Question: My daughter is determined to qualify as a vet. The course in UCD requires high points and is listed as "restricted". Can you explain this and advise whether other veterinary programmes outside of Ireland are viable options?
Answer: If your daughter is studying the required subjects for her Leaving Cert – English, Irish, a third language, mathematics, chemistry (minimum H5), plus one other recognised subject – she should list the UCD course as her first choice on her CAO application.
The most disappointed group of students every year are those who underestimate their academic potential and fail to list their top course choices, as they do not believe they will secure the points.
The reason why veterinary medicine is listed as “restricted” this year is because undergraduate students applying through the CAO system in 2017 will be required to show they have acquired at least two weeks practical experience relevant to animal handling or veterinary practice.
With only 80 places available, and with 20 of those reserved for students from Northern Ireland under an agreement going back to the foundation of the State, UCD wants to be sure those high-points students who list veterinary as their first choice fully understand what it is they are committing too.
I would suggest that if she secured the points she should definitely accept the UCD course as it is one of the leading veterinary schools in Europe. As well as having Irish and European accreditation, it has been granted full accreditation by the American Veterinary Medical Association whose educational standards of excellence are recognised worldwide.
As an alternative, she might consider applying to one of the UK universities through UCAS (the UK’s equivalent of the CAO). The number of Irish applicants who secure places through this route each year is less than five, so I would not hold out too much hope in exploring that option.
Continental European Union veterinary colleges offer many degrees taught through English. Their degrees are fully recognised by the Irish veterinary regulatory body so there is no problem in returning to work in Ireland following graduation.
I have visited the veterinary faculty in Budapest on many occasions where more than 40 Irish students start their studies each year. Their entrance exam – which takes place in Dublin in May each year – is based on a multiple choice chemistry and biology exam and not on CAO points.
Irish students advise me that the programme is extremely tough and commitment from day-one is essential, but it is manageable if you are 100 per cent committed to your studies.
Similar veterinary degrees are on offer in Poland, the Czech Republic, and other eastern European countries. The Hungarian programmes are co-ordinated by Dr Tim O Leary, veterinary surgeon in Schull, Co Cork (www.prepareforhungary.eu).
Programmes in the rest of Europe are co-ordinated by Guy Flouch of Eunicas which is based in Ennis (www.eunicas.ie).