Minister backs second vet school for Republic with NI plans in limbo

Minister backs second vet school for Republic with NI plans in limbo

The Republic’s Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has thrown his weight behind a second vet school in the country by saying it “utterly wrong” for so many students to be going abroad to study veterinary medicine each year.

Such a move could see the proposed facility overtake the much delayed plans for a first such school in Northern Ireland.

Educational institutions that want to expand or create new veterinary medicine courses in the Republic could do so by the 2024-25 or 2025-26 academic years, complementing the long-established veterinary degree course established in 1946 at University College Dublin.

The Higher Education Authority is close to concluding the process of identifying where additional capacity could be built in the higher education sector in a number of key areas, including veterinary medicine, Mr Harris said.

As part of this process, the HEA is examining opportunities for new programme provision as well as the expansion of current programmes, and will determine a final list of options which the minister expects to receive shortly, he said in recent days.

The HEA appointed an expert advisory panel to review new programme proposals. The panel included representatives from the Veterinary Council of Ireland, the statutory body responsible for the regulation of veterinary medicine in Ireland, and the Department of Agriculture.

“There has been a lot of interest and competition from different parts of the country to host the new veterinary school. However, I have yet to receive the recommendations of the HEA,” Mr Harris said.

“It is great that there is so much interest and that we have gone beyond the point that it is all about one veterinary school.

“There is now an acceptance that we need to expand in this space.

“It is utterly wrong that so many Irish students are going abroad, often to parts of eastern Europe, to study veterinary medicine. 

“We can do more and better here.”

The total number of Irish veterinary students in Poland is in or around 300, while Slovakia has attracted some students and Budapest has approximately 190 Irish veterinary students, Mr Harris said.

For the past five decades, veterinary education in Ireland has been delivered in the one school in UCD.

In March 2021 was announced that case for building a first veterinary school in NI was being looked at, yet the results of that study have yet to be made public.

It is understood the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs  is still is in discussions with Queen’s University and Ulster University over the proposed school.