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Veterinary Students Face Financial And Mental Health Pressures

13 years ago

14th May, 2009 00h00

A comprehensive survey of veterinary students concludes that one in three find themselves in difficult or severe financial situations, more than half have suffered from stress, over a fifth from depression, over a quarter from anxiety and one in every 14 from an eating disorder. The 2008 survey, produced jointly by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and its student branch the Association of Veterinary Students (AVS), also found that some veterinary schools have almost doubled their intake of overseas veterinary students since the survey was last conducted in 2005. Financial and mental health issues Given that 2008’s veterinary science graduates, who expected to leave university with an average debt of £22,300, started their degree paying lower tuition fees, current students will undoubtedly see their final debt increase considerably and respondents who graduate in 2011 expect their debt on graduation to reach £29,400.The AVS expects this to be even higher for future students if universities succeed in lobbying for an increase in fees. Over two thirds (66.8%) of students feel unable to work to supplement their income. It is well known that they have fewer opportunities to earn money during holidays because of compulsory extra mural studies (EMS), amounting to the equivalent of three additional terms, which have a ‘triple-whammy-effect’ for veterinary medicines students sinceGiven that 35.3% of respondents indicated that their financial problems are either difficult or severe it is worrying but no surprise that so many mental health issues have been reported. The AVS suggests that there are opportunities for veterinary schools and the veterinary profession to improve this bleak picture. BVA already provides support meetings for young professionals and has put together a position statement which will kick-start a lobbying process forStudent population Some of the survey’s other findings show thatThe assumption for the Scottish schools is that this makes up the shortfall in income because Scottish students studying at Scottish Universities do not have to pay tuition fees. BVA President Nicky Paull commented “The BVA/AVS survey, a part of the BVA’s continuing work on behalf of veterinary students, once again continues to highlight the growing problem of debt. This is a particular problem for veterinary undergraduates whose five year course by definition will attract more debt than the average three year undergraduate course. “The impact of this increasing debt is two fold. Firstly, new graduates are more likely to choose their first jobs on the basis of salary and reducing debt rather than individual professional development. Secondly, we are concerned that as school leavers make career decisions on financial grounds, only those from relatively affluent backgrounds will choose the veterinary profession. This is contrary to the aims of Government to promote the DfES/Gateway to the Professions initiative. It would be sad to see such a vitally important undergraduate course become one which can only be undertaken by talented young people from families who feel they can afford to help with the long term costs. “The veterinary undergraduate course is not only training future veterinarians on animal health and welfare but also in the essential role vets play in food safety and the health of the nation.“ Background Information For background information on mental health in the veterinary profession please view the attached ‘Why are vets at high risk of suicide?’ article, reporting on a lecture at the British Small Animal Veterinary Association Congress in April.

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