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CONCERN that the forthcoming increase in university tuition fees could have a knock-on effect on the delivery of safe and healthy food in Northern Ireland was expressed by the BVA President, Carl Padgett, in his speech to the Association's annual Northern Ireland dinner.
The dinner, which was held at Malone House in Belfast on November 10, brought representatives of the veterinary profession together with local politicians and decision makers, and provided an opportunity to discuss issues of current importance to the profession.
Regarding tuition fees, the Northern Ireland Executive recently agreed to freeze fees for local students attending university in Northern Ireland, with increases being made only in line with inflation. Mr Padgett pointed out that, with no veterinary school in Northern Ireland and only a limited number of places available at the Dublin school, prospective veterinary students from the region would be at an immediate disadvantage compared with other students who chose to remain in Northern Ireland to study.
‘In the future we could see UK veterinary graduates returning to Northern Ireland saddled with up to £54,000 in tuition fee debt and many thousands more in living cost debt,’ he said. The BVA was concerned that, as a result, these graduates would be attracted to small animal practice rather than the less lucrative areas of large animal work and research. ‘They may seem unconnected but the future ability of Northern Ireland to deliver safe and healthy food may well be affected by the affordability of a veterinary degree. Some imaginative thinking is now required to find the right solution.’
‘Delivering a healthy future’ was the theme for Mr Padgett's year as BVA President. First and foremost, he said, this meant delivering a healthy future for the animals that society relied on, whether for food or for companionship. Northern Ireland …