Veterinary Students Handbook
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Veterinary Education in Cambridge
Course and Assessment Information
Outline of the Vet Course
Clinical Veterinary Study
Colleges and the University
Attendance at Teaching Sessions
First Year Courses
Preparing for the Veterinary Profession
Principles of Animal Management
Second Year Courses
The Third Year
The Clinical Veterinary Curriculum
Student Feedback and Representation
Estimated additional course costs 2012-13
Course and Assessment Veterinary Student Register Agreement
Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge: The first two years
Welcome to Cambridge, and congratulations on gaining a place to study veterinary medicine. This is the beginning of an exciting and challenging time: going to University, perhaps leaving home for the first time and embarking on a demanding course which will lead you to qualification in a highly respected profession.
This handbook provides a general introduction to the Cambridge veterinary course for students starting their course in October 2012, and covers mainly the first two years.
Dr David Good, Director of Education (Biological Sciences)
It is sometimes difficult for veterinary students in the early years to see the relevance of the things they are learning to their future careers as veterinary surgeons. With hindsight many wish they had paid more attention to biochemistry as they struggle to understand the metabolic diseases of cattle and sheep. Perhaps they did need to understand the physiology of the kidney as they sit up all night in the intensive care unit with a dog in renal failure. Maybe knowledge of neurophysiology and anatomy would help explain the uncontrolled twitching in the hind leg of a thoroughbred horse.
You will also learn technical skills, but there are other skills - notably listening and talking to people, and being able to handle animals in a careful and safe manner - which are essential for a veterinarian. We expect you to practise and develop these skills, and one of the best ways to develop your communications skills is in the supervisions arranged by your College. Do participate in supervisions - they are not just teaching sessions, they are learning sessions, and learning requires self-expression. Also, ask questions in practical classes; the demonstrators are there to help.Although most of the teaching that you receive during years one to three is under the supervision of the Faculty Board of Biology, it is the Faculty Board of Veterinary Medicine, working through the Director of Education in the School of the Biological Sciences (Dr David Good) and the Director of Veterinary Teaching at the Veterinary School (Mr Andrew Jefferies), that is formally responsible for overseeing the professional aspects of the veterinary course.
Fitness for Practice, Health and Conduct: Guidance for Veterinary Students
As members of the University, veterinary students are subject to the statutory provisions of University Discipline as set out in the Statutes and Ordinances. In addition, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the University expect all veterinary students to behave in a manner appropriate to their future role as veterinarians.
The University has agreed a Code of Conduct for veterinary students to guide you during your studies. The code of conduct expected of you with guidance notes is below.
Veterinary students are also required to confirm their acceptance of the University's Veterinary Student Code of Conduct and of the rules to be observed by veterinary students by signing the Veterinary Student Register form. This imposes important obligations on you, and requires that your name must be on the University's Veterinary Students' Register. A copy of the Register form is available here, but at the start of the course you will be issued with a copy to sign and hand in. The copy remaining in this booklet serves as a reminder of what you have undertaken.
It is important that you are aware that students whose health or conduct may lead them to be a risk to patients, clients or Extra-Mural Studies placement providers may be removed temporarily, or permanently, from the Veterinary Student Register and may not be permitted to enter the Final Vet MB examinations for the award of the Vet MB and registration with the RCVS.
As a veterinary student and future professional you must now be prepared to take responsibility for your own actions and your own personal development. This means thinking about what you do and in particular, facing up to and dealing with problems in the context of your work and relationships with others. However, the University has many support systems in place. For a compendium of essential information for any student in the University see the on-line Student Handbook.
Motivational problems - Are you on the right course?
If you are having serious doubts, talk about them immediately with your Tutor and/or Director of Studies. There are people who suddenly realise, having got to this stage, that it was all a big mistake. If you really do want to get out, then don't hesitate to say so; it is never too late to change your mind, but it can become increasingly awkward. Cambridge offers exit routes from veterinary medicine into other courses, so you will still acquire a degree.
Are you having difficulty coping with the demands of the course?
Again, talk to your supervisor and/or your Director of Studies. If you have a serious problem they will help, or in some cases direct you to sources of professional help, but they should be your first port of call.
Are you having Academic problems?
Begin by asking your College Supervisor in the appropriate subject, but University teachers can be approached if a problem remains unsolved and, in practical classes, demonstrators are on hand to deal with immediate queries. Problems with these lectures and practical sessions can be raised with those who are lecturing or running a particular class.
