Securing the future of the Warrnambool campus of Deakin University could be aided if it took another look at setting up a veterinary science school, a former vet says.
Dr Michael McCluskey has flagged the idea as worthy of further consideration.
"Given we have had recent announcements about efforts by the federal government seeking to increase the participation rate of rural students in tertiary education I believe this would be an opportune time to revisit the concept which was floated about 10 years ago," he said.
"We have had Dr Denis Napthine, who also has a degree in veterinary science, recently appointed to chair the Expert Regional Education Advisory Group and our local federal member Mr Dan Tehan is now in the role as education minister so I believe now is the perfect time reconsider the merits of the proposal.
"Given we have a very large veterinary practitioner base in the region in the fields of cattle, horse and pet veterinary care there is not necessarily a need to build new, expensive clinical hospitals in order to offer the course."
Dr McCluskey, who is also a former independent state and federal election candidate, said in Australia the number of veterinary schools had almost doubled from four to seven schools which had raised concerns about over supply of veterinary graduates.
The peak veterinary body, the Australian Veterinary Association, previously canned the idea of increasing the number of schools when Deakin first floated the concept in 2012.
However Dr McCluskey said by allocating a proportion of the placements to overseas students this could help alleviate these oversupply concerns plus it may make it economically more viable to offer the course.
He said one of the problems with some veterinary courses was students had too much exposure to high end speciality case loads, but not enough exposure to a general practice veterinary case load.
"For example seeing a major abdominal surgery or a keyhole arthroscopic joint surgery in a horse is of minor value as 95 per cent of graduates who follow on to become equine vets will not become specialists," he said.
"They need to see more general case load issues so having a veterinary course that is based around greater exposure to privately owned veterinary practices which we have many of in the region would given them a greater grounding prior to graduation.
"It also alleviates the need for Deakin University to fund the high capital cost of building specialist small and large animal veterinary hospitals that veterinary schools normally have."
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