At the 11 November meeting of the RCVS Council, members voted by a significant majority to adopt contemporary new accreditation standards and methodology for veterinary degrees, which will be implemented from 2023 onwards.
This vote signifies the introduction of landmark changes to accreditation standards, which are the result of two years of research and development. The RCVS carried out a Graduate Outcomes consultation between November 2018 – January 2019 and the results of this consultation formed a substantial evidence base for the proposed changes. The profession has been heavily involved in the process, with the RCVS carrying out a review of the published evidence and numerous interviews and consultations with stakeholders including representatives from veterinary schools, employers, veterinary graduates and other professional regulators. The purpose of the reforms is to ensure that the RCVS accreditation process remains in line with international best practice, to ensure it is effective in assuring the quality of veterinary education and to drive innovation and quality improvement.
The Accreditation Review Working Party (ARWP) developed the new standards and methodology for accreditation, which was subsequently approved for consultation with the profession, first by the RCVS Education Committee in May 2021 and then by RCVS Council in June 2021.
The new standards for accreditation are split across the following six key areas:
- The learning environment – these standards outline what facilities, equipment and resources students must have at their disposal to facilitate a high standard of education and student wellbeing
- Organisation, culture and values – the steps that the vet school must take to champion and encourage diversity within their student intake and how to ensure they have supportive, inclusive and healthy environments for students to learn in
- Educational governance and quality improvement – these standards outline the makeup of the leadership, governance and quality assurance measures that the vet school must have in place
- Supporting students – what the vet school must put in place to support students in their studies and care for their physical and mental wellbeing. These also outline what should be provided so that students can achieve Day One Competences
- Supporting educators – these standards relate to the support measures which need to be in place for educators, to ensure they’re equipped for and supported in their role
- Curriculum and assessment – these standards outline what the vet school’s curriculum needs to provide for its students and how this is delivered, in addition to how students achievement of the Day One Competences need to be assessed in a robust manner.
One of the key changes that will now be taken forward is an increased focus on evidence of positive ‘outcomes’ relating to the standards rather than ‘input’ measures or processes alone. This would enhance the accreditation process, and ensure quality assurance was not the result of a ‘tick-box’ approach to checking standards have been met and instead, provide a model which recognises positive educational outcomes and innovation in teaching. A key change to the current standards is that there will be a much greater focus on clinical education work in the ‘general practice’ context which must now make up at least 70% of vet students’ studies.
The changes to the accreditation standards are some of the most comprehensive and forward-thinking changes from a professional regulator and are necessary to ensure that the RCVS accreditation remains fit for purpose and offers value to vet schools, students and the wider profession. The standards are set to be implemented from January 2023, and the RCVS is committed to working with Schools to support them as they work towards meeting them.
Dr Sue Paterson FRCVS (pictured), Chair of the RCVS Education Committee, said: “I want to thank Council members for a robust debate on the proposed accreditation standards. However, I am glad that Council voted to support these proposals and I’m confident that their implementation will be a huge asset to the veterinary profession. We recognise there is a need to clearly define specific terms within the standards such as ‘general practice context’ and to provide guidance around what a transition period to the full implementation of the standards will look like. These areas will now be discussed further our Primary Qualifications Subcommittee and Education Committee.
“I also want to thank all the veterinary schools, employers, veterinary practices and vet students who took part in the accreditation consultation. I know there have been some concerns raised by vet schools about the move to 70% target for GP education for veterinary students, but this is very much the direction of travel that has been asked of us by the wider profession following the Graduate Outcomes consultation and the consultation on these new proposals, including from practitioners, employers and new graduates, all of whom have strongly indicated that the veterinary curriculum needs to have a stronger focus on general practice.”