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November 25, 2013

New Vet Schools –Hindrance or Help for the Veterinary Profession?

A recent discussion with a colleague who graduated about twenty years before me from the same vet school got me thinking about the vast changes that have occurred in veterinary education and the profession in a relatively short space of time. I was reminded of the lively debate which I attended at the recent BEVA congress, in which over 70% of voters disagreed with the motion, ‘This house believes that new vet schools will benefit equine veterinary practice in the UK’.

This is mirrored by the topical discussion forum lead by the BVA a few weeks ago which looked at employment trends and the predicted future for new graduates. Add this to the rumors of even more vet schools on the horizon in Wales and Northern Ireland and the future of the veterinary profession looks like the number one topical issue currently. All of this got me wondering what opinions were outside of the equine spectrum and should we really be worrying about an oversupply of vets?

Since graduating in 2012, I have heard many a tale from peers of the difficulties they faced when seeking their first job. Typically, the fear of being left without a job leads to panic-buying into the first one that comes along, which often ends in distinct difficulties not too far down the line. I have recoiled in horror at some of the situations that my friends have landed in. It seems unfair that dedicated, competent young professionals who have worked relentlessly for over a decade at school, spent five or more unforgiving years studying hard at university and racked up thousands of pounds worth of debt to get the job of their dreams are being repaid with scarce job opportunities  or roles worthy of Watchdog investigation.

Ok, I paint a pretty bleak picture and in reality many do end up in well-supported roles with excellent prospects and have a long and fulfilling career. However, many of the ‘lucky’ ones are often overworked, underpaid and haven’t had an easy ride to get to get to said fulfillment.  The challenge used to be getting in to vet school but it now seems that getting a job at the other end is the tricky part. This shift is seemingly being propelled by the opening of the new vet school in Surrey and the expanding year groups at existing universities. The worry is that we will be churning out more vets than we have jobs for.

At congress, I spoke to an array of equine vets on the subject and a few practice owners made the point that there was increasing competition for new graduates in the form of vets from other countries coming to the UK to work. One practice owner explained to me that he was thinking about hiring and that cost was by far his largest concern. He said he couldn’t justify employing a new graduate who was likely to cost him money in the short term, when he could employ a more experienced foreign vet with good English for an equivalent salary. I understand his dilemma but it does fill me with dread about what’s in store for new veterinary graduates in the future.

There are a whole host of arguments for and against the motion which were compellingly put forward during the debate – read about some of what was said at http://vetreport.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/industry-believes-new-vet-schools-arent-needed-in-the-uk/

What do you think – is the new Surrey University vet school going to bolster the veterinary learning experience and boost standards? Can the same be said if this trend for opening new vet schools continues? Or will it do the veterinary profession a disservice and leave new grads in particular scraping the bottom of the job barrel? Thoughts on a postcard…