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Belgium takes a bold stance in veterinary selection

This week has provided some interesting news in the veterinary sector. Whilst we are used to seeing messages from many vet schools trying to entice candidates, one University has gone the other way. Examples of this include Budapest University, who are committed to attracting talented vet students from across the globe, and Zagreb, whose course is taught entirely in English to attract students from English-speaking countries, with a desire to practice in English-speaking countries.

However, this week as reported in The Brussels Times, from the 2023-24 academic year, the Flemish Education and Animal Welfare Ministry will be capping the number of students allowed to study Veterinary Medicine in Brussels. The Minister, Ben Wyts, said “It is better for humans and animals that we limit the number of candidate veterinarians, because now too many people graduate who cannot do the job they studied for so long.”

Vet Pursuits has regularly reported on a widespread employment disparity within the veterinary profession, where there are far more positions vacant than veterinary surgeons looking for roles. So what have Belgium got right that they have a surplus of vets? For starters, their veterinary courses have had no entrance exams, and so application numbers are very high. Secondly, they have openly welcomed overseas students. In fact, 40% of veterinary students in Flanders are from the Netherlands, where entrance requirements are far stricter.

So is this a formula that other education settings, and national strategies could look to emulate? In the UK the number of Universities offering veterinary courses has drastically increased of late, with the 6 veterinary schools of 15 years ago now increased to 9 with more going through the approval process. Vet Pursuits would support supplementing a less-severe academic requirement for entry with other non-academic assessment means to entice more promising talents onto the course.

Of course, graduating more vets may do little to prevent the leaky bucket at the other side – the poor retention within the profession once qualified. This is an ongoing challenge, and one for the future…

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