Agricultural Higher Education in the 21st Century.
A global challenge in knowledge transfer to meet world demands for food security and sustainability

(Zaragoza, Spain, 15-17 June 2015)


The world population continues to grow at about 1.5 % a year. The projected 7 billion for last year was reached and the UN statistics are pointing to 8 billion for 2020. Additionally, emerging world economies are undergoing significant changes in their diet. Therefore, in the forthcoming decades we have to double our food production on less land per capita, with less water, often under limiting and highly variable environmental conditions.

Today in most developed countries, farmers are ageing and fewer and fewer young people are interested in agricultural studies. This is an alarming issue in the OECD countries, where agricultural knowledge is advancing significantly, but whose transfer via the higher education system lags behind. Agricultural studies are not attractive for the new generations of students. This raises concerns about communications, and a gap in understanding between agriculture and society as a whole.

In the non-European Mediterranean countries, as in most other developing countries, there is still interest in agricultural studies for high school graduates but the common challenge now consists of finding a way to complement classical agricultural education with new and emerging techniques.

A major question ahead for all is how to manage the sustainability of the agricultural systems; agriculture undoubtedly needs to increase its productivity while securing the sustainability of the agro-ecosystems. We have to improve the agricultural knowledge transfer system and adapt it to these goals, including new strategies, techniques and incentives to encourage the introduction of production systems and emphasize long-term sustainable goals.

For this conference, we take the widest definition of agriculture, namely the food and non-food value chains relating to agriculture, forestry, food and natural resources, with due regard to rural development and the environment. The conference aim is to exchange ideas and views on:.

  • How can we cope with this problem?
  • How can we attract the new generations to learn agriculture?
  • What kind of teaching is needed to transfer the latest technologies?
  • How can we reach the goals of today’s precision agriculture?
  • How can we support the “from farm to fork” programme?
  • What kind of new communications are needed to pursue societies and decision makers on the importance of agriculture for our sustainability and for our future?
  • What went wrong in higher education for it to lose its former power to attract generations to study agriculture?
  • How can internationalisation help training respond to common global challenges with local solutions? In addition, more questions should be answered.

Thus, the goal of the conference is to convene top-level experts and hold a brainstorming discussion. The outcome of the conference will be recommendations for the future development of curricula in the agricultural and life sciences.

Ignacio ROMAGOSA. Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Zaragoza (IAMZ-CIHEAM)
Ervin BALAZS. Centre for Agricultural Research, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA-ATK)
Ilan CHET. Deputy Secretary General for Higher Education and Research, Union for the Mediterranean (UfM)
Simon HEATH. Secretary General, Association for European Life Science Universities (ICA); Global Confederation of Higher Education Associations for Agricultural and Life Sciences (GCHERA)