As the GUE/NGL Group Food and Veterinary contact person on the ENVI Committee at the European Parliament I have written to the UU Chancellor, Richard Barnett requesting that, in line with the University commitment to building capacity at University of Ulster Magee, that he places the proposed Veterinary Medicine Facility at the Derry site.
I believe that Magee is perfectly located for such a facility which would be complimented by and complement the existing medical facilities in the City – i.e. Centre for Stratified Medicine, Intelligent Science Research Centre (ISRC), Biomedical Science Research Institute, Bamform Mental Health, CAWT and C-TRIC along with the proposed Science Park.
It would help establish Derry as a Centre of Medical Excellence which would attract fee paying overseas students from around the world.
As what is reputed to be one of the most expensive of university courses to provide, it would have to be attractive to full fee paying students and that is where Derry with the reputation as a safe, friendly, diverse and culturally rich City has the advantage over other locations. I am advised that these courses attract fees of between twenty and thirty thousand pounds per annum.
Presently the only Veterinary faculty on the island is in Dublin and a second faculty on the island of Ireland would need to attract at least half of its students as full fee paying students. This is a very competitive market with many Irish and British students travelling to Prague, Budapest and further afield paying full fees to study veterinary medicine. Likewise many American students travel to Dublin and British Veterinary schools to pay full fees to qualify as vets.
One of the most important factors in reaching their decision on where to study is the quality of life where they will be located for five years. Derry as a result of City of Culture has been showcased throughout the World as a modern, vibrant, attractive City. It is now widely viewed as the ideal location to study, work and socialise – the type of environment where overseas students would enjoy studying in what would be modern veterinary facilities.
Access to sufficient animal population
A Veterinary faculty of the status envisioned would require access to an animal population supply of first opinion cases for surgical and medical teaching whose owners would be of the disposition to allow students assist in treating their animals.
Again, Derry as an animal loving “doggy city” is perfectly placed to fill that requirement also.
This city has the sufficient population density of animal lovers to provide the population of animals that first opinion veterinary clinics staffed by undergraduates and lecturers require.
Access to farm animals for teaching
Derry, situated at the centre of the Foyle basin, surrounded on all sides by livestock farms could readily provide veterinary students with a source of essential experience in animal husbandry. These farms could also be a ready source of first opinion farm cases for the new faculty. As a border city the faculty would be of tremendous benefit to agriculture in, not just the Northern counties but to the entire North West and border corridor. The location should attract cross border and potentially EU support.
Animal and inhabitant welfare
As a historically deprived city, citizens often do not have the resources to pay for the standard of necessary veterinary treatment they would wish. The location of a veterinary faculty and the clinics that are part of it could provide subsidized veterinary care to the animal population for those most in need.
As a traditional centre of excellence for greyhounds with the tracks at the Brandywell and Lifford a veterinary faculty could both be a great asset to this industry and potentially allow the faculty to develop a niche in veterinary sports medicine with its proximity to the industry.
The Horse Industry
Our hinterland of Donegal has a diverse population of race horses and indeed over thirty trainers who along with the Irish Draught and Sports Horse Breeders in Donegal would offer access to equine experience for undergraduates at the faculty. I have no doubt that the members of the equine fraternity would be delighted to avail of the equine facilities of such a veterinary school for treatment of their horses, rather than travel to facilities in the Curragh.
Competition for referral cases from vet practices
The North West has no referral centres for existing vet practices that at present must refer specialized cases to Belfast or Dublin clinics. A Veterinary Medicines Faculty in Derry could absorb such referrals with the obvious benefits involved.
Traditional argument in favour of co- location with medicine or pharmacology.
Not having existing expertise in these areas or not having an existing school of medicine should not be a disadvantage to Magee acquiring this faculty as I am advised that the course is now taught worldwide as an integrated course with problem based learning a key part of the course. It is no longer taught with separate courses in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology etc. Hence in a new start up situation existing expertise or facilities is not a factor. Indeed the UCD veterinary faculty is a standalone unit which is actually part of the agriculture school.