The results of a survey conducted by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) with recent graduates of UK veterinary schools has found the vast majority find extra-mural studies (EMS) an essential component of the veterinary degree.

Launched earlier this year, the survey was designed to help the RCVS build up a picture of how EMS placements are currently working and whether graduates felt they had gained knowledge and experience from placements they could not have learnt from their core studies.

Some 287 veterinary graduates from 2012 and 2013 participated in the survey, the overwhelming majority of whom (95.6%) agreed EMS was essential.

Furthermore, the majority of the recent graduates said they had found EMS placements to be beneficial in terms of the variety of clinical skills, professional skills and working practices they encountered. The only area in which a large number of graduates (42.9%) said they did not find EMS placements useful was in gaining experience of out-of-hours and weekend work.

Despite the overall positive results, however, a number of concerns about EMS were raised. Issues included:

  • variable quality of placements
  • significant numbers of respondents feeling they were not able to gain as much “hands-on” experience from placements as they would like
  • costs of accommodation and travel
  • a lack of farm/mixed animal practices for placements.

Christine Warman, RCVS head of education, said: “We launched this survey as an information-gathering exercise to see how EMS placements are currently working, following our last review of EMS in 2009 – and the results have certainly been very interesting.

“What is clear is the current system is working well and there is no need for an immediate review or urgent action. Most graduates found the experience gained on placements useful for their studies and find EMS sets them up well for their first job in practice.

“However, there are a number of issues we will keep a watching brief over and we plan to repeat the survey every two years to monitor these.”

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