Veterinary Medicine Course Outline
At Cambridge, you study the basic veterinary sciences that underpin veterinary medicine first (in the University’s science departments), before learning to apply that knowledge to veterinary practice as a clinical student.
A major strength of the Cambridge course is the extensive use of practical teaching and the emphasis on small-group teaching in all six years.
During your pre-clinical studies (Years 1-3), you are taught through lectures, practical classes (including dissections) and small-group supervisions, and you can typically expect 20-25 timetabled teaching hours each week.
The clinical studies teaching during the second three years is a mixture of lectures (in Years 4 and 5), practicals, tutorials, supervisions and clinical rotations.
In addition, you must complete your pre-clinical extramural studies during the first three years of the course. This involves a minimum of 12 weeks’ work experience during the University vacations in order to gain knowledge of animal husbandry. Work experience carried out before starting the course cannot be counted.
During your clinical studies, you must complete at least 26 weeks of clinical extramural study during University vacations, some of which may be undertaken abroad.
Your progress is reviewed on a weekly basis by your College supervisors, and your Director of Studies monitors your overall progress in all aspects of the course. Formal assessment, which determines your progression through the course, takes a variety of forms including written essays, short answer questions and practical examinations.
Years 1, 2 and 3 (pre-clinical studies)
Years 1 and 2
In Years 1 and 2, the Medical and Veterinary Sciences Tripos (MVST), you are taught the relevant core scientific knowledge and skills needed as a veterinary medicine professional.
Taught by some of the world’s top academic scientists and veterinary surgeons, we provide you with the scientific and practical basis that will allow you to develop your veterinary career to the full, whether your aim is to deliver outstanding care or whether you wish to contribute to pushing forward the boundaries of academic veterinary medicine.
The main areas of learning in the MVST are covered by courses in:
- Homeostasis – covering the physiological systems which underpin the body's regulation of its internal environment and its responses to external threats. You also have related practical classes in experimental physiology and histology
- Molecules in Medical Science – looking at the chemical and molecular basis of how cells and organisms work
- Veterinary Anatomy and Physiology – functional anatomy of organs and tissues of domestic animals
- Introduction to the Scientific Basis of Medicine – covering epidemiology and how it is applied in medicine
- Biology of Disease – dealing with the nature and mechanisms of disease processes
- Mechanisms of Drug Action – providing an understanding of the basic mechanisms of drug action at the levels of both drug-receptor interactions and the effects on body systems
- Neurobiology and Animal Behaviour – covering the structure and function of the sense organs and central nervous system, and the effects of drugs on brain function
- Veterinary Reproductive Biology – looking at the physiology of reproduction in domestic animals
- Comparative Vertebrate Biology – an introduction to the study of fish, reptiles, birds, laboratory and exotic mammals
In addition to core science, you follow the Preparing for the Veterinary Profession course (an introduction to the ethical, social and professional responsibilities of the profession) and a course in the Principles of Animal Management (the fundamental concepts of breeding and raising livestock).
Read more about the MVST on the Faculty of Biology website.
You specialise in one of a wide range of other subjects offered by the University (sometimes referred to by other universities as intercalation) to qualify for the BA degree. Options include:
Successful completion of the pre-clinical studies leads to a BA degree. All veterinary students then continue to the three years of clinical studies at the Department of Veterinary Medicine.
Years 4, 5 and 6 (clinical studies)
Putting science into practice
The emphasis of the clinical studies is to give you sufficient clinical knowledge and skills (day one competencies) to begin to practise veterinary medicine, and also to provide you with the scientific background you need to respond to future trends and advances in veterinary medicine.
You study topics including:
- animal breeding, nutrition and welfare
- anatomical and clinical pathology
- microbiology and veterinary parasitology
- species medicine
- clinical pharmacology
- communication skills
- practical clinical skills
You also learn about veterinary public health, including food hygiene, state veterinary medicine and the medicine of laboratory animals.
These topics are examined in Part I of the Final Veterinary Examination in a series of 13 single-subject examinations.
Clinical tuition begins with basic clinical methods and integrated teaching in the husbandry/management and medicine of horses and farm species. Two mornings each week are given over to practical clinical work including basic clinical examination of the main animal species, radiography and post-mortem investigation. You can develop a range of technical and practice-related skills in the new Clinical Skills Centre.
You complete the courses in species medicine started in Year 4, and instruction is given in subjects including:
- various surgical topics
- communication skills
- practical clinical skills
- practice management
Two mornings every week are again set aside for practical clinical work, including visits to external establishments such as the RSPCA clinic, and another morning a week is used for medical demonstrations. You further hone your practical skills in the Clinical Skills Centre.
Part II of the Final Veterinary Examination tests your understanding of principles and concepts of veterinary medicine, as well as your ability to integrate information across the Part I series of subjects.
This is a 40-week lecture-free year with tuition centred on small-group clinical teaching in which groups rotate through different disciplines in the hospital with individual clinicians.
You are given the maximum possible responsibility for the management of clinical cases, allowing you to develop your clinical and problem-solving skills and client communication skills in a real clinical practice environment.
Finally, you have a period of eight weeks’ elective study in which to explore a special interest.
During the year, marks awarded in continuous assessment count towards Part III of the Final Veterinary Examination, which is examined in May of the final year.
Achievement of the VetMB degree allows you to become a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (MRCVS), which is the professional qualification required to enter practice.