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University tuition fees in England are set to increase to up to £9000 per year in 2012. A key requirement that had to be fulfilled by universities wishing to charge more than £6000 in tuition fees was that they committed to widening access to their courses to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The seven veterinary schools in the UK are already active in this area, and a number of other initiatives are also in place, as Freda Andrews, head of education at the RCVS, explains.
THE UK's veterinary schools have a number of different widening access schemes in place, some specific to the particular school or involving several schools, while others are part of broader programmes with other organisations.
Royal Veterinary College
The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) introduced its ‘Gateway’ programme six years ago, providing a foundation pre-veterinary year for students fitting widening participation profiles. The progression and integration of these students into the main veterinary programme, not only at the RVC but also now at other participating veterinary schools, demonstrates the success of the initiative. The RVC has provided significant bursaries for students enrolled on the programme and has invested in the development of learning support systems to ease the transition of these students into the mainstream programme. The first ‘Gateway’ graduates entered the veterinary workforce last summer.
Widening participation to increase the diversity of the student population is one of the RVC's strategic objectives and progress has been made towards targets for recruiting students from previously under-represented groups. There has been an increase in admissions of students with vocational qualifications, as well as increasing numbers of students from lower socioeconomic groups (from 11.3 per cent to 29.1 per cent in seven years), and a small increase in students from ethnic minorities. The college has relationships with a number of inner-city schools and …
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