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Veterinary Centre a step closer

Campaigning for excellence: Elin Jones at Ystwyth Veterinary Practice
Campaigning for excellence: Elin Jones at Ystwyth Veterinary
Practice

CEREDIGION AM Elin Jones has welcomed the announcement that the Royal Veterinary College and Aberystwyth University are to collaborate on plans to set up a Centre of Veterinary Excellence.

The announcement was made on Monday (Jun 13) by Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs at the University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS).

Ms Griffiths announced that Aberystwyth University and the Royal Veterinary College (University of London) had signed a memorandum of understanding to explore developing a joint venture in veterinary medical training and research in Wales, focusing on farming and livestock science. Wales does not currently have veterinary education provision.

Lesley Griffiths AM said: “Veterinary education for Wales has long been a topic of discussion and this is an ambition now being realised. This collaboration between Aberystwyth University and the Royal Veterinary College is excellent news for Welsh farmers and to the veterinary profession. It will provide a much needed hub of veterinary expertise right in the heart of our longest established university. This project also meets many of our well-being goals, in particular contributing to a healthy, resilient and prosperous Wales .”

Aberystwyth has a long record of excellence in research and teaching in the fields of agriculture and animal sciences. The first teaching in the subject at Aberystwyth began in the 1870s and the Department of Agriculture opened in 1891. This continues to the present day at the award-winning internationally recognised Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) which introduced a new degree in Veterinary Biosciences in 2015.

Established in 1791, the Royal Veterinary College, London is the oldest veterinary school in the English-speaking world. It is also one of the most prestigious, ranked as one of the top three vet schools in the world in the latest QS World University Rankings. It has renowned veterinary medicine and nursing degrees at undergraduate and postgraduate levels as well as world-leading research.

Professor Chris Thomas, AU Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research , who is leading the project at Aberystwyth said: “We share the ambitions of the veterinary profession, Welsh Government and the farming industry to secure and enhance animal health in Wales and beyond. We believe Wales needs a model for vet training and science that not only emphasises production animal veterinary medicine but also integrates veterinary service provision, agricultural science, rural community wellbeing, economics and environmental sustainability. Developing this vision in partnership with the RVC is very exciting indeed .”

Professor David Church, RVC Vice- Principal for Learning and the Student Experienc e , who is leading at London stated: “Aberystwyth University is one of the leading Universities in the UK with internationally recognized expertise in animal and agricultural sciences. We believe there are real opportunities at numerous levels for The Royal Veterinary College to work with Aberystwyth in developing a veterinary degree programme tailored to the needs of the Welsh farming and animal health industries. We are both proud and excited to be part of this collaborative venture. “

Professor Christianne Glossop, Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales , said: “A joint veterinary training programme between Aberystwyth and the RVC would be an excellent development for Wales, increasing the number of professionals in veterinary medicine tailored for our needs, and providing a hub of veterinary excellence of direct relevance to Wales.”

Professor Julie Williams, Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales , added: “This is an exciting prospect, not only for veterinary medicine in Wales but also providing a focus for research and commercial development in a sector so important to the Welsh economy.”

Whilst the announcement of the plan was made by the Cabinet Secretary, Assembly Presiding Officer Elin Jones has long campaigned to provide a centre to train vets for Wales in Wales centred at Aberystwyth. In her recent interview with Herald Reporter Rhian Boyt, she discussed Plaid Cymru’s proposals to develop a Veterinary School at Aberystwyth University.

Responding to the news, Elin Jones told The Herald: “I welcome this announcement, and I am pleased that the Welsh Government is backing the next steps towards establishing a fully-fledged veterinary training programme in Wales.

“There’s a shortage of vets who specialise in farm livestock, and so a vet school in Aberystwyth and a centre focusing on farming and livestock science would be a major boost to both the university and the agricultural industry.

“I particularly welcome the decision to explore locating the proposed Centre of Veterinary Excellence in Aberystwyth, and I have no doubt that if established here it will be a major success.

“The University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Science (IBERS) has a long and impressive record in the fields of agriculture and animal sciences, and so I consider Aberystwyth to be an ideal home for a Welsh Centre of Veterinary Excellence.

“The creation of a veterinary training programme has been discussed for a long time in Wales – I am glad that we are now taking tangible steps towards realising this goal, and will look forward to hearing about further progress in the near future.

“This is an important development for Wales, and an exciting opportunity for Ceredigion.”

An FUW spokesman told the Herald : “A great deal of work has gone in to securing this commitment, and we look forward to continuing to work with those involved to ensure the new centre serves the interests of the Welsh livestock and dairy farms which are a cornerstone of our economy.”

Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Energy, Climate Change and Rural Affairs , Simon Thomas , has also welcomed the news that Wales’ first vet school is being planned for Aberystwyth. Simon Thomas said that Plaid Cymru had led the campaign to establish a school, and that he was pleased to see it progress.

He said: “Plaid Cymru has long campaigned for a veterinary school for Wales, and I am pleased that the creation of a vet school in Aberystwyth is a step closer. Establishing a Welsh vet school is important in meeting the specific demands of Wales’ predominantly livestock-based farming industry, and addressing the current shortage of vets with these specialisms.

“This has been a long-running campaign and I am pleased that Aberystwyth University and the Royal Veterinary College have taken the initiative to establish the school. Congratulations to them – they have Plaid Cymru’s full support.”

A working group of experts from IBERS and RVC will now design the joint programme and specify new facilities at Aberystwyth University. The team is due to deliver their report to the governing bodies of both institutions by August 2017.

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Jon Coles

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