UL to build specialised animal hospital under hopeful plans for vet school

The main building at the University of Limerick.

THE UNIVERSITY of Limerick (UL) hope to develop a new, purpose-built animal hospital under green-lit plans for a new veterinary school in Limerick announced by Government this week.

This comes as it was announced that UL has been successful in its proposal to develop a new veterinary school on its campus, providing 90 new undergraduate places.

Reacting to the announcement, UL President Professor Kerstin Mey said: “This is a key project for University of Limerick, and we believe the development of a veterinary medicine school will do much to build the resilience and sustainability of the wider Mid West region.”

Professor Mey said that the new initiative will provide a “hybrid distributed model of veterinary clinical education through a network of elite veterinary practices, regional placement hubs, and the development of a contemporary teaching hospital in Limerick so that students will be exposed to an appropriate balance of first opinion and specialist referral cases”.

Provost and Deputy President of UL Professor Shane Kilcommons said that, should the plans make it to development stage, the University will build a dedicated animal hospital on the main campus body in Castletroy.

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“UL’s veterinary school will be based in purpose-built and refurbished facilities, with specialist anatomy-pathology and clinical-skills facilities,” the Provost explained.

“Our veterinary hospital will be a public-private partnership arrangement with local practices in which UL provides facilities, specialist equipment, and clinical input enabling through co-investment 24-hour year-round access to clinical cases in small animal, farm animal, and equine,” he added.

“The UL veterinary programme will be broad-based and research-led, also providing a strong foundation for careers in research, education, regulation, and pharmaceutical industries,” Professor Kilcommins said.

The proposed veterinary course at UL would be a five-year programme, which will see a total of 450 students inducted across all years at full roll out, starting with 90 in its first year.

The news came following a lengthy campaign to establish more veterinary school places in Ireland, and particularly the Mid West, to meet growing demand.

Reacting to the news, Limerick Minister of State for Local Government and Planning, Kieran O’Donnell, said that the new vet school at UL would be a welcome development.

“This a great news day for UL, Limerick, and the entire region. I wish to thank Government and in particular Minister Simon Harris for progressing the new 90 student places for UL to this next key stage,” he said.

“This is major progress. Only one university, UCD, has provided veterinary education in Ireland before. Today, we take a step forward in bringing a new veterinary college to our region.”

Another Limerick Minister of State, Niall Collins TD, also welcomed the news, saying that having to travel outside of Ireland to study, because of a shortage of course spaces, shouldn’t have to be an option for students.

“The option of having to study veterinary in Dublin or Poland just simply isn’t sustainable for students and their families. We have to provide other viable options, and increase the supply of qualified vets, in particular for large animal practices,” Minister Collins stated.

“For a long time, farmers and veterinary practitioners across Limerick and the Mid West have been warning of the cliff edge being faced with the drop off and scarcity of working vets. The early deliver of this new school is a priority.”

Limerick Green Party TD Brian Leddin added: “I am very hopeful that UL will get the go-ahead for a veterinary college, we have a chronic shortage of vets within the Irish industry and Limerick is the ideal location to train new vets.”

“It makes sense to locate this facility in one of Ireland’s agri-food heartlands, in a university with the status of UL that has so much experience with comparable degree programmes.”

University of Limerick has also been successful in its application for more nursing and graduate entry medical places, with 31 new nursing places to come, along with a further 30 graduate entry medical places, which will rise to 124 and 120 places across all years at full roll out.