Complaints or concerns about other students or staff
The Student Code of Conduct requires students to 'take action at an early stage when any problem arises'. All veterinary students should seek advice if they think another veterinary student has behaved in a way that suggests that he or she is not fit to practice; examples of such behaviour include:
• misusing information about clients;
• treating animals without properly obtaining consent;
• behaving dishonestly in financial matters, or in dealing with clients, or research;
• making sexual advances towards clients;
• misusing alcohol or drugs.
Complaints and concerns about your fellow students should again be raised in the first instance with your College Tutor or Director of Studies. Complaints about academic staff should be raised with the relevant course organiser or with the Director of Veterinary Teaching. The University has a formal student complaints procedure.
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has certain expectations regarding the attitudes, behaviour and performance expected of veterinary students from the beginning of their course through to graduation and provisional registration and places the responsibility for monitoring this on the University. In the University of Cambridge, much of the day-to-day responsibility for this rests with the College tutorial and pastoral care system.
In the University of Cambridge, much of the day-to-day responsibility for this rests with the college tutorial and pastoral care system.
The College tutorial and pastoral system is backed up by the Medical and Veterinary Student Progress Panel, which maintains a general overview of veterinary student progression throughout both the preclinical and clinical course at Cambridge. It will also monitor the cases of students who, for one reason or another may be having problems with the course. This may be because of illness, personal difficulties or due to repeated examination failures. The Medical and Veterinary Student Progress Panel consists of senior members of the School of Clinical Medicine and Department of Veterinary Medicine together with College tutorial representatives.
In co-operation with Colleges, through the Senior Tutors and the College pastoral system, the Medical and Veterinary Student Progress Panel will review student cases with a view to offering advice about support for students who are encountering difficulties with the course. The committee is not a disciplinary body and is set up to provide support for students and Colleges. Its basic remit is to try to ensure that students have a timely and, as far as possible, trouble-free progress through the course. A more detailed description of the Panel and its functions can be found on the web.
However, the Medical and Veterinary Progress Panel is aware of the RCVS expectations of veterinary students and it will have the option of referring cases which raise serious concerns to the Fitness for Practice Committee. Details of the Fitness for Practice procedures can be found on the web.
And in the University’s regulations.
What to do if you have problems.
It is an unfortunate fact that, with a large student body, some individuals will encounter problems in their private lives and these can affect their progress on the course. The table below gives a list of confidential sources of advice for many types of problem..
In the first two years of the course, you will study biological sciences relevant to veterinary medicine both as subjects in their own right, as well as a means to understanding disease in animals. The official title of the course reflects this: it is called "The Medical and Veterinary Sciences Tripos", usually abbreviated to MVST (a Tripos is Cambridge-speak for a series of courses leading to a degree). This is a traditional way of teaching veterinary medicine: learn the biomedical science first, and then study its application to veterinary practice. Many students prefer to study this way, and by choosing the Cambridge course you have declared your preference. During these first two years these courses will give you instruction leading to both your professional medical qualifications (Second Vet MB), and to your Cambridge degree (BA). In order to proceed to the Veterinary School (where you take the Final part of your Vet MB), you have to pass all subjects in the Second Vet MB, fulfil certain requirements of the Veterinary School for Extra-Mural Studies (EMS) and gain your BA.
An advantage of the Cambridge course is that all veterinary students have the opportunity in the third year either to specialise in a medically related subject such as pathology, pharmacology or anatomy, or to widen their educational horizons by taking courses in, for example, social science or philosophy. This freedom of choice gives a wide range of educational opportunities.
You will graduate with a BA after three years but you have also embarked on professional training, which should result in your acquiring the degree of Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine in six years' time.
Following on from the first three years, you will move to the Department of Veterinary Medicine at Madingley Road, and complete your veterinary education there, graduating with a B Vet Med. An outline of the clinical course is here. After completing your initial veterinary education, and subject to demonstrating your fitness to practice, you will become a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and you will have to decide what sort of vet you wish to become.
Cambridge is a collegiate University and responsibility for your education is shared between the University and your College. You were admitted by a College and you will, I hope, soon make friends with other students in your College. Your College Director of Studies will get to know you as an individual, as will those that are appointed by your Director of Studies to act as your Supervisors in the main subjects that make up your course. Supervisors, Director of Studies and Tutors provide a pastoral network designed to support your studies.
