University of Nicosia VetMed Building
Photo courtesy of University of Nicosia
The University of Nicosia is housing a new veterinary school in the pictured building. The university is located in Cyprus, an island country in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It hopes to attract students from around the world.
A new veterinary school in Cyprus, an island nation in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, is planning to accept dozens of students each year, the vast majority from overseas.
The veterinary school at the University of Nicosia, a private institution in the Cypriot capital, will accept an initial cohort of 30 students for the current academic year, rising to around 60 to 80 in subsequent years, according to its program director, Dr. Mike Herrtage.
Teaching this fall won't start until Oct. 31, around a month later than the Sept. 26 commencement of the university's academic year, to allow prospective students to complete the application process.
The delay is due to the new veterinary program not gaining official accreditation from the Cyprus Agency of Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Higher Education until late May.
"At the moment, we're still enrolling students," Herrtage, a former dean of the University of Cambridge's veterinary school, said in an interview this week. " This October will be a small cohort, so the real advantage for these pioneering students is that they’ll receive greater attention in small classes."
The Cypriot school is targeting prospective students in nearby countries such as Greece and Israel — Herrtage noting that Greece has only two veterinary schools and Israel only one. Applicants from farther afield also are welcome, including from the U.K. and North America. "We do not expect Cypriot students to represent more than 5% of the cohort, at best," he said. Cyprus has a population of around 1.2 million people.
Local and international students will incur the same annual tuition of €20,000 (US$19,901), meaning those enrolling in the five-year undergraduate DVM program can expect to spend €100,000 (US$99,503) on tuition. The university estimates that accommodation expenses for international students over the five years would amount to at least €50,000 (US$49,752).
Herrtage said the cost of the program including accommodation expenses, which, in Cyprus, are relatively low, is almost half of what international students would pay, on average, for DVM programs in the U.S., U.K. or at a Caribbean institution. He acknowledged, though, that the cost of education can vary substantially between individual institutions in different countries.
The University of Nicosia has offered the first cohort of undergraduate students a 20% discount on annual tuition for all five years of the program. A further 10% discount is available to applicants deemed to be in need of financial assistance.
The school's launch comes at a time when an apparent shortage of practitioners worldwide, pinned in part on rising demand for pet care during the pandemic, is prompting some policymakers to call for more veterinary schools. At the same time, rampant inflation is sparking fears of recession in many countries, potentially lowering demand for veterinary care and lessening the need for an influx of new graduates.
In the U.S., for example, new programs at the University of Arizona, Long Island University and Texas Tech University are expected to graduate their first classes between 2023 and 2025, and more established programs are expanding their class sizes. Plans to open programs in New Jersey, West Virginia and Arkansas could bring the number of U.S. schools from 33 to 36.
"Clearly, if there's a big recession, then demand for veterinary service will go down, and that might allow us to catch up a little bit," Herrtage said. "But I think the deficit of vets at the moment is such that if you speak to anybody who wants to find a vet for a position, they really do struggle."
Moreover, Herrtage said, demand for pet care is rising rapidly in parts of Southern Europe and the Middle East, amid a transformation in cultural attitudes toward keeping animals. "They have become more and more important to families, who are therefore prepared to spend more on care," he said. "If you go back 10 years in Greece, for example, if you had a cat that was unwell, then you'd just have it put down and get another one. The way people think about pets has changed dramatically."
The program, which will be taught in English, is currently not accredited with foreign veterinary associations, since most require years of graduates prior to accreditation, Herrtage said. In the meantime, graduates will have to clear additional hurdles to practice in certain overseas countries. In the U.S., for example, graduates from schools that are not accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association's Council on Education must complete an educational equivalency certification program.
Herrtage said the new veterinary school's curriculum has been aligned with skills and competencies required by the AVMA and the U.K.'s Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, among other professional standards-setters, to support graduates seeking licensure pathways in different countries.
Maintaining that retention issues are driving a labor shortfall in the profession, Herrtage said the new program is designed to give students "clinically relevant" and practical experience handling animals in its early years. "Whilst you choose people that have got good academic qualifications, it's important that they can decide reasonably soon if they still want to be vets," he said.
Still, the bar on entry requirements, he added, has been kept relatively high. By way of example, Herrtage said applicants from the U.K. would need pass marks of at least A in one A-level subject, such as biology and chemistry, and of at least B in two other A-level subjects.
Prospective students can apply directly to the University of Nicosia's veterinary school after high school. No other prerequisites are required and there is no entry examination, though applicants must complete an eight-question interview online.
Students will be expected to complete 12 weeks of preclinical extramural studies in the first two years and 24 weeks of clinical extramural studies during the last three years of the program. Construction of a teaching hospital is underway on-site and expected to be completed in two years, Herrtage said. He added that the university's medical school, as well as having on-site hospital capabilities, also partners with "an extensive portfolio of international clinical teaching sites" and that he expects the veterinary school will do the same.
Correction: This article has been changed to indicate that applicants from the U.K. would need pass marks of at least A in one A-level subject and of at least B in two other A-level subjects.