Report into veterinary education provides opportunity to discuss solutions in the profession - NZVA

Published on 18 July 2023.

The New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) is reviewing findings from the ‘Rethinking Veterinary Education’ report and will discuss its recommendations with the profession, government, and stakeholders.

Released on Monday, the report suggests that veterinary education is at a crisis point in Australasia and is directly contributing to vet shortages. The report outlines the findings and recommendations of a review into veterinary education, commissioned by Veterinary Schools of Australia and New Zealand (VSANZ). The review was undertaken by an expert panel comprising Dr Helen Scott-Orr AM PSM (Chair), Professor Grant Guilford (NZVA Board chair), and Professor Susan Rhind (UK).

The panel found several factors are contributing to the crisis. VSANZ Chair, Professor Nigel Perkins said: “Issues include growing demand for veterinary services; inadequate funding to meet the cost of teaching programmes and the university operating model; deteriorating wellbeing amongst students, staff and graduates; and salaries that are becoming uncompetitive with other professions.”

NZVA President Kate Hill said the challenges facing the veterinary sector in Australasia can only be solved if all stakeholders contribute to positive change. “The issues encountered by the veterinary schools in Australasia are indicative of broader shortcomings in the education system, requiring a collaborative effort from all involved parties,” she said. “I am optimistic that this report will play a vital role in fostering positive transformation.”

The report makes 25 recommendations directed at veterinary schools, their universities, accrediting bodies, veterinary professional associations, and governments.

Key recommendations include:

  • Establishment of a strategic change fund among the universities to unlock effective veterinary school resource-sharing models.
  • Accelerated efforts to reduce the cost burden of school accreditation, and to move from assessing inputs to outcomes.
  • An increase in government funding for veterinary students, and a clinical training loading for priority areas.
  • Veterinary professional associations and schools explore veterinary apprenticeship models relevant to Australasia and the cost-sharing options that facilitate them.

There are also several recommendations that seek to improve student wellbeing and transition to practice. Others address the capacity of the profession to service rural needs, including emergency animal disease preparedness.

Along with the NZVA, the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) welcomed the report. “The system of educating veterinarians has been adversely affected over decades by various changes in education, fiscal and social policy. It is encouraging to have a set of clear recommendations to help address the issues and pave the way forward,” AVA President, Dr Alistair Webb said.