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October 26, 2012

A New Breed of Veterinary Education?



A new vet school, due to be opened in 2014 by the University of Surrey, plans to apply a ‘One Health – One Medicine’ principle to its course structure. They say this means that the links between veterinary and human medicine will be embraced by the school in the development of their course. Initially accepting 25 candidates onto the undergraduate course in their first year, Surrey projects that from 2015 onwards, there will be 100 student places available per annum.

Based at the University of Surrey’s Manor Park site in Guildford, this new vet school will be the eighth in the UK, hot on the heels of the latest addition to the battery in 2006. Before Nottingham, there hadn’t been a new vet school opened in the UK for 50 years. Nottingham University’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science promises to offer a different kind of veterinary course, with practical, hands on, clinical experience from day one. With the inclusion of more diverse subject matters, such as their business stream, Nottingham hopes to produce well-rounded veterinary surgeons that are more adaptable to the modern world that the profession now exists in. By all accounts, the school is going from strength to strength.

Already offering a BSc in Veterinary Biosciences, an MSc in Veterinary Microbiology and with an MSc in veterinary pathology in development, Surrey University has existing strong links with some leading organisations, including the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA). Surrey has been in consultation with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and is planning to deliver the veterinary course through collaborations with key partners, including the AHVLA, the BBSRC Pirbright Institute and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), as well as various local large practices. Students will also be exposed to global issues concerning animal health through the University Global Partnership Network (UGPN), an agreement between Surrey, North Carolina State and São Paulo Universities, offering teaching collaborations, summer scholarships and research exchanges.

Professor Andy Durham of the Liphook Equine Hospital, one of the proposed partner practices to the new school, thinks that Surrey will offer its students “an alternative to the traditional veterinary education”, allowing them to “respond to the demands of a changing profession with fresh plans, ideas and enthusiasm”.

With competition already fierce for new graduate jobs though, is there room in the UK for a new vet school? Lisa Roberts, dean of the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at Surrey, seems to think so. “By targeting areas where there are known shortages of vets in the UK including research, pathology and livestock medicine and tailoring our course in the way we plan to, Surrey University vet school graduates will be a very different type of veterinary graduate.”  Lisa also envisages Surrey being a leading centre of CPD and lifelong veterinary learning, so the existing vet population will also benefit from what Surrey has to offer.

But can any vet school education really stand out that much when the same basic education needs have to be covered and already fill the degree course timeframe in other schools? Or, in order to future proof the whole profession, does a more modern approach to veterinary education, like the one Surrey hopes to offer, need to be adopted?