Higher education institutions from all four provinces have expressed an interest in developing new veterinary courses, the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science has confirmed.

A total of 39 expressions of interest have been submitted to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) to build capacity in veterinary, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, and medicine across the higher education system.

In total, 20 institutions proposed to deliver new courses and 19 institutions are offering to expand on existing courses in the selected disciplines in the academic year 2024-2025 or 2025-2026.

The HEA’s recent call for expressions of interest follows what has previously been described as a “chronic shortage” of vets, particularly in mixed practice in rural areas.

A group of veterinary practitioners, the Veterinary Work Group, has called for the establishment of a second vet school in Munster, according to group representative James Quinn.

The HEA is currently reviewing applications with a view to moving to the second stage of the assessment process, which will involve a review by an expert panel, the department said.

“Overall, responses represent a rapid, nationwide engagement with the call, with expressions of interest in developing new courses in pharmacy and veterinary from all four provinces.

“As the process is ongoing, the HEA is not releasing further details at this point in time,” according to a statement provided by the department.

Vet courses

The department expects that the HEA will be in contact with institutions that submitted an expression of interest to increase their offering or to develop new courses shortly.

The University of Limerick (UL) has confirmed that it responded to the HEA’s call to build capacity in medicine, nursing and veterinary to meet national skills needs.

However, as this process is ongoing, UL said “it would not be appropriate to comment further” in a statement provided to Agriland.

Previously, UL has been described as the “ideal location for a new veterinary college” by a local TD.

Deputy Kieran O’Donnell has been working with the Veterinary Work Group over the past months to promote the establishment of a new vet school in Ireland.