The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) lends its broad support to the recommendations made in Simon Hughes MP's 'Report to the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister from the Advocate for Access to Education', published yesterday (21 July 2011), and gives a warm welcome to the acknowledgement by Mr Hughes that long courses such as veterinary degrees will require particular attention if access is to be widened.
On 22 March 2011, the then RCVS President, Peter Jinman, together with representatives of the British Veterinary Association, attended a roundtable discussion with Simon Hughes MP to identify where the veterinary profession considered that Mr Hughes should focus his work so as to ensure access to the profession remained open to all. Following this meeting, the College liaised closely with Mr Hughes and his team to highlight areas of concern and to provide information on the initiatives already in place to widen access to the veterinary profession.
Commenting on the Report, RCVS President, Dr Jerry Davies, says:
"The RCVS has serious concerns that perceptions of the new student fees system may have a particularly adverse impact upon veterinary education and discourage students from less affluent backgrounds from seeking to enter the profession. This is because of the length of veterinary courses and the limited opportunity for students to earn whilst studying, due to extra-mural studies requirements.
"By working closely with Mr Hughes and his team, the College has ensured that recommendations have been made to Government to address the problems relating to long courses and to see that students are given appropriate careers advice and are provided with clear information as to how the new funding system operates and its long term financial implications."
Whilst the College is supportive of Mr Hughes' proposals to broaden access to higher education, including veterinary degrees, it is important to note that the veterinary profession has been working for a number of years to develop programmes to increase access to the profession and all of the UK veterinary schools provide bursaries and other financial support to ensure that talented students from lower-income backgrounds can gain entry to the profession. Evidence is emerging that such programmes are having a real impact in changing the composition of those entering veterinary degrees.
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