Vets not contributing to animal health research

December 12, 1997

UNDERGRADUATE veterinary courses are not preparing students for research. A report by the committee of inquiry into veterinary research says too few graduate vets go into research and the profession is making too small a contribution to the study of the health and welfare of animals.

It calls for the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and universities which offer veterinary science to examine degree content, selection procedures and the requirement to deliver graduates competent for practice, adding that they should concentrate on exposing undergraduates to research. These include intercalated science studies, electives or vacation work in research, or stronger links with university biology and medical schools and veterinary institutes.

The report by the Earl of Selbourne, former chairman of the Agriculture and Food Research Council, adds that veterinary schools are inadequately funded. Because they are required to provide graduates ready for practice, veterinary schools run clinics in a variety of animals, but without the equivalent of National Health Service support. Clinical academics make up the resulting funding gap through more practice, which brings in fees. This means their research is squeezed.

The committee says veterinary schools are "mistakenly solely looking to the government for a solution". It says they should look instead to the "practising profession and main employers of veterinary graduates to accept responsibility for some of the special costs which the higher education system incurs in the process".

The report calls for greater collaboration between individual veterinary schools and the veterinary research institutes. It also recommends that heads of vet schools form an interest group.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, which commissioned the report, agreed to review progress in a year.

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