Special circumstances should make the discipline exempt, veterinary bodies claim
A group of veterinary bodies has pleaded with universities minister Michelle Donelan to leave veterinary degree courses out of a student numbers cap for next year.
In a letter to Donelan dated 11 May, leaders of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, the British Veterinary Association and the Veterinary Schools Council claim that a shortage of vets in the UK could be exacerbated by Brexit as around 60 per cent of recently registered vets graduated overseas, mostly in the European Union.
The group says it is therefore “critical that we greatly increase the number of graduates from UK veterinary schools in the coming years, supported by appropriate funding, in order to reduce our reliance on overseas graduates and ensure a sufficient workforce to support animal health and welfare and public health”.
“A cap on student numbers (even one that allowed a small amount of growth) would therefore be counterproductive,” they write, urging Donelan to include veterinary degrees in the government’s proposed 5,000 extra places for health science courses.
According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the number of undergraduates taking veterinary science courses grew each year from just over 5,000 in 2014-15 to 5,990 in 2018-19. Of those registered in 2018-19, 4,740 were UK-domiciled students.
Student number controls are being reintroduced in England for the 2020-21 academic year for the first time since they were scrapped in 2013. The cap forms part of the “bailout” package from government to help universities through the coronavirus crisis, and will see universities recruiting undergraduates at a “temporary set level” made up of their forecasts for the next academic year plus an additional 5 per cent.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said it was committed to supporting students and the number controls would “stabilise university admissions and safeguard students and staff” during the pandemic.
“We will continue to work with the sector on the range of measures we set out to protect our higher education and will publish further details shortly,” the spokeswoman added.