Northern Ireland vets shortage feared as potential students opt out due to costs
There are fears Northern Ireland could face a shortage of vets if young people are put off from studying the subject because of high tuition fees.
It is currently not possible to study veterinary medicine in Northern Ireland, meaning the majority of potential vets go to universities across the water.
There they will face increased fees of up to £9,000 per year.
Yesterday, the North of Ireland Veterinary Association said it feared the high price of the course will discourage young people from choosing the profession, and urged Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry to intervene.
It said future veterinary students face leaving university after five years with debts of up to £80,000, once living expenses are factored in.
The Department for Employment and Learning is offering tuition fee loans, as well as a living cost entitlement, but the veterinary profession said its students needed more State help.
It was pointed out that due to the long hours of study and extra-curricular work required for the course, veterinary students found it more difficult to hold down part-time and summer jobs to boost their income.
The president of the North of Ireland Veterinary Association, David Torrens, said he feared students would choose not to venture into the profession.
He said a second fear was that if they did go to veterinary college, many students would not be able to afford to come back to work in Northern Ireland, where salaries tend to be lower. The association is now calling on minister Farry to help those young people who want to join the veterinary profession in what it claims is a unique situation.
It said the Welsh Assembly was promising financial assistance to its students who found themselves facing a similar dilemma.