The "Old College" – Aberystwyth's first university building
The University of Aberystwyth is looking at whether it could give Wales its first vet school.
No institution in the country currently runs a course with accreditation from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons – but, from 2015, a degree in Biosciences at Aberystwyth will train undergraduates so they qualify for jobs in the field of veterinary science, although they will not be qualified to operate on animals.
However, the university says it hopes the course will be a forerunner for potentially setting up a full veterinary degree in the years ahead. A previous application for funding to set this up was turned down in 2002.
Aberystwyth, which already offers expertise in animal science, has insisted it is keen to make sure Wales’ future veterinary needs are properly met. While those who want to work as vets will need to take further qualifications, the new course could lead to work as an animal care worker, welfare inspector or veterinary laboratory diagnostician.
One Welsh vet said how much she hoped a new veterinary school would eventually be established at Aberystwyth. Gwen Rees, who now works at Bristol vet school, had to leave her home town of Llanelli to study in Liverpool, but would have applied to a Welsh university had that option been available to her.
She said: “As a Welsh student, at the moment, you simply don’t have the choice. Of course, this training is hugely expensive to run.”
She added: “We can play a very important role in helping to meet the challenges and opportunities faced by the livestock sector and food suppliers. This would be of particular benefit to the Welsh rural economy.”
Previously, farmers’ unions have called for more trained vets to care for the volume of animals on Welsh farms in need of treatment. However, given that new vet schools have recently been opened in Nottingham and Surrey, Ms Rees also admits that more vets should not be trained than there is demand for.
She concluded: “At the moment, at least two hundred more vets are going through training, and so of course there need to be enough jobs for everyone.”
The other UK universities currently offering courses leading to vet jobs are Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool and London.