AVA welcomes the release of the VSANZ education review – rethinking veterinary education

16 Jul 2023

Veterinary Schools of Australia and New Zealand (VSANZ) the peak body for Australasia’s eight veterinary schools commissioned an expert panel to undertake a review of veterinary education in Australia and New Zealand in 2022.  The review panel working to a terms of reference and a discussion paper was undertaken by  

  • Dr Helen Scott-Orr AM PSM (Chair)
  • Professor Grant Guilford (NZ)
  • Professor Susan Rhind (UK).

The discussion paper provided background and data on some key issues in relation to veterinary education. It raised a series of questions and invited submissions responding to these. There were 69 written submissions, including a submission from the AVA. In addition, the panel held 19 meetings with key stakeholders. The AVA participated in a number of these.  The opinions of veterinary practitioners, practice owners, professional associations, university senior executives, academics, students, regulators, and users of veterinary services all contributed to the panel’s deliberations.

A very wide range of views on the future of veterinary education and on related issues of the demand-driven veterinary shortage and problems of poor mental health and burnout among vets and vet students were presented to the panel, sometimes oppositional in nature.

The 'Rethinking Veterinary Education' report was released this week and key findings of the review report are that:

  • There is an increasingly important role for veterinarians in the economic and social future of Australia and New Zealand. Vets are critical to support animal health and welfare, biosecurity and food safety in the livestock industries, to keep pets and other companion animals healthy and happy, and to work with other professionals in tackling One Health and Eco Health challenges such as biodiversity loss and climate change.
  • However, the Australasian veterinary profession and its education system are approaching a crisis. Current approaches to veterinary science education, research and service delivery will not be sustainable nor allow long-term needs for veterinary workforce renewal and enhanced research capability to be met. This is a systemic problem requiring the efforts of multiple organisations and government.
  • Veterinary courses are the most expensive professional courses for universities to deliver. The funding per veterinary student to universities from government grants and domestic student fees covers only around two-thirds of the average estimated total delivery cost per student. Incremental opportunities to reduce costs have largely been exhausted and more strategic, structural reforms are now needed, and these have been recommended by the panel.
  • There also needs to be a continuation of efforts to improve the admissions processes of veterinary schools and the transition of graduates into practice, to enhance the wellbeing of vets and help address the problem of workforce retention. Opportunities also exist to increase recruitment and retention by rural practices where vet shortages are most pronounced.

The panel made twenty-five recommendations. These recommendations are variously addressed to the schools themselves, their universities, professional associations, regulators, and governments.  

The AVA has reviewed the report. There are several recommendations that are specific to schools and universities, while others have direct and indirect relevance to the profession.  The  AVA is supportive of the following recommendations that have both direct and indirect relevance to the profession

Recommendations with direct relevance to the profession

The AVA is supportive of:

  • Recommendation 4 - AVBC establish a universal veterinary registration database in Australia and work with the AVA to undertake an annual workforce survey. The AVA has been advocating for the establishment of such a data base and has committed funding to this issue.
  • Recommendation 12 – We are supportive of exploration of further opportunities for explicit constructive and effective collaboration with the wider profession in relation both to the curriculum and transition to the profession.
  • Recommendation 18 – We are supportive of the notion that veterinary professional associations should assist employers in taking charge of the workplace issues that affect recruitment, retention, and wellbeing and in developing the business and management experience of their members to help hone veterinary business models. The AVA has numerous programs, resources and policies in place that address these issues.
  • Recommendation 19 – we would welcome an opportunity to discuss working collaboratively (including sharing the costs) to harmonise graduate mentoring programs.
  • Recommendation 21 – The AVA would welcome increased funding to the private veterinary sector to deliver the public good associated with veterinary education in areas of high need, such as rural and regional livestock clinical practice.
  • Recommendation 22- The AVA is welcomes support around student debt relief, an issue we have been advocating on for some time.
  • Recommendation 23 – We are very supportive of having a lead role in CPD development for the profession, and working collaboratively with other providers, including veterinary schools. Cobranding of events where each organisation adds value/ skill set is something we are keen to explore.

Recommendations with indirect relevance to the profession

The AVA is supportive of:

  • Recommendations 2 and 3 the recommendations related to admission pathways of students into veterinary programs
  • Recommendation 5, 7 and 8 – related to curricula content. We are very cognizant of the importance of non technical skill development as well as the requirement for veterinarians to have flexibility around pursuing different pathways throughout their career.
  • Recommendation 15 and 16: The AVA is supportive of the recommendations which increase funding for veterinary education 
  • Recommendation 20- the AVA shares the opinion that veterinary schools are well placed to develop educational resources to upskill veterinarians for biosecurity and EAD preparedness in a cost effective manner.

The AVA looks forward to working with its partners to progress the recommendations.