Why is Cambridge the Best Place to Study Veterinary Medicine?
Studying to become a vet is challenging wherever you choose do it, but we believe that the Cambridge system offers the most diverse and rewarding veterinary course. Cambridge provides a uniquely supportive environment in which to learn, succeed and enjoy your university years. Our veterinary school has a long tradition of producing the finest veterinary graduates.
Veterinary medicine at the world’s premier science university – the pre-clinical years
Cambridge is a fantastic place to study veterinary medicine - aside from providing a world class education, Cambridge offers opportunities and experiences like nowhere else. I have loved my time here and will treasure those memories forever.
The University itself was established over 800 years ago, but has evolved into the best science university in the world. Newton’s mechanics, Darwin’s theory of natural selection, the discovery of the electron, the structure of DNA, in vitro fertilisation, reproductive cloning in vertebrates – no other university can match the startling contributions Cambridge science has made. And this trend continues today with Cambridge consistently ranking as the best-funded and most productive university.
The Cambridge veterinary course is your chance to become part of the story of Cambridge science – to be taught by the world’s leading scientists and work alongside the world’s brightest students. We believe that the key to being a great clinician is having an excellent grounding in the science underpinning practice. Indeed external feedback confirms that our graduates are better equipped to deal with unexpected clinical situations and the high pace of change in veterinary medicine.
At Cambridge, you will spend the first two years gaining a absolutely unparalleled anatomical, physiological and molecular understanding of the diverse species which vets treat, the pathological processes which affect them, and the husbandry and therapeutic avenues available to prevent and treat them. And in the third year, those who come to us without degrees have the guaranteed chance to focus on a single subject up to full-Cambridge-degree level (see below).
Science into cutting-edge practice – the clinical years
Cambridge pioneered the introduction of the lecture-free final year where students rotate in small groups throughout the hospital clinics. We continue that tradition of practical teaching, maintaining exceptionally high clinician-to-student ratios to ensure individual mentoring of our students as they complete their professional training. Cambridge provides a perfect environment for combining your love of scientific principles with teaching from world-class clinical staff and researchers.
The small year size allows for small group teaching and a more personal and friendly time at the vet school.
One of the major differences between studying veterinary medicine at Cambridge when compared with other vet schools is that we have comparatively small year sizes – often around 70 - and do not intend to increase our student numbers in the future. Maintaining small student numbers is fundamental to our teaching ethos – our students are treated as individuals. This ensures we continue to have a friendly, informal atmosphere at the Vet School where the departmental staff are always available to help and offer individual support.
During the final year rotations, the students work in small groups alongside the hospital clinicians, attending to a wide variety of patients throughout the year. This includes small animal cases referred to specialists at The Queen’s Veterinary School Hospital and first opinion small animal patients seen at the RSPCA clinic. Practical experience with equine patients is gained from the busy Cambridge Equine Hospital’s ambulatory practice and referral hospital, whilst the farm animal rotation incorporates patient treated by the Farm Animal team on an ambulatory basis and at the hospital. The benefit of our small year size is that this results in a high clinical load and case responsibility per student, which greatly facilitates the development of practical skills. Clinicians get to know Cambridge students individually, so we are able to better develop their strengths and give extra attention if there are any weaker areas to produce new graduate vets who are confident in their skills and knowledge. The mentoring relationship often continues after graduation as many of our new grads stay in touch - occasionally getting distant specialist support or a second opinion on a tough case.
Your college will also provide pastoral support; the veterinary course is fast paced and at vet schools with large class sizes and no college system, it can be easy to escape the attention of people who can help students if they get into difficulty. A great strength of Cambridge is that both the college and departmental staff know students as individuals, look out for them and are always willing to help.
At the end of the six years, students are awarded the degree of Vet MB and thereby membership of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (and the ability to work as a vet in the UK, EU and most of the Commonwealth).
The Cambridge experience – the central role of colleges
One unique and special feature of Cambridge is that it is a collegiate university. There are more than 30 different colleges within the University which complement and support the academic aspects of student life by providing a base for social and sporting activities, in addition to some learning and teaching associated with the course. For example, the colleges are responsible for organising ‘supervisions’ – intensive and rewarding small group teaching sessions which are central to the Cambridge educational system.
Don't be put off by the fact it's Cambridge - I didn't think I stood a chance of getting in either! Once you are here you realise that the percieved idea of Cambridge students is nonsense.
