VETERINARY schools are finding it increasingly difficult to satisfy standards for the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, the body that ensures and approves the quality of degree courses, a leading academic has warned.
Sandy Trees, professor of veterinary parasitology at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and senior vice president of the Association of Veterinary Teachers and Research Workers (AVTRW), says that veterinary schools are having to provide clinical training with insufficient funds.
Unlike medical schools, which get funding through sources such as the Service Increment for Teaching (Research), paid by the NHS to hospitals to cover the additional costs of teaching in a clinical environment, the veterinary schools have no automatic funding streams other than the funding councils.
"We have to provide a huge amount of clinical training, costing Pounds 11,000 for every student each year. SIFT(R) provides something like Pounds 40,000 per student for medics," said Professor Trees. "I think veterinary faculties are finding it increasingly difficult to satisfy the RCVS."
Liverpool University's school of veterinary science had to be visited twice in 1995 before the RCVS gave its approval.
Chris Gaskell, dean of the Liverpool school, said: "Liverpool is the most recent example of a general problem. Veterinary science has similar costs to medicine with a five-year clinical degree. It needs similar facilities."
Bob Mitchell, professor of applied physiology and comparative medicine at the University of London and a member of the AVTRW council, warned that the problems would get worse: He said:"Much of the increase in numbers has not yet filtered through to the clinical years where there is a commitment to small group teaching and also a longer teaching year."
Ron Jones, president of the RCVS, said that the college was aware of the funding crisis now facing veterinary schools. "Representations have been made to ministers at the DFEE and the Mini-stry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and to the funding councils. Veterinary schools have launched appeals and have raised considerable sums of money from charitable and private sources to try and alleviate this problem. The RCVS would welcome a fundamental review of the funding arrangements for veterinary schools and continues to press the government to undertake effective action."
The future of veterinary education is being investigated by the Selborne committee.