Plan for new third level veterinary places to be brought to Cabinet, says Harris

Review of alternatives for expanding number of places for studying produced range of options, says Minister

Proposals for a substantial expansion in the number of college places available for those wanting to study veterinary medicine are to be brought to Cabinet this month, the Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said on Thursday.

Speaking at the Institute of Art Design and Technology in Dún Laoghaire, Mr Harris said a Higher Education Authority review of the alternatives for expanding the number of veterinary places had produced a range of options. The Minister suggested that new courses at a number of colleges in addition to larger numbers being admitted to the State’s one existing course at UCD are all possibilities.

He said he could not confirm the detail involved until the matter is brought before Cabinet but that that will happen before the end of June.

He said his intention is also to present proposals for increasing capacity for the training of healthcare professionals across a number of areas including nursing. The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has spoken a number of times recently about work being done in this area and suggested that student numbers could be significantly increased from September.


Mr Harris confirmed talks on this had taken place with Stephen Donnelly and said it could happen in relation to a number of courses though he did not make any commitment on the scale of the expansion envisaged this year.

“It is my intention this month to bring proposals to Cabinet with my colleagues, the Minister for Health and the Minister for Agriculture, that could significantly increase the size of the third level sector in relation to key courses around healthcare provision, social care provision, and around veterinary medicine.,” he said.

“I’m acutely aware when it comes to veterinary places that so many young people who do the Leaving Cert find themselves studying abroad to become vets. We only have one veterinary school in this country and I’m going from my memory here but I think in terms of Veterinary Council registrations in recent years, about 80 of those registrations were from vets who had studied in Ireland and about 200 were from vets who had studied abroad.

“We know from the data that many, many Irish students are leaving secondary school and heading to Eastern Europe, to Warsaw, to Budapest and to other locations. I believe we need to expand the number of veterinary schools in Ireland. So we have just completed a very interesting exercise where we asked the HEA to go out to all of the colleges and say, ‘what more could you do in healthcare? What more could you do in veterinary medicine?’ and there’s some very exciting proposals in that which I’ll brief Cabinet this month.”

Mr Harris said he was not in a position to provide an indication of how many colleges might establish new courses before then but, he said, “I can definitely say at this stage is that there’s a lot of interest from the higher education sector in terms of providing more in terms of veterinary places, including new veterinary schools, and I expect to be in a position to outline and not just perhaps one new school but perhaps a number of expansions or new schools that could take place.”

Earlier, he had told the Dáil sbout the proposals but did caution that “the requirements identified to bring these proposals on stream are significant, including the development of major new capital projects and the provision of ongoing revenue support”.

He said a significant expansion was possible too in relation to healthcare with new courses and a substantial number of new places in the pipeline, adding that “there is capacity to further increase third level spaces in health from September and then there’s capacity, potentially, to do even more in the years ahead”.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times