Emma - August 2013
Students live at a college for the initial years and sometimes for the duration of the whole course, but colleges are far, far more than just halls of residence. Cambridge vet students socialise with students who are studying many different subjects, as wide-ranging as Engineering, History and Modern Languages. In contrast to other vet schools, Cambridge vets mix with students from all over the University, resulting in wide and diverse social groups. The Colleges are essential in making sure that their vet students reach their full potential academically and also that they enjoy their time at Cambridge.
The Colleges are also crucial in providing financial and pastoral support if required. The support system at Cambridge is the best in the country, with each veterinary student allocated a pastoral tutor at their college and a clinical supervisor at the vet school who are dedicated to helping them with any problems they may have. Also, the colleges disburse large amounts of money in the form of hardship funds, as well as funds to support travel, sport, music and other extracurricular activities.
What makes Cambridge special is the fact you have a whole community and family in your College.
Because of these additional funds, and the fact that college accommodation is relatively inexpensive, Cambridge can be a very cost-effective place to train to be a vet. If you are concerned about the cost of your veterinary course, you should look at this site
[http://www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/finance/support.html], including details of the Cambridge Bursary Scheme, and also contact individual college admissions offices for details of what funding is available. It is extremely important that no one is dissuaded from studying veterinary medicine at Cambridge because of financial concerns, and we are committed to ensuring that this does not happen.
To find out more about the course and what makes Cambridge special, watch this short film - there are short interviews with students and staff members. view video
Why spend six years at vet school?
Another major difference between the Cambridge veterinary course and those at other UK vet schools is that it takes one year longer to complete. It is important that potential applicants understand why this is, and what advantages the addition year confers on our graduates.
Advantages – what you get for your extra year
The 'extra' year at Cambridge is the third year when vet students study a single subject to an extremely high level and receive a Cambridge BA in that subject. This degree is a full Cambridge science degree, identical to that awarded to Natural Scientists.
Aside from the satisfaction and enjoyment of being awarded a science degree from the world's top university, having the Cambridge BA degree can be extremely useful later on in your career. Many people applying to vet courses do not realise that they may decide to spend much of their career in research, in teaching, in academia more generally, in industry, running companies, writing books and generally enjoying a very wide variety of career choices. The Cambridge BA is a recognised mark of scientific excellence around the world, and that 'extra' year can often prove to be worth its weight in gold later on in your career.
"Having graduated from Cambridge Vet School this summer I headed straight out to volunteer at the Esther Honey Foundation, Rarotonga, Cook Islands, to put my newly acquired veterinary degree into practice. After 6 weeks working out there I returned to the UK to start work as a small animal vet in Braintree, Essex. I had a fantastic time throughout my 6 years at Cambridge and feel it has prepared me well for entering into the real world of veterinary medicine. I particularly liked the smaller year group at Cambridge compared to other vet schools and feel this gave me a greater caseload in final year and the opportunity for more personal teaching along the way."
Gemma Ellse graduated in June 2013
Students at other vet schools can of course apply to intercalate - to add an extra year to study for a BSc - but they must apply for a place on a course, as well as secure additional funding for this route. They will then enter clinical school with a different cohort of students from that with which they entered vet school. At Cambridge all undergraduate vets do the extra third year, they do not have to secure extra funding for it, and they remain with the same year-group throughout all six years.
We believe that the extra year is a major reason to apply to the course here, and more than justifies the extra time required to complete the Cambridge course. Please note, if you are a graduate and already have a degree, the Cambridge course lasts five years.
Things to bear in mind about the extra year
Six years at vet school means an extra year of fees and living costs. However, this is mitigated by the fact that Cambridge is a relatively inexpensive place to be a vet student for the following reasons.
(1) For between three and six years of their study, vet students live in college accommodation - which is relatively cheap, and for which they do not pay rent in the university vacations. It is worth emphasizing that rent is the major expenditure of most students.
(2) The Cambridge vet school is closer to the centre of town than any other UK vet school - a ten-minute cycle ride or a half-hour walk. Once students have a bike, the travel costs are zero. Students do not need a car, and do not have anywhere to park one for the first three years! This proximity of the clinical school also prevents the sense of isolation which can occur at some vet schools.
(3) Cambridge is a university town, and local costs are often tailored to the student budget.
(4) There is an unusually wide variety of sources of funding at Cambridge, from bursaries and hardship funds to fun things like travel grants.
(5) Our vet graduates have an exceptionally high employment rate, and so when the time comes to start paying off debt, they are at least in a strong position.
For more information please refer to our FAQ's