A group of veterinary practitioners has called for the establishment of a second vet school in Ireland amid what it has described as a “chronic shortage” of vets, particularly in mixed practice in rural areas.

University College Dublin (UCD), which is the only institution that offers veterinary courses in Ireland, currently produces less than a quarter of vets needed, according to the group.

The Veterinary Work Group calls for a second vet school in Munster, where students will be provided better education on farm animals, group representative James Quinn told Agriland.

Currently, a lot of Irish students looking to study veterinary medicine go to eastern Europe as there are not enough places available in Ireland. A total of 260 students are currently in Warsaw, however there are also students in Budapest and Slovakia.

“We are hoping that a new school with different methods of student selection and a different method of education, more similar to the new colleges in the UK, will produce graduates that will be more likely to take up farm-animal practice jobs.

“We are all aware of how hard it is to find people to work in large-animal practice, [so] we decided something needed to be done [as] the existing education system is failing to produce the number of graduates that are needed every year,” Quinn said.

The group recently met with Taoiseach Micheál Martin; Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue; and Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris to discuss the proposal.

Following what Quinn described as “very positive negotiations”, the Department of Further and Higher Education confirmed that a meeting between Minister Harris and Minister McConalogue will be arranged.

Veterinary delegation which met Minister Harris on Wednesday, September 21.
L-R: Deputy Kieran O’Donnell; Hazel Mullins; Kathy Enright; Minister Harris; James Quinn; Clare Meade; Ian Fleming; and Shane Guerin

“We are hopeful that an instruction will be given to the higher-education authority to put out a tender for a second school. University College Cork (UCC) and the University of Limerick (UL) are very interested in hosting a veterinary school,” Quinn said.

The group representative and veterinary surgeon based in Co. Clare graduated from UCD in 1987, and said the current shortage wouldn’t have existed when he qualified. He told Agriland:

“The requirement for vets is higher now than it was back in the 80s, particularly with the expansion of small-animal work that is taking a lot of vets. There is a shortage of vets to go into mixed practice in rural [areas] to do farm-animal work.”

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) is “ready to participate” in any discussions and considerations in regard to the proposal, however the approval of any formal proposal would fall to the Department of Further and Higher Education, a spokesperson said.