VETERINARY schools face becoming more elitist unless the government gives more financial support to students, according to heads of veterinary schools, writes Julia Hinde.
Students face paying tuition fees for each of their five years of study and the heads are lobbying the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to offer students bursaries and fee relief, which are to be available to fifth-medical and dental students from the Department of Health.
Lance Lanyon, chairman of the Committee of Heads of Veterinary Schools and principal of London University's Royal Veterinary College, says this is the latest example of vets losing out.
"MAFF has never accepted that it has any similar responsibility for veterinary education," he said.
"We fear vets will be left trying to emulate the quality and breadth of medical education but without the NHS, without the SIFT support to run teaching hospitals and now without equivalent assistance with tuition fees."
With veterinary schools looking increasingly to small animal practice to generate money to support teaching, Professor Lanyon fears students will be pushed towards specialising in such work. It may become increasingly difficult to find those interested in working with large animals and in food safety and veterinary public health.
"This is such a popular subject we may not notice a decline in application numbers, but it may mean our students come from a less wide mix," he said. "Veterinary science is already dominated by white middle-class girls."
A spokesman for MAFF said it had no plans to help with fees in the coming year.