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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Studying ag in Waterford: ‘Female participation has grown to 40% in the last 5 years’

That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Eleanor Kent, Head of Department of Land Sciences, SETU Waterford. They discuss its choice of agriculture, horticulture and forestry-related degree programme, links with Kildalton Agricultural College and opportunities for graduates.

I joined the Waterford Institute of Technology in 2000, which is now together with the Institute of Technology Carlow, the South East Technological University (SETU).

I hold and BSc Hons degree in Food Science and Nutrition from University College Cork, an MSc in European Food Regulatory Affairs from the University of Ulster and a post-graduate Diploma in Business Management from Waterford Institute of Technology.

Moreover, I worked in the agri/food sector for over ten years as a technical manager before joining academia.

I grew up on a dairy farm in Co. Waterford, where both parents took an active role in running the farm.

I am married to a large animal veterinary surgeon and have three children who have studied degrees in different third-level colleges throughout the country.

Why should people consider SETU?

Second-level students and those returning to education should consider SETU land science-related courses because of the small class sizes, the friendly and inclusive atmosphere, the reputation for excellent teaching in practical skills together with our partners, Kildalton Agricultural College, Co. Kilkenny, the College of Amenity Horticulture at the National Botanic Gardens, Dublin and Teagasc Moorepark, Co. Cork.

Our programmes are cross-disciplinary, delivered by staff with first-hand knowledge of agricultural practices, food production, forestry and horticulture practices and management.

Biodiversity, sustainability, the circular economy and organic and regenerative farming and very much to the core of our programmes, ensuring a well-rounded graduate equipped to deal with the current and emerging challenges facing the Land Sciences sector.

SETU, Waterford has been delivering agri/food, forestry and horticulture programmes for over 45 years in conjunction with Teagasc.

These programmes are kept relevant and industry informed by our close association with industry partners in the region.

In 2017, we formally established a Land Sciences Industry Board, which comprises key industry personnel, state agencies, academic staff, researchers and rotating invited guests to participate in discussions on relevant issues for the sector.

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In terms of facilities, on the Waterford Campus site, we have access to a wide range of laboratories to cover modules such as but limited to:

  • Environmental science;
  • Soil science;
  • Wood science;
  • Plant biology;
  • Food analysis;
  • Food formulation;
  • Nutrition;
  • Food processing;
  • Computer applications for land scientists;
  • Applied geographical information systems.

Also, we have access to the facilities and teaching staff at Kildalton Agricultural College, the College of Amenity Horticulture at the National Botanic Gardens and Teagasc Moorepark to cover modules such as:

  • Animal breeding and genetics;
  • Grassland and dairy production;
  • Tillage crop production;
  • Beef and sheep production;
  • Mechanisation and safety;
  • Landscape design;
  • Nursery stock production;
  • Sustainable food production;
  • Food process technology.

The Eco-Innovation Research Centre is on the Waterford Campus. Teaching staff use their research activity to inform undergraduate teaching and open students’ minds to the possibility of furthering their careers in research.

On the West Campus at the Carraiganore site, which is home to the National Biodiversity Data Centre, we have experimental trial plots, a native tree plantation, biodiversity hot spots on the Waterford Greenway and a greenhouse for research and project work.

Also, we have access to the world-famous Mount Congreve gardens, which enriches our horticulture programmes.

The Walton Institute, a National and European leader in Smart Agri/Tech, is situated on the West Campus.

Research conducted here in the area of Smart Agriculture and Digitalisation links back into our undergraduate teaching, ensuring our graduates are informed of new and emerging technologies in the sector.

Students are also given the opportunity to participate in the peer-to-peer mentoring programme, which helps to develop other essential life skills.

Other facilities available to students are the SETU sports arena, Student Life and Learning (SLL), Clubs and Societies, Luke Wadding Library, Maths Learning Centre etc.

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Undergraduate courses

At undergraduate level, we deliver programmes at level 7 in agriculture, food science, forestry and horticulture.

At level 8, we offer the BSc Hons in agricultural science and four add-on level 8 programmes, all of which are BSc Hons degrees:

  • Land Management in Agriculture;
  • Land Management in Forestry;
  • Land Management in Horticulture;
  • Food Science and Innovation.

