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RCVS Council temporarily suspends EMS requirements for veterinary students in response to COVID-19 pandemic

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Council has agreed to temporarily suspend its requirements for UK veterinary students and veterinary degree programmes around extra-mural studies.

Under normal circumstances, veterinary students would be required to complete a minimum of 38 weeks of EMS throughout their degree programme in order to gain real-life work experience to enhance their university-based studies. However, following a teleconference between the Veterinary Schools Council (VSC) members and the RCVS on Friday, 13 March 2020, proposals were put to RCVS Council and the following was approved by Council members by email on Monday, 16 March 2020.

Extra-Mural Studies 

A degree of flexibility around completion of EMS will be granted temporarily, specifically:

  • The RCVS recognises that it should not be compulsory for students to complete EMS over the next eight-week period, after which the situation would be reviewed. This would apply to students in any year of their studies.
  • The RCVS recognises that for students in their final year of study, it may be difficult for them to make up any missing EMS prior to graduation. Vet schools should continue to support students and explore alternatives for final-year students’ EMS placements, however, any shortfall in up to four weeks’ duration in EMS relative to the requirements should not be a barrier to completion of the programme.
  • For students in years one to four of their studies, it would be expected that there will be sufficient time for them to make up the full 38 weeks of EMS required to complete their degree programme. However, this will be reviewed as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses.

A statement from RCVS President Niall Connell has been provided by the RCVS to all UK veterinary schools and this, in turn, will be sent to all veterinary students to reassure them of the current situation regarding EMS requirements.

In the statement Dr Connell said: “Extra-Mural Studies (EMS) are an important and valued part of the veterinary programme, and all students are required to complete a total of 38 weeks across the full programme.

“However, the health and safety of students and staff are paramount, and we are aware that a number of restrictions are being put in place at this time to ensure their safety and minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission.”

These measures will be subject to further review/extension depending upon the prevailing situation with the COVID-19 pandemic. The RCVS will monitor the impact of this through EMS completion data provided by UK veterinary schools.

Final Examinations and Assessment

The RCVS recognises that, as a result of the measures being implemented to minimise the risk to students and staff due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be necessary for UK veterinary schools to consider alternative methods to assess students in certain areas.

In concordance with the RCVS Standards for Accreditation of Veterinary Programmes, UK veterinary schools should continue to ensure that any alternative assessment methods continue to be robust, valid and reliable, and ensure students have met the RCVS Day One Competences.

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