Independent Clare TD Michael McNamara has called for a new Veterinary School to be developed on a similar model to the School of Medicine at UL in order to address a growing shortage of vets in large animal practices as current practitioners retire.
In October 2022, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) sought expressions of interest from higher education colleges about creating more spaces for veterinary medicine and veterinary nursing. University College Dublin (UCD) currently is the only third level institute on the island of Ireland where students can study to become a veterinarian.
Deputy McNamara, who will be raising the matter with the Minister For Agriculture during Topical Issues in Dáil Éireann tonight, said, “The School of Medicine at UL was established in 2007 when Ireland was experiencing a chronic shortage of general practitioners. The model developed by the School whereby students primarily received experience in GP practices meant that they were more openly disposed to pursuing a career as general GPs, which helped to maintain the overall number of GPs across the country.”
He continued, “Currently, students at UCD primarily receive their experience at the Veterinary Hospital in Belfield, which inevitably is attracting more students to pursue a career in similar institutes and in research after they have qualified. A new Veterinary School should instead help to steer students towards replacing the veterinary practitioners specialising in large animals, with an acute shortage arising in Munster in particular.”
Deputy McNamara said the development of a second veterinary school in Ireland is critical as there currently are more Irish veterinary students in Hungary (40) and Poland (70) than there are in Ireland.
“581 students had veterinary medicine as their first choice on their CAO form in 2022, but options for progressing to a veterinary school in Ireland are extremely limited with only 85 course places available at UCD each year,” he explained. “The proposed new school must, at its heart, be centred on delivering more graduates into large animal veterinary practices. It is important the HEA’s target of a new school being opened by September 2024 is met.”