From the academic year 2023-2024 onwards, only a predetermined number of students will be able to start the programme in Veterinary Medicine, according to Flemish Minister of Education and Animal Welfare Ben Weyts.
Weyts says the goal is to safeguard the quality of the training and respond to a rising number of veterinary students that outpaces demand for the profession.
“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,” Weyts said in a press release.
Flanders is currently the only region in Europe where there isn’t an entrance exam for students seeking to study veterinary medicine.
One effect is a large number of foreign students: approximately 4 out of 10 veterinary students in Flanders come from the Netherlands.
The increasing number of students puts the quality and even the safety of the training under pressure, argues Weyts.
“It makes a big difference whether you observe a procedure on a horse with a small or with a very large group, both for the horse and for the students,” Weyts said.
“Additionally, in certain specialisations, too many veterinarians are graduating today. This means that many students work very hard for years, but then do not find a suitable job.”
A commission of experts will determine the starting quota for the veterinary medicine programme for the year 2023-2024, a decision that Weyts says was taken after broad consultation with heads of education, professional organisations and student representatives, among other actors.
Apart from matching professional demand, Weyts says that keeping the number of students low will also let educators plan the study programme better, because they’ll no longer be surprised by or have to account for extra large numbers of students.
An entrance exam will also guarantee that all starting students have the necessary basic competences, he added.
A committee of experts will later elaborate on the form of the new entrance examination, as many aspects – such as whether there will be one central entrance exam or whether the entrance exam can be organised decentrally – still remain to be determined.
“In Flanders, we have excellent veterinary schools,” said Weyts, “but we do have problems. There are simply too many students for the number of lecturers.”
“Students can gain less practical experience because the clinics are overcrowded. The same actions sometimes have to be repeated with the same animals by different groups of students, and finally, there are too many vets, especially for small pets, so not every vet has enough patients.”
The new reforms are expected to address these issues.