The Australian Government’s announcement of increased funding for veterinary education in this year’s budget has been welcomed by both the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) and Veterinary Schools of Australia and New Zealand (VSANZ).
Professor Peter Irwin, Chair of VSANZ, said that although the news of reduced university funding generally was disappointing, the government’s recognition of the financial difficulties faced by veterinary schools was an important development.
“Veterinary science is among the most expensive university courses to deliver, partly because of the need to provide high-quality, small group, clinical training to students so they can graduate ready to practice,” Irwin said.
“Australian veterinary education is of a quality equal to anywhere in the world, and attracts students from North America, Asia and other regions, who qualify to practise as veterinarians around the globe in recognition of their Australian degree.”
Vets make significant contributions to the community, in disease-outbreak readiness, and pro bono care of stray animals and wildlife. At the same time, veterinary graduates earn low salaries compared with other professionals throughout their working lives.
“Vet students already contribute substantially to the cost of their education through tuition fees, and the cost of their months on farm and clinical placements,” he said.
“We can’t simply burden them with increasing levels of debt that they will struggle to service.
“The profession itself, through private practices and government agencies, also contributes generously to training students, as indeed does our farming sector through the provision of practical experience and professional training.”
Both the AVA and VSANZ made several representations to government about the need for increased funding for veterinary science.
AVA spokesperson Dr Debbie Neutze said the association was encouraged by the willingness of Minister Birmingham’s office to listen to concerns about the current state of funding for veterinary education.
“The news that increased funding will be made available is most welcome. This will go part of the way in correcting the present underfunding identified in the Deloitte Access Economic report commissioned by the government. We will continue discussions with the government on how this gap can be further reduced,” she said.
Professor Irwin noted the important role veterinary graduates play in society.
“Vets don’t just care for sick pets – they are important in the context of global challenges; protecting our food supply, keeping food safe, and protecting the welfare of animals, as well in wildlife conservation and the prevention of disease spread from animals to humans, to give a few examples.
“These are public good benefits.
“The need for these services is growing, too, as our neighbours in Asia expand their economies and their needs for agricultural and animal-related imports increase. The investment by government in veterinary education pays a very handsome dividend to our society as a whole.”