The University body with responsibility for organising your teaching for the first three years is the Faculty of Biology. The Faculty delegates responsibility for delivery of this formal teaching to Departments, or to course management committees: the majority of your timetabled teaching (lectures and practicals) is delivered by staff from seven departments (Biochemistry; Genetics; Pathology; Pharmacology; Physiology, Development and Neuroscience; Psychology; and Veterinary Medicine). This teaching will be augmented and enhanced by small-group teaching, (supervisions), organised by your College. The supervision system can help with academic work, but also helps you to develop communication and writing skills Departments will provide course handbooks for each of the courses you take which will include details of the arrangements for lectures and practical classes in that subject, and detailed guidance about the form and conduct of examinations.
Much more information, especially about timetables, is available on the MVST pages of the Faculty of Biology web site and you should become accustomed to consulting this:
University is not like school. There are significant differences between the way you were taught at school and the way you will learn at University, and sometimes you may feel bewildered by the transition. In place of relatively small school classes, information at University is delivered by means of lectures, (essentially a 50-minute monologue) to groups of over 300 students. Lecturers will issue hand-outs, but you will also need to develop your listening, concentration and note-taking skills to get the best out of this. The material will be delivered quickly, and it is then up to you to understand and assimilate it. The information you are provided with in lectures will be developed and set in context in practical classes. Although classes may be large you will work in small groups with demonstrators on hand to help and answer questions. These sessions are vital to your education and attendance is mandatory.
The supervision system is there to complement the formal teaching and the onus is very much on you to make use of it, and to develop study and time management skills to help you cope with and master the material. College supervisions will play a very important part in your education. Make them interactive and take full advantage of them to ask questions about any parts of the course you need help with.
You will need to use the internet to consult library catalogues, past examination papers, databases of scientific literature - and much, much more. The departments that provide your teaching are providing increasing amount of supplementary information on their web sites, and the Faculty of Biology website also provides a lot of basic information.
You need to be aware that the University takes plagiarism very seriously. You can read more about this on the Faculty website.
Courses have been designed to allow students, wherever possible, to learn for themselves rather than being passive recipients of instruction, and you will get far more out of your course and are more likely to do well in your exams if you regard university as an opportunity to study what interests you, rather than just learning a syllabus to pass an exam.
You will encounter two kinds of assessment.
Formative assessment is designed to indicate to you how you are progressing, on a weekly or termly basis. Your College supervisor is the person mainly responsible for providing this kind of feedback. Formative assessment, more or less informal, may also form part of some University-based teaching.
Summative assessment (end of year exams) determines your ability to proceed with the rest of the course. The main science courses in your first and second year will be examined for two qualifications:
• Second Vet MB, which determines whether you are able to proceed to the clinical part of your veterinary course;
• Tripos, on the basis of which you are classed and will receive your BA degree. In addition to the main science courses, there are other courses which are assessed only for the Second Vet MB.
Each of the main summer exams in June is divided into three sections, and Sections I and II count for the Second Vet MB. The general format is a 1-hour theory exam (Section I), which covers the lecture material and consists of MCQs or short notes, and a 1 or 2 hour practical exam (Section II) covering the practical material. Because these Second Vet MB exams constitute a professional qualification, you will be expected to pass these at a qualifying level, and to demonstrate a basic knowledge and understanding of the whole of the subject material in the courses. The marks obtained in these two sections will then be added to those of Section III, to give a final Tripos mark.
Students often ask, "How much do I need to know to pass the exams?" The bottom line is that to pass your professional qualification (Second Vet MB) you will be expected to show a good working knowledge of the subject material in all your courses. Furthermore, you will be expected not merely to know this material but, more importantly, to understand it and apply that understanding to the solving of problems.
Courses will provide you with the scientific knowledge which veterinary surgeons need to have in order to cope with today's clinical practice, but we are also trying to show you that learning is a continuous process and that practitioners will have to continue to develop their knowledge and skills throughout their working careers. To do well in the Tripos, you will need to show a deeper understanding of the material, and to be able to marshal facts into coherent arguments.
If you do not pass the Second Vet MB in June you will have one further attempt at a separate Second Vet MB examination in September, unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as illness or other good cause. If you require a third attempt, your College has to apply for this on your behalf to the Faculty Board of Veterinary Medicine.
