NFU Mutual’s Charitable Trust Postgraduate Bursary
Thanks to NFU Mutual, last year Craig Simpson, who lives and works on the family farm in Dirleton, East Lothian, received a bursary for 75% of his course fees, for his Masters in Agricultural Professional Practice.
Here he talks about how winning the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust Postgraduate Bursary, ‘The Centenary Award’ in 2016 has influenced his outlook and his career.
Who or what encouraged you to apply for the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust Postgraduate Bursary when you did?
I saw an advert in the farming press, advertising the bursary. I didn’t really think I would have a chance of being successful but thought it was worth a shot and thankfully I was selected.
How did you find the application process?
The application process was hard but enjoyable. The original questionnaire asked a wide range of questions and it really got me thinking. I just tried to be as honest as I could. The trip down to the NFU Mutual HQ in Stratford-upon-Avon was also an eye-opening experience – I knew they were a big company, however I was very naive as to how many people were employed and the scale of operations down there.
Why do you think you were selected?
I think one of the main reasons I was selected was because I am ambitious. I let the selectors know how I thought the bursary and course would benefit me and how I thought this would help me meet my career ambitions. Often, I think it’s not always about achievement but about goals and ambition – people don’t always succeed the first time but if they always keep an eye on their goals they have more chance of reaching them in the end.
How do you feel that the bursary has benefited you in the longer term?
It has benefited me in more ways than I would have ever expected. The bursary itself has allowed me to attend a range of different events, such as the Agri-Food Charities Partnership Student Forum. These events allow me the opportunity to network with like-minded individuals and think outside the box a little, and I would have never have been given these opportunities without the bursary.
What specific lessons have you taken from your experience that you will carry forward into your career?
I have found the MSc course to be completely different to my undergraduate degree. The part-time nature of the course means that I have to be a lot more efficient with my time as I still have to work on my family farm. However, I have found that the studying keeps my brain alert and I really enjoy it! The Agricultural Professional Practice coursework is also very different to my undergraduate course in Agriculture, as it focuses more on management and business planning as opposed to my undergraduate course, which was slightly more practical and based on production systems.
What would you say to those considering applying in future years?
Don’t hesitate and just apply! I doubted that I would receive the bursary, but I did and I haven’t looked back since.
Why do you believe that the NFU Mutual Centenary Award bursary scheme is an important one?
Most students complete their undergraduate then go straight into work due to financial reasons or needs. The bursary allows people such as myself to carry on with their education through financial assistance from NFU Mutual. In the long term, this is only going to be beneficial for the wider industry as well as my own career.
How do you feel about the role of young people within the agricultural industry?
I think young people are now cementing themselves with an important role in agriculture. With Brexit on the horizon, the industry is listening to all opinions, and if young people in the industry are proactive and have their voices heard then they can help shape the future of British agriculture.
What else do you think could be done (by NFU Mutual or by others) to assist young people in their agricultural careers?
I think the NFU Mutual and other rural bodies should widely advertise the varied and exciting opportunities within the industry. Some farmers are often too quick to put a negative spin on the future, and so somebody needs to highlight the positives of entering a career in the sector. There are so many opportunities for young people, even during periods of uncertainty, and they should be grasped.
The Centenary Award was first launched by the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust in 2010 to celebrate NFU Mutual’s 100th birthday, and many young people have benefited from the support to help fund their studies.
This award aims to give outstanding agricultural students the opportunity to continue their studies. It is about giving support to young people wanting to make a difference to both farming and rural communities.