This post has been prompted by the recent announcement that the University of Surrey plans to open the eighth veterinary school in the UK in 2014. After 50 years of having six veterinary schools in the UK this is the second addition within 10 years, following the University of Nottingham in 2006. From
the outset, the University of Surrey plans to concentrate on areas in which there are demonstrated shortages of vets, such as in livestock medicine, and also on ‘One Health-One Medicine’, a global collaboration between veterinary, medical and environmental sciences focussing on zoonotic diseases. The school will also have a very strong research program.
I was particularly interested in this because issues of both increasing numbers of graduates and shortages of rural vets were raised at the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) conference earlier this year. The BVA clearly has concerns about the former issue. Given the relatively long time taken to complete a veterinary degree and the high level of debt incurred, it must also be of concern that quality students may be deterred from entering veterinary science, to the detriment of the profession. Two of the three new Australian schools, Charles Sturt University and James Cook University, are outside the major cities and have, particularly in the case of CSU, a focus on training vets who will hopefully work in rural areas over the long term. It seems that the UK has taken a somewhat similar path in focusing on areas of need, which is obviously sensible.
Another aspect of the announcement that caught my attention was the mention of leadership. Professor Lisa Roberts comments, “As a research-intensive University we have the expertise, reputation, technical and business skills which our students can benefit from, allowing us to train the veterinary leaders of the future”. In Australia the lack of visibility of the veterinary profession in leadership in public life generally and even in regard to issues in which it should have a central voice, such as live animal shipments, was raised as a significant issue at the AVA conference. I’m unsure whether this is also the situation in other countries but would not be surprised if it is. Kathleen L. Ruby from Washington State University claims that 70% to 80% percent of veterinarians are introverts. Is this perhaps part of why veterinarians as a group seem to be somewhat reluctant to take on leadership positions? If so, will a focus on that aspect at the University of Surrey be able to increase the leadership capacity of its graduates? It will be very interesting to watch where the graduates end up and whether a different focus during their training leads to a greater percentage of veterinarians who pursue careers outside the ‘traditional’ sphere of practice.
What do you think about a new school? I would very much like to hear some opinions.