The Veterinary Council of Ireland (VCI) has welcomed the opportunity to identify options to build capacity in veterinary education as part of an expert advisory panel today (Wednesday, February 1).
The appointed panel will review applications of third-level institutions offering to expand or create new veterinary courses as part of a process initiated by the Higher Education Authority (HEA).
A total of 39 expressions of interest have been submitted to the HEA to build capacity in veterinary, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, and medicine across the higher education system in the academic year 2024-2025 or 2025-2026.
The CEO and registrar of the VCI, Niamh Muldoon is among those appointed to the panel, alongside the chief veterinary officer at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), Dr. Martin Blake.
The expert advisory panel will be chaired by the CEO of the HEA, Dr. Alan Wall. The HEA expects to present a list of options for capacity building to government in March 2023.
Following the panel’s work, the HEA will consider opportunities for new programme provision and options for programme expansion, which are currently under review as part of the HEA’s annual budget process.
The VCI will contribute to the assessment of viable education courses, and any veterinary programmes deemed viable by the HEA will then be subject to VCI accreditation processes.
Commenting on her appointment to the panel, Muldoon said: “This presents a great opportunity to enable increased capacity and greater access to veterinary medicine education in Ireland.
“There is a national demand for greater capacity in programmes of veterinary medicine with many talented Irish students travelling abroad to study veterinary medicine.”
Further HEA members on the expert panel include the head of policy and strategic planning, Tim Conlon; senior manager, policy, strategic planning and research, Dr. Deirdre Quinn; and senior manager, system development and performance management, Dr. Victoria Brownlee.
A group of veterinary practitioners calling for a vet school in Munster recently raised concerns that the expert panel must include overseas representative from accreditation bodies.
Despite welcoming the appointment of Muldoon and Dr. Blake, the group said a representative from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) would be useful as “ultimately they will be required to accredit any new school to ensure its graduates can work in Northern Ireland and the UK”.
Group representative James Quinn warned that “any in-house arrangement is not guaranteed to give the best result”.
Calling for a measured approach which properly assesses each college, Quinn added: “We waited a long time for a new vet school, it is essential they get it right.”