Built to last: Reading & Barclays celebrate 50 years of collaboration

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Barclays has teamed up with Reading's leading School of Agriculture, Policy and Development to help shape the next generation of agricultural managers.

By U2B Staff 

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Who says relationships never last? One university-business collaboration is showing that simply isn’t true as the University of Reading and Barclays bank celebrate the landmark 50th anniversary of their partnership this week.

The student-led Barclays exercise has been running successfully since 1969 and, somewhat surprisingly, is not in a subject area you might expect from one of the top five biggest banks in the UK.

Rather than teaching finance or giving students experience trading stocks, Barclays has teamed up with Reading’s leading School of Agriculture, Policy and Development to help shape the next generation of agricultural management experts.

In a project that benefits all parties, students are partnered with local farm businesses with a set task to address real-life problems the farm is experiencing. In most cases, these problems will require bank borrowing – this is where Barclays’ interests come in.


Students are challenged with finding innovative entrepreneurial strategies that will solve the farm’s problem and secure funding from the bank to do it. Not only do the students learn valuable skills in agricultural management, but the farm ends up with a workable solution to their business issues.

“Students learn really significant lessons and receive considerable benefit from this opportunity,” Professor Peter Dorward, current convenor of the Barclays venture at the University of Reading’s School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, told the Reading Chronicle.

“They learn how to develop business cases, what banks are looking for, and how to interact with clients; key skills for their future careers. It’s about making plans and recommendations in an imperfect world.”

There’s no need to take the university’s word on how beneficial the programme has been, after all, there are literally thousands of happy customers given its 50-year history.

Going all the way back to 1978, alumna Neil Walker remembers his first experience of the Barclays venture and the knowledge he gained, which he has carried through into his professional life.


“It gave me a better understanding of how to put a proposal to a funder, and how to treat sources of funding as another asset,” Walker said.

“The most important lesson from the experience was the confidence to consider possible business proposals in an objective manner. This exercise is very important to anyone planning to be involved in business.”

As the manager of his family farm business in Oxfordshire and Gloustershire, Walker cannot recommend the Barclays exercise enough. Given his knowledge of a working farm, he knows better than anyone how open the farming industry is to innovative and out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to solving some of their trickiest problems.

Walker has also been involved as a client in Barclays’ project three times and has seen the benefits from both sides.

From Walker’s accounts, it seems certain what Dorward says is true: “This module is one that ex-students tell us that they never forget!”