MLA hopeful report can pave way for Coleraine vet school

MLA hopeful report can pave way for Coleraine vet school

Plans to open Northern Ireland ‘s first veterinary school could take a big step forward with a report into a possible facility at Ulster University’s Coleraine campus due next month.

As it stands, those wanting to study veterinary science at university face a choice of doing so across the water or in the Republic.

When the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) commissioned the report in March, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots said: “I have been concerned for some time that Northern Ireland may not attract sufficient veterinary surgeons to meet the needs of the local agri-food industry in the future, and I have been keen that my department continues to explore options for a more secure supply of vets for Northern Ireland on a longer-term basis.

“Northern Ireland is particularly exposed in this respect as its agri-food industry depends so much on exports, and a high animal health and welfare status; while it is the only region of the UK that does not have its own indigenous veterinary education facility.”

Now, East Londonderry MLA Claire Sugden, a champion of bringing the school to Coleraine, has said she is “very hopeful “.

Claire Sugden is backing a school in the north west

“The new livestock checks that have since been required mean there is an even bigger gap between supply and demand (for vets),” she told the Belfast Telegraph.

“We have many young people here who want to study veterinary science, but in order to do so they must travel to Great Britain or the Republic of Ireland. We need to have an option for them here and Coleraine is the perfect place.

‘Predominantly rural area’

“I have no doubt that the assessment of the Strategic Investment Board, on behalf of Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University, will be that a vet school here would help meet the demand of students wanting to study the subject and the needs of industry.

“Coleraine is in a predominantly rural part of Northern Ireland. Access to practical experience would be on students’ doorstep.”

Queen’s University vice-chancellor, Ian Greer previously said: “Being able to produce our own vets would be transformative for Northern Ireland and particularly our agri-food industry.”

While a spokesperson from UU said: “Ulster University offers outstanding synergistic provision in a range of disciplines, including our existing expertise in biomedical sciences, pharmacy and through a strategic and longstanding partnership with CAFRE. Therefore, we are confident we can bring related and valued expertise and experience to this discussion.”

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