The British Veterinary Association (BVA), the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the Veterinary Schools Council (VSC) have submitted a joint paper to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) on the future of non-UK citizens studying at UK vet schools.
The MAC is an independent body that provides the Government with advice on migration issues and last autumn it had put out a consultation asking for views on the economic and social impacts of international students.
According to the submission, out of the 5,295 veterinary undergraduate students studying at the UK’s eight vet schools in 2017 some 1,145 (or 21.6 percent) of students were not British citizens – of these 129 were from EU countries and 1,016 were from non-EU countries.
Although the number of EU veterinary students was relatively small, the submission noted that non-UK EU nationals make up 22 percent of veterinary surgeons working in academia in the UK, most of whom have roles directly linked to providing education and training in the undergraduate veterinary degree.
Some of these staff were recruited from outside the UK while others are graduates of UK veterinary schools. This pipeline is important for veterinary schools in ensuring the continued quality of UK veterinary medicine.
British Veterinary Association president, John Fishwick, said: “Veterinary students from the EU, and across the world, make vital social and economic contributions to universities and the wider community. It is essential that our vet schools continue to be attractive places for them to study.
“The measures outlined in our submission aim to help maintain the necessary numbers of highly educated and skilled vets. Fulfilling the demand for vets, following the departure of the UK from the EU, will be essential to maintain animal health and welfare, public health, food safety and trade.
“Enabling overseas veterinary students who qualify in the UK to remain and continue to contribute following graduation will help alleviate a shortage of vets.”
Professor Ewan Cameron, chair of the Veterinary Schools Council and head of the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Glasgow, said: “It is essential for policy-makers to understand that fees provided by overseas students strengthen the quality of veterinary education and training. But the role that these students play goes far beyond economics.
“The collegiate, international atmosphere of veterinary schools is built on the varying backgrounds of both students and staff. The schools wish to welcome the best and brightest students and staff, wherever they are from.
“This diversity of backgrounds and experience greatly enriches learning and inquiry at our schools. To be introduced to new ideas and ways of working is fundamental to the quality of veterinary education.
“In addition, the potential for overseas students to progress into academic roles, as many do, is of significant benefit to both teaching and research.
“Deterring overseas veterinary students can only have a negative effect on animal and human health.”