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For Equine Vets Everywhere

Employing overseas Veterinary Graduates


Under European law, veterinary graduates from EU veterinary schools who are EU nationals (and with community rights entitlement, including Switzerland) may register with the RCVS to work as Veterinary Surgeons in the UK under the Registration of EU Graduates Directive 2005/36/EC. 

BEVA believes employers should be aware of the potential differences in veterinary graduates from other member states and should consider these when employing veterinary surgeons. These factors include language skills, clinical experience through clinical extra mural studies and independent accreditation of the veterinary training through the European Association of Establishments for Veterinary Education.

BEVA also believes that employers have a duty to ensure that all employees have the required level of linguistic and clinical skills to enable them to undertake their role effectively and to assure the delivery of safe care to animals and the public. While employers should not discriminate based on nationality, language or place of graduation, they can consider all forms of evidence when making decisions about whether or not an applicant has appropriate skills for the role.


The RCVS DO NOT currently set English language requirements for those with a recognised qualification from nationals of an EU member state as described above, however they have established minimum requirements based on the IELTS English language qualification for non-EU graduates. 

Article 53 of Directive 2005/36/EC states that migrants should ‘have a knowledge of languages necessary for practising the profession in the host member state’. BEVA believe that the standard set by both the GMC for doctors and the RCVS for non-EU nationals is an appropriate standard for most veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses working in the UK.

While we recommend an explicit statement in a job specification (example below), employers should consider equivalent experience or qualifications so that they comply with EU employment law. This may include: completion of higher education in the UK or in a recognized institution abroad that is taught in English, other language test results (other than IELTS), work in an English speaking country or in an organization in which communication was in English. The NHS has a useful guide on the subject that can be accessed here (click to access). To facilitate comparison of other English Language requirements a description is included at the end of this document

Example role specification description: Applicants who’s first language is not English should have evidence of fluency in the English language that can be equivalent to an IELTS score of 7.0 in each category (reading, writing, listening, speaking) with a total score of at least 7.5

Note: This example statement is based on current GMC requirements. The RCVS have recently increased their standard for non-EU nationals to 7.0 in each category but without a total test score.


The UK veterinary profession is proud of the provision of CEMS and in membership surveys have reaffirmed its strong support that this should continue in its current form. As such, BEVA believes that employers should be aware that the requirement to undertake 26 weeks of CEMS is unique to UK and Ireland. When employing recent graduates from veterinary school from other countries employers can require evidence of 26 weeks of clinical training outside their curriculum with a specific requirement in the job specification; an example is shown below.

Example role specification description: Applicants who do not have at least 12 months of relevant experience in clinical practice who have not graduated from the UK or the Republic of Ireland must provide evidence that they have undertaken at least 26 weeks of clinical training in clinical practice outside of their University. 


Although each veterinary school in Europe will have national accreditation, this does not allow comparison between veterinary education. The European Association of Establishments of Veterinary Education EAEVE undertakes such standardization. A number of veterinary schools within Europe have either failed to achieve this standard, or have failed to undergo accreditation and therefore no external validation of the quality of the teaching can be established. While members should not assume that such graduates are inherently inferior they may want to undertake further checks when comparing graduates from these institutions to those from EAEVE approved/accredited schools.

The European Board of Veterinary Specialisation requires that candidates for European residencies must have ‘a veterinary degree from an EAEVE-approved veterinary school, unless exempted from this obligation by the Credentials Committee’. Members employing residents or running internship programs where progression to residency is considered a marker of the programs success should be aware of this limitation. 

The Common European Framework defines 3 basic levels of language proficiency that are each further subdivided:
A Basic User

A1 – Beginner: Can interact in a simple way (eg introduction of themselves) provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help
A2 – Elementary: Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters

B Independent user

B1 – Intermediate: Can deal with most situations likely to arise while traveling in an area where the language is spoken
B2 – Upper intermediate: Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialization

C Proficient user

C1 – Advance: Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes
C2 – Mastery: Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in the most complex situations

There are several English language qualifications used to assess UK English. Although they are not directly comparable standard guides of equivalence do exist and are summarized below. Readers are encouraged to review the detailed descriptions on each website. Other testing methods are available and can be related to the Common European Framework.

IELTSwww.ielts.org this is often used in academic settings and by professional bodies. Scores are of equal value and the total is an average of reading, speaking, writing and listening. BEVA endorses the minimum requirement set by RCVS of 7.0 in each category, but recommend setting a higher overall score requirement of 7.5 in-line with some UK universities and the GMC.

TOEFL (IBT) www.ets.org/toefl/institutions/scores/compare/ Scores for each part do not divide exactly to make comparisons and therefore you are recommended to review the comparison table to assess each component. An IELTS of 7.5 is equivalent to a TOEFL of 102-109 and a IELTS of 7.0 equivelent to 24-26 in reading and listening, 23 in speaking and 27-28 in writing.

Cambridge ESOL English: www.CambridgeESOL.org Cambridge English have 3 levels of qualification:

The Certificate in the Proficiency of English (CPE) is a level C2 (mastery) qualification where grades A-C represent level C2. Candidates who score between 45-59% are awarded a C1 level qualification. Although these do not directly map to IELTS scores the assumption is that a score of 55 is equivalent to an IELTS of 7.5

Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) is a level C1 qualification where a score of 74 (Grade B) is equivalent to an IELTS of 7.5 with a candidate profile indicating GOOD performance in each section.

Cambridge First Certificate in English (FCE) is a level B2 qualification, although a grade A is equivalent to an IELTS of 6.5 but does not compare to IELTS of 7.5

Europass: Europass is a standardized European CV template that concentrates on Skills and Qualifications. This includes a self-assessment of language competency or a European Language Passport (ELP). While the ELP helps employers to understand both qualifications AND/OR experience in the use of English it relies upon self-assessment of language proficiency. As such this should not be seen as substitute for formal language qualifications. 

C2  9.0 118   80 - A  93
8.5 115   75 - B  87
8.0 110   60 - C  80 GRADE A (80-100)
 C1 7.5 102  (55)#  74 GRADE B (75-79)
7.0 94 (50)#  67 GRADE C (60-74)
6.5 79   45  58
 B2 6.0  60    52
5.5  46    47
5.0 35    41
 B1 4.5 32    36
4.0 <32    32


Table showing approximate equivalents of common English language qualifications. An IELTS of 7.0 is considered appropriate for employment requirements. # indicates approximate equivalence. Other qualifications exist and should be compared to the CEFR (Common European Framework).