Section III consists of a 2-hour exam, during which you will be asked to write essays from a wide choice of topics; this section does not figure in your professional qualification, and the marks obtained count only towards your Tripos class.
In addition to the main science courses, there are other courses, for example Principles of Animal Management and Preparing for the Veterinary Profession, which are assessed only for the Second Vet MB.
Full details of these exams and how they relate to the course can be found here.
(a) About courses
For each course that you take there is a Course Organiser. If you have problems with the organisation of a particular course, you should communicate with him/her. You can also tell the student representatives who sit on the management committee for the course you are concerned about and ask them to raise the problem on your behalf. It may be a general problem and this is one way of bringing it to the notice of the organisers. A problem arising within a particular department may be raised, if all else fails, with the Head of the Department.
Problems with the teaching provided for you by your College should be raised with your Director of Studies or, if that fails, with your Tutor or with the Senior Tutor.
(b) Queries or complaints about examinations
Any complaints about the conduct or the results of examinations must be raised in the first instance with your College Tutor and not directly with the Examiners concerned. It is your Tutor's responsibility to advise on these matters. Cambridge exam rules and regulations make provision for cases of illness or other misfortune; if you encounter any kind of illness or other impediment to exam preparation, the sooner you inform your College Tutor, the better. All liaison between a student and the central administration, particularly in matters relating to examinations, must be conducted through your College Tutor.
Diligent attendance is a requirement of the Faculty Board of Biology as you will need a certificate of diligent attendance to permit you to take the Second Vet MB examinations.
Attendance at practical classes (but not lectures) is recorded and, if your attendance at the practical classes is unsatisfactory, the Head of the Department concerned will be unable to provide a certificate of diligent attendance and your progression in the course and professional future will be in jeopardy.
If there are good reasons why you are unable to attend a practical class then you should tell your Director of Studies and the appropriate Course Organiser. It may be possible for you to do the practical at some other time. Organisers of practical classes may notify students and their Colleges if a student's attendance record is unsatisfactory.
As a student your timetable is likely to be very full. Most of the teaching in the first three years is carried out on the University's Downing site. If you haven't time to go to College for lunch, undergraduates are welcome at the University Centre, which is at the end of Mill Lane.
Three courses are assessed for Second Vet MB and Tripos. They cover the following topics:
These courses are assessed for Second Vet MB and Tripos. They cover the following topics:
• the overall layout of the structures of the body in Veterinary Anatomy and Physiology (VAP)
These courses are assessed only for Second Vet MB, and during these you will cover:
• The Principles of Animal Management (PAM) which comprises two elements:
The Preparing for the Veterinary Profession course forms a clinical strand through first and second years. It is aimed at giving you an introduction to the ethical, social and professional responsibilities of the profession in society and the agricultural industry. As its name suggests, it aims to provide you with the opportunity to learn some of the skills and knowledge that should facilitate the transition from academic preparation to practice within the profession.
In the first year the course is taught within the Principles of Animal Management course alongside basics of animal husbandry and nutrition.
There are three main aims for the first year course. Firstly, to introduce you to the veterinary course, the ethos of the teaching of the Department of Veterinary Medicine and the nature of the veterinary vocation (this will include ethical issues and animal welfare); Secondly, to show you the risks of working with animals and the risks of working on farms; Finally to provide some practical training on the handling and restraint of cattle, sheep, pigs, horses, and other species commonly treated by vets.
The animal handling practicals will be held at the University Farm, the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Milton Campus of the University of West Anglia. Transport will be provided and you will be advised of the arrangements. You will be shown safe and humane animal handling techniques and have an opportunity to practice them. Documentary evidence of satisfactory attendance at these sessions, and of farm visits, must be provided (see your EMS book).
The material in first and second year of PfVP will be formally examined along with the second year material, in a 45-minute MCQ examination at the end of the Lent term of your second year.
In addition to PfVP, you will need to complete twelve weeks of Extra Mural Studies (Preclinical EMS) and will need to submit a report on visits to farm(s) and certificates to show you have completed twelve weeks' attendance at a variety of placements by the end of the Easter term preceding the October in which you enter the first year of the clinical course (that is Easter of the third year for most students; Easter of the second year for affiliates).