We also provide a progression route for students studying at various agricultural colleges throughout the country. This offers learners at all levels an opportunity to further their education.

Courses are cross-disciplinary and delivered in conjunction with partner Teagasc colleges and research centres using a blend of lectures, practicals and tutorials.

The forestry programme consists of a large element of fieldwork and field trips.

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All programmes provide an opportunity for students to do either an industrial work placement, farm work placement, study abroad option or a science professional development 30 credit module for one semester.

This is organised in consultation with the placement co-ordinator.

Unique features of our programmes include the development of entrepreneurial and innovation skills in the final year of the level 8 programmes.

Students develop new products, companies or sectorial-specific products/ practices, which are partially assessed by industry, enterprise boards, state agencies and consumers.

The CAO points over the last five years range from;

  • BSc in Agricultural Science: 377 to 589
  • BSc in Agriculture  328 to 543
  • BSc in Food Science  216 to 475
  • BSc in Foresty  243 to 462
  • BSc in Horticulture  271 to 512

All undergraduate courses are delivered full-time and in person so that the student gets the full college experience and can avail of the many student supports and services offered by SETU.


We have Erasmus + Agreements with various colleges across Europe.

Also, students studying agricultural science, agriculture, food science, forestry and horticulture have an opportunity to do a work placement abroad in New Zealand, Australia, America, Europe).

The opportunities for our graduates span a wide range of roles.

Careers for graduates

For agricultural science graduates, student career opportunities are in senior technical positions in the agri-food industry, sales and marketing in agri-business, technical positions in state organisations, and start-up agribusiness.

With further qualifications, graduates are qualified to teach agricultural science.

Graduates of agriculture take up positions in farm management, agri-food cooperative management, managers in meat processing and sales positions in agribusiness.

Moreover, graduates of food science and food science and innovation take up positions as product innovation scientists, quality assurance managers, production managers and sales and marketing managers in the food industry.

Graduates of horticulture programmes have career opportunities to take up roles in landscape design, landscape construction, greenkeeping, fruit and vegetable production and nursery stock production.

Graduates of the forestry programmes find positions in state bodies such as Coillte, Teagasc, DAFM, foresty management companies, sawmills and others.

We offer students the opportunity to go on to do research at a Masters or PhD level.

We have recently developed a part-time taught Masters in Organic and Biological Agriculture supported by the National Organic Trust, which is proving very popular with graduates, state bodies and the industry sector.

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Transferring to other colleges

Students can transfer based on certain entry criteria set by the receiving college (available on receiving college website)

However, students tend to complete their studies in SETU, Waterford, as all land sciences programmes are offered at level 8 or have a route of progression from level 7 to a level 8 programme.

Many students also progress to do an MSc/ PhD in SETU or take up opportunities in colleges such as Harper Adams in the UK and others throughout Ireland.

We accept and welcome international students who meet the entry requirements for their chosen programme.

International students can enrich the learning of our Irish students by sharing different views and experiences.

Why you should study at SETU Waterford

This is a very exciting time to come to SETU Waterford to study agriculture, agricultural science, food science, forestry or horticulture.

We have a new Department of Land Sciences; such is the demand for these programmes in SETU.

I am very proud to say that we very much support equality, diversity and inclusion in the department.

Female participation across programmes in land sciences has grown from approx. 25% to 40% in the last five years.

Some of our students come from non-farming backgrounds, and their contribution and participation in the sector are widely recognised and welcomed by all.

We work very closely with our industry partners through our established Land Sciences Industry Board.

Scholarships and other activities

All programmes are supported at our industry awards day for final-year students. SETU also offers many scholarships for sports, presidents’ scholar awards, travel bursaries etc.

Extracurricular activities such as participation in the Great Agri-Food Debate is encouraged.

WIT currently holds the title and has claimed the title 3 times out of the last seven years.

There are also exciting opportunities to study Agriculture related programmes on the SETU Wexford Campus.

These include the farm management and agri-business course, which you can study at either level 7 or level 8.”

Articles from graduates:

To share your story, email – [email protected]

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