Shopping for students

I’m doing a weekly shop at Sainsbury’s today.

I’ve got the basics in my online basket and I’m trying to think like a student.  I’m guessing more alcohol, less food.  I should probably take out the distinctively sweet but tart pressed apple juice made from hand picked apples and replace it with a couple of cans of baked beans.

But before I do that, I should probably clarify that I am actually working.

Our KTP project is all about increasing the profile of RHS Science. But this isn’t just about getting our research out to all of you, it’s also equally about getting all of you in – getting you involved and interested in our research and increasing awareness of how important science is to gardening.  At the moment, we’re looking to take on another overseas student for a ten-week placement within our Science Department next summer. This year, we hosted our first student through IAESTE (the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience).  The placement was based within Horticultural Informatics – a brilliant team who we can thank for things like the RHS Plant Finder and Plant Selector, and the placement proved to be a positive experience for all involved.


The process starts off with us putting together an offer of training form.  This details the work we would like the student to get involved in, any requirements or qualifications we would like our student to have, whether we can provide any on-site accommodation and rough living costs per week (hence the online shop).  IAESTE then do all the hard work for us, advertising our placement, selecting the student and sorting out things like visas to get them here and organising exciting social activities for them to do in their spare time once they arrive.  Our last student was great, working closely with our International Dahlia registrar, Sharon McDonald, to help create a searchable Dahlia cultivar name database which should be available on the RHS website within the next 12 months.


Sharon McDonald with our 2011 IAESTE placement student,  Ivona Žinić (left) and dahlias planted (alongside Lobelias, Heleniums and others)  in the Hot Garden at RHS Garden Rosemoor (right). Photographs courtesy of Carol Sheppard and Mark Bolton (RHS).


At any one time, the RHS has around 30 students enrolled in our two-year Diploma in Practical Horticulture.  The students get to spend some time with the science teams learning about plant pests and diseases but we are looking to expand our student population, in particular, getting more of them involved in our scientific research and we actively encourage postgraduate students to complete science projects with us.  Since I’ve been at Wisley, we’ve already hosted Masters students from Imperial College and Reading University, a student from a reciprocal exchange programme with the Garden Club of America and are developing an ever-growing PhD programme.  All this collaboration with universities and other research organisations helps the students complete their postgraduate degrees, adds value to our existing research and also ultimately increases the profile of RHS Science by making more people aware of what we do – the main aim of our KTP project. This, in turn, provides us with further opportunities to secure external research funding which enables us to remain at the forefront of gardening research.


So, I’m busily trying to work out rough living costs for a student.  Only I keep forgetting that this is a student’s food shop, not mine. I could probably leave out the Taste the Difference stonebaked sourdough boule then..

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