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GLAS Special: CAFRE – Educating the next generation of horticulturists

BSc in Horticulture Graduation Class 2023

David Dowd, senior lecturer at CAFRE, reviews the college’s last 12 months of activity



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19 July 2023

Greenmount has been delivering horticulture education for over one hundred years. 2023 has been another great year for horticulture at the Campus.

BSc in Horticulture Graduates

In 2021, we revalidated our Foundation Degree in Horticulture and validated a new Honours Degree top-up programme through Ulster University. The provision means that for the first time ever, someone leaving school in Northern Ireland, can undertake a Foundation Degree full time or part time and then move on to top up to a full Honours Degree in Horticulture in one or two years.  The graduation of the first cohort of Honours Degree students on 28 June 2023, marked a milestone in CAFRE’s history. We congratulate these students who have not only excelled academically but been a part of history.

Walled garden, Greenmount Campus

Student achievement

We are very grateful for the support provided by the horticulture industry through bursaries and work placement opportunities. We had five bursary recipients from our BSc Degree and Foundation Degree programmes this year who received generous £1500 bursaries. Another four of our higher education students also secured Ball Colegrave Foundation scholarships in competition with student entries from other British Land based colleges.


FdSc in Horticulture study tour to Leuven 2023

Our annual careers event in February gave students the chance to learn about some of the opportunities for careers and academic progression that are open to them. Stephen Mackle (Lisburn and Castlereagh Borough Council) along with past student Alex Lyttle (Roy Lyttle Vegetables), Sarah Want (More People Recruitment & YPHA representative) and Mike Buffin (National Trust Mount Stewart) spoke of their achievements and career paths to date.

Later in the semester, students were addressed by Diarmuid Gavin who described his extraordinary journey to celebrity garden designer and explained the vision for Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council as a Botanical Borough.

Students took the opportunity to volunteer to help construct Diarmuid’s acclaimed “Coronation Pleasure Garden” in Hazlebank Park, which was officially opened by King Charles III and Queen Camilla with selected CAFRE students and staff in attendance.

At Garden Show Ireland, Higher Education students sold plants they had grown to the public.

Foundation Degree and BSc students also took part in the “Growin” Innovation Network competition. They pitched their horticulture ideas to a panel of judges and two of our BSc students won the competition with their wildflower seeded mat idea. The Foundation Degree students went on a study tour to Belgium. They were hosted by the Irish College in Leuven and visited significant horticultural sites and businesses in the area.

Our horticulture teaching resources are excellent, and we have a new campus currently being planned for completion in 2030. Considering this and with all the exciting opportunities to study horticulture or floristry at Greenmount Campus Antrim, on a full time or part time basis and at different levels in both further and higher education programmes, we are looking forward with confidence to the next 100 years.

If you would like to find out more about our courses, check out our website at

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