East Derry MLA Claire Sugden has said the overdue report into the need for a vet school in Northern Ireland needs to be released as soon as possible.
Sugden stated that she has “for years lobbied Executive ministers and Ulster University vice-chancellors to create a vet school in Coleraine,” citing industry and academic demand, and highlighting the unique opportunities offered by the north coast site.
Previous dates for publication – first in September, then early in the new year – have been missed, with the Minister of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs now aiming for ‘early February’.
“I would be very pleased to see this report published in the upcoming days or weeks,” Sugden said.
“I have no doubt that the assessment of the Strategic Investment Board, on behalf of Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University, will be that a vet school here would help meet the demand of students wanting to study the subject and the needs of industry.
“There is no vet school in Northern Ireland and as a result we are unable to meet the demands of industry.
“This was true prior to Brexit, but the new livestock checks that have since been required mean there is an even bigger gap between supply and demand.
“We have many young people here who want to study veterinary science, but in order to do so must travel to Great Britain or the Republic of Ireland.
“We need to have an option for them here and Coleraine is the perfect place.”
Its location in a predominantly rural part of Northern Ireland means access to practical experience is the students’ doorstep, Sugden said.
The creation of a vet school would also demonstrate a commitment to Coleraine’s long-term future.
“Coleraine has seen courses move to other Ulster University campuses, with nothing to replace them,” she continued.
“We often hear that the university is committed to Coleraine, but real commitment must be shown in the support and expansion of existing courses.
“It is not just the university that suffers from a lack of investment. Huge parts of the area’s infrastructure and economy are tied to it.
“A vet school for Coleraine would be a win-win for the university, for Northern Irish agriculture, for students and for the area,” she concluded.