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Future food leaders from around the world benefitting from a European exchange – University of Reading

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Future food leaders from around the world benefitting from a European exchange

Release Date 19 December 2019

International students enjoying the award-winning Whiteknights campus

Students from around the world are getting one of a kind experience to tackle issues in food industry through multidisciplinary approaches.


Students from 80 countries around the world have already begun benefitting from a new programme that links leading European universities.

The new EIT Food European Food Systems Education and Training (EFSET) provides students a free-to-access link between leading food and agriculture institutions, the University of Reading and the Universities of Turin and Hohenheim.

Each year, the programme will give students from around the world based at the three participating Universities opportunities to learn from and work with peers on challenges facing the sector including climate change, food waste and healthy eating.

Dr Harley Pope, the University of Reading said:

“We know that the global food system faces massive challenges including the threat of climate change. We also know the impact of political changes that are isolating UK institutions from the European fraternity and their abilities to collaborate more widely.

“Effective collaboration is essential to address many food system challenges, because the nature of these problems is that they often transcend disciplinary, organisational and national boundaries.  We therefore need to consider this when it comes to training up what we hope will be the next generation of food system analysts and change agents.

“EFSET is a critical way for us to continue to partner with European institutions to tackle the increasing challenges that food systems in the UK and Europe face. We are very much looking forward to working with leading institutions in Italy and Germany on this programme.

“At the University of Reading, we have a strong academic track record on the whole of the food system, from farm to fork. With strengths in agriculture, climate science and food sciences, we can bridge the gaps between different disciplines to ensure that the UK and European food industry is better equipped for the future.”

Among the students taking part in the scheme, Zeina El Khatib from Lebanon is taking part in the course while studying for an MSc in Food Security and Development.

Zeina joins 200 students from more than 80 countries including in focusing on the problem of growing food insecurity around the world, and has already taken part in taken part in two workshops on food system challenges and practical systems thinking tools.

Zeina El Khatib said:

“I feel that the issues of sustainable farming and sustainable food production play a major role in the future of food and farming.  And I’m quite hopeful that maybe if all agents in the food chains, if they start thinking and acting sustainably, then we can reach the target of zero hunger by 2030.  I know that this may be too optimistic maybe, but I think that sustainability is a really important issue and there should be a big focus on it.

“One of the biggest challenges about tackling problems in food is that everything is interconnected, so taking a systems approach [through the EFSET course] has been very beneficial for problem solving.  It can helps us relate things to each other and make problem solving easier.”

Dimitrios Paraforos, of the University of Hohenheim, said:

“EFSET provides a unique opportunity to link our universities up towards exploring pragmatic solutions on future food systems challenges. We are very much looking forward to welcoming to Hohenheim students and colleagues from the University of Reading and the University of Turin. Let the journey begin!”

A particular highlight of the programme is its support for pan-Europe student mobility. In March 2020 it will provide University of Reading students with the opportunity to travel to Turin to meet their Italian peers and participate in an EFSET weekend workshop on innovating in the food system.  

Luca Cololin, of the University of Turin, said:

“Increasing international collaboration, increasing the numbers of international students, and fostering interaction with European and non-European Universities is key factor for the University of Turin.”

EFSET builds upon the approach of IFSTAL (Interdisciplinary Food Systems Teaching and Learning programme), an extensively tested food systems training programme in the United Kingdom with four years of experience and over 1,500 participants. The new programme is funded by EIT Food and supported by the EIT, a body of the European Union.


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