Each student will be allocated a Clinical Supervisor who will advise on EMS, both preclinical and later clinical. If you have not been contacted by your Clinical Supervisor before the end of the second week of term please contact Katheryn Ayres (email@example.com).
This course is designed to provide basic animal health teaching and to ensure that students obtain maximum benefit from their EMS.
The aims of the course are to provide you with an understanding of UK agriculture and the roles of veterinary surgeons within the industry, to teach you basic animal husbandry of the major farm animal species, and to ensure that you have a common understanding of fundamental concepts of nutrition. The course consists of lectures, computer assisted learning (CAL) packages and practicals. The CAL packages are available via the internet from the Vet School website. Although slots have been timetabled for the use of CAL, students are free to use the packages at their own convenience, in College, at home, or using central computing resources.
A Second Vet MB examination for the course will be held at the end of the Lent term of your first year. As a Second Vet MB exam, the marks will not contribute to the Part I Tripos classification, but you must achieve a pass in order to be eligible for progression to the clinical course.
Five courses are assessed for Second Vet MB and Tripos, and they cover:
One course is assessed for Second Vet MB only, and during this course you will:
Summaries of the subject matter in these courses and detailed timetables will be provided in the individual course handbooks and on the MVST website.
After two years (unless you are an affiliated student) you do a further year’s study and take a final Tripos exam to complete the requirements for the BA degree. In April 2014, you will be asked to state preferences for which course(s) you want to take in your third year. If you are an affiliated student, you will start the clinical part of your course in Cambridge in September 2014.
A huge advantage of the Cambridge system is that it offers an enormous range of courses in your third year. You may choose to take in-depth courses in many of the subjects you studied in the first two years, or you may take courses in something rather different, such as Anthropology, Management Studies or Philosophy, or you may decide to combine different subjects via a course such as NST Part II Biological and Biomedical Sciences.
Your Director of Studies will be able to help you make a decision about what to take in the third year, and there will be an opportunity for you to attend a Subjects Fair in March 2014 where the various course organisers will set up their stalls and explain what they offer.
The clinical training is an integrated core teaching programme based on separate but related courses given over the first six terms of the three clinical years. Some courses have a body systems basis (alimentary) and some a discipline (anaesthesia) or species basis (equine). Alongside this there is small group practical teaching on a rotational basis dealing with such things as clinical methods, post mortem work, radiography, clinical pathology and gynaecology. Regular formal assessment takes the form of course exams spread throughout the five terms, the aim being to encourage steady work and personal development.
There is a proportion of elective work in the clinical course with fourth year veterinary public health assignments and sixth year clinical electives, when students can choose areas of interest to study in greater depth than in the core curriculum.
The final three terms are essentially lecture-free and consist of small group rotational work through the clinics of the Department of Veterinary Medicine. There is an increasing emphasis on students taking responsibility for their own learning and development, with case and client management under supervision.
Continuous assessment forms an important part of this rotational work and contributes marks towards the Final Veterinary Exam Part (III) that completes the course at the end of the sixth term. Students, on passing this exam, can then be registered as members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
Throughout the clinical years students undertake a minimum of 26 weeks extra mural training in veterinary practices and other establishments, sometimes with overseas experience.
The formal objectives of the clinical course are set out below, and the foundations for many of these are laid in the pre-clinical course.
The clinical veterinary course occupies the final 9 terms of the 18 term veterinary course at Cambridge.
On completion of the first level of the clinical course (Final Vet MB Part I & Part II), at the beginning of the 6th term of the clinical course (12th term of whole course), students should have:
Knowledge and understanding
Course organisers will actively solicit opinions from you about your perception of their teaching. Many of the good things about the teaching you will receive have come about as a response to suggestions made in previous student questionnaires. You owe it to those coming after you to respond to questionnaires, so that those responsible for organising the teaching know when something is right and when something is wrong. When you complete a questionnaire try to be honest, informative and, if possible, helpful.
Course liaison committees also have student representatives and it is at this level that most of the useful work is done in providing feedback to those who teach from those who are trying to learn.
The Faculty Board also has student representatives and we hope that some of you will wish to contribute in this way to discussions about how the teaching is organised. There is also a Faculty Committee - the MVST Part I Committee, which oversees MVST IA and IB, and includes student representatives. Please feel free to take any thoughts you have about the course to any of your student representatives.