the 130 universities listed it was joint third in achieving the highest change in rank position. The RAU also ranked in the top 10 universities in the UK for the best student experience and was the highest-ranking university in Gloucestershire, according to the Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023.


The university operates two farms close to the campus:

  • Coates Manor Farm is predominantly arable cropped with some pasture land.
  • Fossehill Farm provides polo and hunter livery stabling and associated exercise facilities.

Harnhill Manor Farm was purchased in 2009 and with Coates Manor Farm totals 491 hectares (1,210 acres) of land. The farm was managed organically for many years but all the land apart from the outdoor-pig unit was taken out of organic management. In 2011, an old sheep shed at the front of the farm complex was turned into the 'John Oldacre Rural Innovation Centre' a building designed for the training of students and members of the public in vocational skills such as rough-terrain forklift truck driving, blacksmithing, chainsaw and welding course, etc. The building cost £1.2 Million to transform. The JORIC was officially opened in March 2014 by Sir John Beddington and the site was visited in November 2013 by Prince Charles.


The university has a range of sports facilities on campus, including a gym, an all-weather pitch, and squash and tennis courts. Students participate in a wide range of sports including; clay pigeon shooting, cricket, equestrian, field sports (hunting, fishing and shooting), football, golf, lacrosse, hockey, netball, polo, rugby, rifle shooting, rowing, tennis and yachting.

The Royal Agricultural University is just one of three remaining British universities (the others being the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford) to maintain their own beagle pack. Founded in 1889, the RAU Beagles is run by the students who whip in and hunt the hounds, and until the 2004 hunting ban, hunted hares in the countryside around Cirencester.


In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, 52% of the university's research was classed as 3* or 4* meaning it is world-leading or internationally excellent. In addition, half of the university's scientific publications were deemed to be of international quality. In Research England's Knowledge Exchange Framework, the university was grouped into the STEM cluster – small specialist universities in medicine, science, and engineering – ranking second out of the nine institutions in the cluster. The university was recognised as having very high or high engagement in five of the seven criteria on which it was judged.


The university library holds around 40,000 print volumes, nearly 1,000 current journal subscriptions, more than 40,000 e-books and a growing number of full-text databases. The main collection is supplemented by a support collection and a historical collection of texts, primarily on agriculture and estate/land management, dating back to the 16th century. The library also holds the RAU archive, a collection of documents relating to the institution since its foundation.


In April 2023, the university was criticised by animal rights activists after students tied a dead fox to the roof of a car during a charity event.

Similarly, on the 29th of March 2023 it was reported by Channel 4 News that the Royal Agricultural College Beagles were allegedly hare-coursing - an act that has been illegal since 2005.


The patron of RAU was until 1982 the current reigning British monarch, at which point King Charles, the then heir apparent to the British throne, and current King of the United Kingdom took on this role.

Notable people


  • James Buckman – professor of geology, botany, and zoology from 1848 to 1863.
  • John D. Custance – professor of agricultural science in the late 1870s, later was responsible for establishing Roseworthy Agricultural College in South Australia.
  • John Scott, on the staff shortly from 1880, later became known as a tractor pioneer.
  • Sir Emrys Jones, former chief adviser to the Minister of Agriculture from 1967 to 1973, and director of the Government's Agricultural and Development Advisory Service (ADAS), was principal of the college from 1973 until 1978. He described his time at Cirencester as the most enjoyable period in his life. In 2011, a new teaching facility at the college was named in his honour. For university applicants with a connection to Wales, a scholarship has been set up that carries the former principal's name.
  • Edward William Prevost, Professor of Chemistry 1879 to 1881 then retired to be a farmer
  • George Stephen West (1876–1919), professor of natural history 1899–1906
  • John Wrightson (1840–1916), founder of Downton Agricultural College
  • Mark Horton, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research & Enterprise from 2021
  • Cassie Newland, Senior Lecturer in Cultural Heritage, Director of the Cultural Heritage Institute


Royal Agricultural University graduates have won a number of awards and prizes, including the Farmers Weekly Young Farmer Of The Year Award (James Price 2009 and Adrian Ivory 2008).

Notable students from the institution include:

Arts and Media





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