The scrapping of the maintenance grant is only the beginning of upcoming UK financial changes that promise to affect students in the near future.
The removal of the cap on tuition fees is soon to come under scrutiny, with the possibility of universities being free to charge more for tuition fees than they currently do.
With this in mind, and the impending Higher Education Funding Review, now is the prime time to discuss the possibility of an EMS loan for veterinary students.
As part of the veterinary course, we are required to undertake 12 weeks of preclinical or animal husbandry EMS, as well as 26 weeks of clinical EMS.
It is undeniable these are invaluable parts of the learning experience. This is backed up by several surveys on the number of weeks of EMS that have been conducted, nearly always resulting in the same outcome – students and graduates believe the number of weeks is about right.
The problem is, altogether, this time commitment adds up to an extra year of study. Despite this, veterinary students are only given the same access to student finance as those students on courses that do not require any additional placement during holiday time.
The high cost of learning
EMS placements are expensive and, while we might not appreciate that for the day-to-day placement at your closest practice to home, every mile of car use adds up. Costs to be considered include:
- personal protective equipment
That’s in addition to the loss of potential earnings since many vet students are unable to keep a part-time job through the summer, which would be otherwise possible.
The beauty of EMS is it has some degree of flexibility, so provides the opportunity to explore different aspects of veterinary medicine – be it in referral practice, observing highly specialised procedures or in far-flung countries doing wildlife medicine. However, these unique placements are often the ones with a higher financial burden.
Yes, it is up to the individual as to whether he or she wants to spend the money jet-setting, but these opportunities should be available to some extent to everyone.
Sometimes, it becomes a postcode lottery, with your home or university address determining how much it will cost to gain experience – even to the minimum requirements. For some, the nearest farm or equine practice might be an hour’s drive away, while others may be lucky enough to have a 100% mixed practice on their doorstep.
With the upcoming funding review, the door may be opened to the formulation of an extra loan becoming available to veterinary students to cover the additional costs incurred by EMS.
The Association of Veterinary Students is producing an EMS costings survey with regards to how much EMS actually costs over the course of the degree. This will provide evidence for the need for additional financial support for veterinary students.
This will rely on student uptake, so I urge all veterinary students to spare some time to participate to help lobby for positive change.