Bachelor of Science in Agriculture
The Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, usually abbreviated as either BSc.(Agr.) or B.S.A. or BSc.(Ag.) or BSc. (Hons.) Ag. or Ag. BSc. is the first undergraduate degree awarded by university faculty of agriculture and agricultural colleges. The program is a 4 years course, usually admitted after completing 12th Class. The BSc.(Ag.) degree differs from a general BSc. degree in a way that the course focuses on agriculture by giving importance to practical field work.
The BSc. (Ag.) degree has also some specializations, animal science, plant protection, soil science, agricultural engineering, agricultural economics, agro business etc.
History of BSc. (Agriculture) degree
In Canada, the Ontario Agricultural College (founded 1873) began awarding a three-year B.S.A. degree through the University of Toronto in 1888: a fourth year to the program was added in 1902.
In the United States, the Morrill Act of 1862 (also known as the Land Grant Act) had a large influence on the rise of agricultural education and the spread of the B.Sc.(Agr.) degree. By the early part of the 20th century, all the agriculturally important states had at least one college or university awarding the B.Sc.(Agr.) degree.
BSc.(Ag.) in India
India has one of the world’s largest agricultural education system with 42 State Agricultural Universities (SAUs), 1 Central Agricultural University (CAU), 5 Deemed Universities (DUs) and 4 general Central Universities with Agriculture faculty. These institutions enroll on annual basis about 15,000 students at UG level in as many as 11 disciplines and over 7,000 students at PG and 1700 at PhD level. At any point, there are over 75,000 students studying in SAUs. In addition to this, there are large number of private colleges both affiliated and non-affiliated to SAUs which also annually admit larger number of students. Many general universities also offer agricultural education either themselves or through affiliated colleges. Agricultural education is a broad term which includes disciplines of Agriculture (Agronomy), Veterinary Science, Forestry, Fisheries, Horticulture, Home Science etc.
Agricultural education in India is presently regulated by Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Veterinary Council of India ( Veterinary sub-discipline) and Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (Forestry sub-discipline). However, The ‘Committee to Advise on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education’ (Yashpal Committee, 2009) has recommended setting up of a constitutional body – The National Commission for Higher Education and Research, which would be a unified supreme body to regulate all branches of higher education including agricultural education. The UPA government has included Yashpal Committee recommendations in its ‘100 days agenda’. However, inclusion of agricultural education in the new framework is still undecided.
Features of the Indian BSc.(Ag.) degree
The BSc.(Ag.) degree in India is typically a 4-year course under credit based semester system. The minimum qualification for entry to BSc.(Ag.) is Intermediate (12 years of school education) in Science (with Physics, Chemistry, Biology and/or Mathematics) or Intermediate in Agriculture stream (limited states). The curriculum is very broad and inter-disciplinary consisting of courses in Agronomy, Horticulture, Plant Pathology, Entomology, Agricultural Economics, Extension education, Genetics and Plant Breeding, Soil Science, Food technology, Animal Husbandry apart from supporting courses in Basic Sciences, Humanities and Agricultural Engineering. The program also includes a compulsory 1 semester of internship (Rural Agricultural Work Experience). Most of the courses are infused with practicality with emphasis on ‘hands on’ experience and ‘learning by doing’.
Prior to 1998, the BSc.(Ag.) degree was known as BSc.(Ag. & AH) ( AH-Animal Husbandry) and evaluation was on a 5-point scale. Since 1998, it has been designated as BSc.(Ag.) and the ‘AH’ part has been transferred to BVSc (Bachelor of Veterinary Sciences), which is now designated as BVSc & AH. However, BSc.(Ag.) still retains courses in Animal husbandry and nutrition. Also, the 5 point evaluation system was replaced with a 10-point system. The provision of ‘optional’ in 7th/8th semester was also done away with in 1998.
In 2006, ICAR has recommended to re-designate BSc.(Ag.) as BSc. (Hons.) Ag. and return to ‘optional’ system in 7th/8th semester.
Like, BE/BTech, MBBS or BVSc&AH, BSc.(Ag.) is considered as a ‘professional’ degree by Government of India. However, in recognition to its 4-year duration, B.Sc.(Ag.) holders are given some benefits like- higher stipend than BSc holders in DBT supported post graduate courses in Biotechnology etc. For the Gazetted post like Agricultural Officer (Agronomist), the basic educational requirement is BSc. Agriculture.