The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Veterinary Nurses Council has decided that the College should cease being an awarding body next year, which means it will no longer offer the vocational Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing.
The decision was made at its meeting on 11 October and the decision is pending ratification by RCVS Council at its meeting on 3 November.
The College will ensure that the Diploma continues to be available by transferring the intellectual property associated with the qualification, such as the question banks and systems, to another larger awarding body, in a move which is likely to take effect for the beginning of the 2012 academic year.
The decision reflects recent changes in the regulatory Conditions of Approval for awarding bodies, which it would have been hard for the College to meet while continuing to offer the Diploma cost-effectively. The changes mainly relate to potential conflicts of interest between the College's primary role, as professional regulator that safeguards standards within the veterinary professions, and its role as an awarding body. The standards-setting role includes the regulation of education and training leading to the veterinary and VN registers, and it was felt that the College could no longer exercise this role effectively if it was also an awarding organisation, as it might be suspected of treating its internal qualifications more favourably, or of obstructing competitors.
Although this has not been a problem in the past, due to careful management of activities, the rules are now more stringent, and the costs of setting up a fully independent awarding body would be prohibitive.
The market for the Diploma is also likely to fragment in the future, with three other awarding bodies expressing an interest in offering a Level 3 Diploma. Any reduction in the number of students taking the RCVS Level 3 Diploma would further push up the costs, potentially making the RCVS Awarding Body unviable. A larger awarding body can take advantage of economies of scale across a range of awards in a way that the RCVS cannot.
"The RCVS has been offering vocational qualifications since 1998 and the decision to cease being an awarding body has not been taken lightly," says Colonel Neil Smith, Chairman of the RCVS Awarding Body Board.
"We have taken this decision in order to focus on our core responsibilities of professional regulation and standard setting. However, we remain committed to maintaining the Diploma, which has been carefully developed by the RCVS and the profession. This move ensures that it will stay in safe hands," he adds.
The name of the awarding body to which the qualification will be transferred has not yet been announced because the process is not complete. However, the College felt it was important to give those involved with the delivery of training as much notice as possible of the change. More information, and the change-over plan, will be released in due course.
"Our priority will be effecting a smooth transfer for students, Colleges and training practices, and we are confident that the impact of the change will be minimal. Furthermore, it will be a condition of the transfer that the veterinary profession continues to have a say in the future development of the qualification," says Libby Earle, RCVS Head of Veterinary Nursing.
Those students still in the process of completing the old NVQ qualifications, the accreditation of which is due to run out in 2013, will continue to be serviced by the RCVS.
As the professional regulator, the College will continue to issue RCVS certificates and badges to those who have successfully completed a registerable qualification - such as an approved vocational qualification run by another awarding body, or an RCVS-recognised veterinary nursing degree.
The Advanced Diploma in Veterinary Nursing will be unaffected by the change as the qualification is awarded by the College under its Royal Charter powers.
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