Alarm over plans for Nottingham vet school

July 9, 2004

Nottingham University unveiled plans this week to create the first new veterinary science school for half a century - only for the representative body for vets to question the need for another school.

Nottingham plans to open the school, which would be the UK's seventh, and admit its first 100 bachelor of veterinary medicine degree students by autumn 2006. The school, with teaching and research facilities, will be based at the university's Sutton Bonington campus, which already houses an experimental farm and dairy.

Nottingham heads argue that the school will meet a national and regional demand for qualified entrants into veterinary science, which attracts over 1,500 UK applicants a year for 700 places.

But the British Veterinary Association warned that workforce researchers believe there is likely to be an oversupply of graduates in the profession by 2008.

Tim Greet, president of the BVA, said there was "clear evidence" that demand for farm animal vet practice had been shrinking while the existing vet schools had been taking on more undergraduates.

"That means there will be an oversupply of veterinary science graduates in the near future, and the last thing we need is another vet school," he said.

Professor Greet said there was a feeling in the profession that if the Government and the funding council wanted to put more cash into veterinary training, it should put it into existing schools. There was also concern that a new school would struggle to fill posts because of a depleted pool of qualified staff.

He said: "While there are lots of reasons why Nottingham might see itself as an attractive venue for a new vet school, it does not have the clinical teaching staff it needs. That means it will have to have an innovative relationship with private practitioners or it will have to poach staff from other schools."

Peter Rubin, former dean of Nottingham's medical school and leader of the team that planned the new school, said workforce predictions were "notoriously difficult" but there was reason to believe that Government legislation on food safety and other issues would boost demand for vets.

The university felt that the BVA's objections were "not sufficiently robust" for it to change its plans, he said.

The BVA asked whether the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons would recognise Nottingham's graduates. To practise as a vet, graduates must be RCVS members. Graduates from existing schools become members automatically.

Freda Andrews, RCVS head of education, said it would be up to the Privy Council to decide on advice from the RCVS whether degrees from the school would qualify graduates to become members.

The first set of graduates would pose the biggest question, she said. "What we will probably do is work closely with Nottingham so that we would in effect control the final exams. There will be a mechanism whereby graduates will have a route to membership."

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