I want to be a vet but CAO points are just too high. Are there any other options?

Ask Brian: There are lots of other routes, mostly in mainland Europe

There is just one veterinary faculty on the island of Ireland, offering 82 places each year. Photograph: iStock

There is just one veterinary faculty on the island of Ireland, offering 82 places each year. Photograph: iStock

 

My dream has always been to work as a vet with small animals. I’m in sixth year and aiming for UCD, but the CAO points have jumped from 567 last year to 589 this year which, realistically, is just too high for me. What other options are there?

From your email it is clear that nothing short of becoming a veterinary surgeon will satisfy your ambitions. On the plus side, this will give you the motivation to achieve your potential in the Leaving Cert. The downside, as you note, is the points requirements are very high. The circumstances in 2020 were unique, and CAO points may drop back in 2021.

There is just one veterinary faculty on the island of Ireland, offering 82 places each year. Since the foundation of the State, a proportion of those places are reserved for students from Northern Ireland, making entry through the CAO to UCD a very competitive process.

I have visited Budapest and have found a vibrant Irish veterinary student body, with their own GAA and other Irish cultural bodies

The UCD programme is of the highest quality and is one of only seven European faculties to meet the accreditation requirements of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Since 1992, the University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest has offered an international programme taught through English with 120 places. Through a relationship with Budapest nurtured by Dr Tim O Leary, a veterinary surgeon based in west Cork (timolearyvet@gmail.com), up to 40 Irish students annually now take this 5½-year undergraduate programme.

I have visited Budapest and have found a vibrant Irish veterinary student body, with their own GAA and other Irish cultural bodies to sustain them. The programme is quite rigorous and not for the faint hearted, with annual fees of €12,000.

Kosice in Slovakia, Brno in the Czech Republic and the Estonian University of Life Sciences have also attracted smaller numbers of Irish students over the past 10 years. University Cardenal Herrera in Valencia also offers a five-year programme through English with annual fees of €15,060.

Many Irish students are also studying veterinary medicine in Poland in recent years, particularly at the University of Warsaw. Programmes are also offered in Lublin, Olsztyn and Wroclaw. Fees for many of these programmes are about €8000 annually. Eunicas.ie is a good place to start if researching these options.

My advice would be to put the UCD course top of your CAO list. You might also consider listing science as your second choice

All of these universities schedule written examinations annually for Irish students based, in most cases, on biology and chemistry. In the past year, due to Covid-19, many colleges operated online applications and exams.

Given the ever-expanding demand for veterinary services, particularly in the area of your interest in small animals, graduates returning from courses abroad have no problem registering with the Veterinary Council of Ireland.

My advice would be to put the UCD course top of your CAO list. You might also consider listing science as your second choice and seeking one of the handful of postgraduate places in veterinary in UCD following graduation. If you are open to studying abroad, both Dr Tim O’Leary and Eunicas are worth contacting.

Email queries to askbrian@irishtimes.com