A new veterinary school for the UK

Veterinary symbol

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.



About rebekahmcbrown

I am a veterinarian with a special interest in instructional design and developing eLearning in the veterinary and medical areas. I write teaching materials for both face-to-face and online learning as well as writing and editing articles.
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2 Responses to A new veterinary school for the UK

  1. eye in the sky says:

    The British government report re-emphasised the situation in Australia regarding rural veterinarians: there is no shortage, just low demand for rural veterinary services:

    “The economics of farming is leading to less use of veterinary services and is further reducing the attractiveness of large animal practice”

    The idea of increasing the number of graduates will likely lead to a worsening of veterinary sustainability and prohibit talent from entering the profession like you have suggested.

    On the leadership issue, it is likely this is a selection issue rather than a training issue as suggested by the Australian Doctors’ Fund, Dr Helen Beh:

    “I also argue that the emphasis on social sciences may be misplaced because of the role of personality in human interaction. There’s evidence that our personalities are pretty much set like a jelly by the time we are in our 20’s and some people would argue they are set like a jelly from the time we are born. All the teaching in the world about how you interact with your patients and so on – you might know what you should be doing but whether you can do it is another question entirely.”

  2. rebeccatudor says:

    I am concerned about the increasing number of veterinary students and very concerned about the mountain of debt they are coming out of school with. There is word that a new veterinary school is going to open up in Buffalo, NY on top of about every veterinary school increasing enrollment. I have a feeling that the same students who would apply to the traditional schools in the UK will be applying to the new school. Times have changed and I think we need to rethink how to do things because I firmly believe in another decade there will be WAY more veterinarians than needed which is going to create decreasing salaries and limited opportunities. These same veterinarians probably will not want to do the rural work that makes up the void trying to be filled. Honestly, I am not sure if there is such a void of rural vets in the US and we have been led to believe. I would be very concerned about going to a rural area because there must be a question about the long term sustainability in these areas. Hope that makes sense!

    Great topic

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