Following the A-level results last week, we always get a spike in people asking this question! And of course, this year is going to be very different from normal, with the pandemic making it difficult to access work experience or interviews, and the A Level results being calculated, recalculated, appealed, argued over, and generally a mess.

However, it is very true that veterinary medicine (or veterinary science, or veterinary medicine and surgery – depending on how each institution names their course!) is a very demanding degree. So, in this blog, we’re going to do a quick recap on exams, admissions processes, and typical offers. Good luck to all the vets of the future out there!

How many Vet Schools are there in the UK?

There are currently nine vet schools in the UK, plus Dublin in Ireland, which take the vast majority of UK applicants. They are:

The ninth is Harper Keele – they’re very new and have only just admitted their first cohort, so they aren’t yet fully accredited. However, I’m sure they will be in 4 or 5 years time!

However, remember that you have to apply through UCAS. You are only permitted to apply to 4 vet schools in any one session, so choose carefully.

Which is the best?

As the school I graduated from, I naturally think Bristol is the best! However, as my boss graduated from London and I got my postgraduate qualifications there, I should say they’re pretty good too… 

In reality, they’re all great schools and a vet degree from any of them is one of the most highly sought and rigorous qualifications in the world. I’ve worked with fantastic vets who qualified from most of them, and I don’t think it really makes much difference. The courses are structured quite differently, but they all have strong academic, professional and practical training.

How long is the course? Is it really 7 years?

This is one of those statistics that keeps cropping up – and I’m not sure where from. In general no, the course isn’t 7 years long. At most schools, it’s a 5 year programme; however, many offer 4 year courses for graduate entry. At all of them there’s the chance to “intercalate” – take an extra year to get an additional bachelor’s degree – increasing it to six years (and this is standard at Cambridge).

Isn’t that long for a bachelor’s degree?

Yes it is – because the veterinary degree, although it’s called a Bachelor’s (Level 6), is actually a Masters level qualification (Level 7). This is the same as medical qualifications.

How competitive is it?

Overall, there are about 2 applicants per place. However, for each school, it’s more like 6-9 applicants per place, because most people don’t just apply to one!

How many places are there?

Last year there were roughly 1200 places. This year, though, there may be more as the Vet Schools Council has successfully lobbied for additional places.

What do I need to get in?

In general, you need to demonstrate great academic aptitude, that’s true. A lot of the material you’ll study at vet school is complicated, but the biggest challenge is simply the volume. Even with the modern integrated curricula, you will be studying the equivalent of several science degrees simultaneously, and you need to have the academic ability to manage that.

However, academic achievement isn’t enough – you need to have met other requirements, especially that of work experience in veterinary practice, and other animal-based industries. In general, it’s a minimum of 2 weeks, but some schools require more. This has been slightly relaxed this year – see details here.

Many of the schools call at least some candidates to interview, but not all; and many also set additional exams or tests. This may be a simple questionnaire, or an essay, or a formal exam – it depends on the school.

An important point, here, by the way – the admission procedure has changed dramatically in the last few years. The vets you talk to probably didn’t go through the same process as the schools are now requiring, so make sure you do your research into the current state of affairs!

OK, so what EXAM RESULTS do I need to get in?

This is where it gets complicated! In general, AAA or A*AB at A-level or equivalent, including Chemistry and usually biology are needed. Some schools will accept alternative L3 qualifications, usually at Distinction/Distinction/Distinction level. However, there are some differences – Harper Keele and Surrey, for example, will usually offer at AAB, whereas Cambridge usually asks for A*AA.

HOWEVER… many of the schools make contextual offers, so applicants from disadvantaged areas or schools may get lower conditional offers (for example, AAC at Bristol).

Are there places available through clearing if I did better than expected?

Rarely, but it’s always worth a try – especially in light of the additional places that were granted in July!

What’s life like as a student?

For that, take a look at this article by Joe (our student blogger).

Want more details about admissions and grades?

Check out the Vet Schools’ Council document “Admissions processes and entry requirements for UK veterinary schools for applications in 2020”.

However it goes – good luck everyone!