The Veterinary Schools Council (VSC) and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) have today published the results of the Graduate and Employer Surveys for 2019. New data will allow UK and Irish veterinary schools to begin to compare current perceptions of recent graduate competency to the results of the first national survey conducted in 2017.
Respondents rated graduates across core competencies using an online survey and were also able to leave free-text comments. Overall, surveyed employers remained confident in graduates’ clinical skills and were particularly impressed by their sedation and anaesthetic skills. Nearly half of employers used the free text comments to commend graduates for their communication skills, enthusiasm and empathy, praising their ‘passion for animal welfare’.
In the areas where employers rated recent graduates less well, their financial and business management skills received the lowest average score. While most employers believed their graduate could work within financial constraints, some noted in their free-text responses that graduates sometimes struggled with providing cost-limited treatment that compromised the gold standard, fully investigative model taught at university.
Veterinary educators will be pleased to note that 95% of graduates who responded to the survey expressed satisfaction with their choice of veterinary course. Two thirds of the surveyed graduates agreed or strongly agreed that their degree had helped their current proficiency in decision-making and four fifths of those surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that EMS had prepared them for entering the workforce.
Feedback from the survey will help veterinary schools to continue to ensure that the education they provide is aligned with the needs of the profession. It is important to note that the views expressed in these surveys relate to different cohorts of graduates. Surveyed graduates completed their degrees between 2013 and 2015, while employers responded about their most recent employee who graduated between 2017 and 2018. As the surveys are repeated over time, they could enable comparisons to be drawn between the views of employers on graduate competency and those of the graduates themselves.
Interestingly, in this survey employers were more likely to report that their graduates were willing to approach them with stress issues than surveyed graduates. Emotional resilience is a major concern within the veterinary community, with campaigns raising awareness and providing support. Over time it is hoped that these initiatives will improve the public consciousness of stress and resilience within veterinary practice.
The survey was developed by the Veterinary Schools Council Education Committee in collaboration with the Work Psychology Group. Both the RCVS and VSC distributed the survey.
On the publication of the survey, Prof. Susan Rhind, Chair of the Veterinary Schools Council Education Committee, said:
“As veterinary educators we welcome the publication of new data on recent graduate competence. We believe that improvements to veterinary education should be based on evidence which is strengthened by these new data. The findings from this survey will bolster our efforts to improve on perceived areas of weaker competence in our veterinary graduates.
“We are particularly pleased to see that 95% of surveyed graduates reported that they were satisfied with their choice of veterinary course, which undoubtedly reflects the high quality of veterinary education in this country. Following the release of the first national survey in 2017 veterinary schools have considered ways in which they can improve on lower rated areas of competence, such as graduates’ knowledge of financial management. The publication of the new data will provide more nuanced information on graduate competence and the Veterinary Schools Council’s Education Committee will continue to work with the profession to address any perceived areas for improvement.”
Prof. Susan Dawson, Chair of the Veterinary Schools Council and Chair of the RCVS Mind Matters mental health initiative said:
“Two years ago we committed to improving our understanding of the roles of graduates in veterinary practice by delivering the first joint survey on recent graduate competency. Since conducting that first survey we’ve met with employers’ groups to discuss the findings, the veterinary curriculum and the complexities around areas such as emotional resilience.
“We are pleased to see some signs that employers are more confident in graduates’ resilience than they were in 2017. In recent years the veterinary community has invested in initiatives to raise awareness of workplace stress and support graduates through the transition to working within veterinary practice. These statistics may indicate that our joint and individual strategies are working.
“I chair the RCVS Mind Matters mental health initiative, where we have been focusing on improving student and recent graduate mental health and welfare. Last year we held a Student Mental Health Roundtable with representatives from both the faculties and the student bodies of UK vet schools. We will be be drawing up a series of actions and recommendations based on the discussions we had there.
“Finally, this survey was commissioned before the Covid-19 pandemic. Whilst it is impossible to predict the full impact of the pandemic on the veterinary profession, it is reasonable to believe that it will have an impact on employee wellbeing. For this reason, in the next version of this survey it will be important to consider the impact the crisis has had on the professional environment that future cohorts will be working in.”
Dr Linda Prescott-Clements, RCVS Director of Education, added:
“We recognise the importance of gathering good outcomes data for the continual quality improvement of veterinary education programmes and were happy to support the implementation of this survey. We would urge as many graduates and employers as possible to take the time to complete these surveys, as they provide valuable insight into the quality of UK veterinary education.”
Notes to editors:
- The Veterinary Schools Council is the representative body for veterinary schools in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands. Consisting of seven UK members and two non-UK associate members, it provides a source of informed opinion on matters concerning veterinary education, from the welfare of students and academic researchers to links with government and industry. We engage in representative and policy work to ensure that the voice of veterinary schools is recognised for its experience, innovation and commitment to the proper care of animals. For more on the work of VSC, see vetschoolscouncil.ac.uk.
- The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons is the regulatory body for veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses in the UK and sets, upholds and advances veterinary standards, so as to enhance society through improved animal health and welfare. For more information on the work of RCVS, see www.rcvs.org.uk.
- The Employer Survey November 2017 was the first unified survey of employers by veterinary schools. Respondents were asked for feedback on the performance of their most recently employed graduate from a UK, Irish or Dutch veterinary school.
- The 2020 QS World University Rankings placed Veterinary Schools Council members in four of the top ten veterinary science courses in the world. The rankings can be seen here.
- This survey is the first to use a Graduate Outcomes consultation which asks for the views of all veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses, veterinary students and other stakeholders in a broad range of areas related to how veterinary students are educated and trained, and how recent graduates are prepared and supported into life in practice. It has grown out of the joint RCVS and BVA Vet Futures research project, which found that there was often a mismatch between the expectations of veterinary graduates and the reality of veterinary practice. This, in turn, can lead to problems around recruitment and retention and stress and mental health. The consultation encompasses four core areas identified by the Graduate Outcomes Working Group. These are:
- Day One Competences
- The Professional Development Phase (PDP)
- Extra-mural studies (EMS)
- Clinical education for General Practice
- For more information on this press release, please contact Lucy Chislett, Communications Officer, on 020 7419 5427, or firstname.lastname@example.org.