Earlier this week, I was asked my opinion on the proposal of “tracked” veterinary degrees.
All the time, the bigwigs are trying to think of innovative ways to change veterinary education to produce the best prepared graduates they can for the big wide world. The new idea compromises the suggestion of either “partially tracked” or “fully tracked” degrees.
Partial tracking would involve allowing students to take an elective to allow them to focus on a particular species or discipline. A multi-species exam would be taken and graduates would still qualify to practise in all species.
Fully tracked degrees would mean not all areas of veterinary medicine were covered during the course; the students would choose to study a limited number of species and would take an exam specific to their choice. Therefore, graduates would only be able to practise in the area or species they qualified for.
There are obviously advantages and disadvantages for both ideas. Partial tracking would allow students to take an interest in one area more than others, but still keep their options open on graduation. A possible downside would depend on the proportion of the course that is elective. If choosing to study to a greater depth in one species or discipline would become detrimental to the rest of their studies, then would it just result in the production of students who are slightly stronger in one area but considerably weaker in the other aspects of the profession?
At first, fully tracking seems like a fantastic idea – graduates would be very knowledgeable in their field of qualification. They would be highly specialised and so extremely valuable to the field into which they wish to proceed.
But what if they changed their minds? Currently, it doesn’t matter if you start your veterinary degree thinking you’d like to be a farm vet but finish it thinking you never want to see a cow again. Taking a fully tracked degree would mean you’d be stuck with the path you chose – and how would a vet ever go into mixed practice if this were the case?
I think there is a lot of debate yet to be had on this subject. Personally, as a student, I wouldn’t choose to fully track because I wouldn’t want to have to put all my eggs in one basket just yet. Partially tracking at the later stages of the course could be beneficial though, when we all have a better idea of where we’d like to end up.