At Cambridge, you study the basic veterinary sciences first before learning to apply that knowledge to veterinary practice as a clinical student.
During your pre-clinical studies (Years 1-3), you are taught through lectures and practical classes (including 120 hours of dissection across the three years) in the central science departments, and College supervisions – you can typically expect 20-25 timetabled teaching hours each week. The clinical studies teaching is a mixture of lectures (in Years 4 and 5), practicals, tutorials, supervisions and clinical rotations.
In addition, you must complete a minimum of 12 weeks’ work experience (pre-clinical extramural study) during the University vacations in Years 1 and 2 to gain knowledge of animal husbandry. During your clinical studies, you must complete at least 26 weeks of clinical extramural study, some of which may be undertaken abroad. You are supported in the activities by your Vet School Clinical Supervisor.
Your progress is continually reviewed by your supervisors and your Director of Studies. 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, you are taught the core scientific knowledge and skills needed as a veterinary 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 to push forward the boundaries of academic veterinary medicine.
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 courses in animal handling and management.
The main areas of learning are covered by courses in:
- Principles of Animal Management – an intensive course in animal husbandry and management, including comprehensive animal handling training across a wide range of species
- Preparing for the Veterinary Profession – introducing you to the professional, ethical, financial, legal and social dimensions of your chosen career
- Homeostasis – covering the physiological systems which underpin the animal body's regulation of its internal environment and its responses to external threats. You also have practical classes in related aspects of experimental physiology and histology
- Molecules in Medical Science – looking at the chemical and molecular basis of how cells and organisms work, as well as the genetic foundations of animal populations
- Veterinary Anatomy and Physiology – functional anatomy of organs and tissues of domestic animals, and the direct relevance of animal structure in clinical veterinary medicine. The course involves extensive dissection of eight species, integrated teaching of diagnostic imaging as well as topographic anatomy sessions in live animals
- Introduction to the Scientific Basis of Medicine – covering epidemiology and how it’s applied in veterinary medicine
- Biology of Disease – dealing with the nature and mechanisms of disease processes, and the mechanisms by which animals detect, resist and destroy agents of disease
- Mechanisms of Drug Action – providing a clinically-focused understanding of how drugs enter animals’ bodies, how they’re distributed around them, how they act on cells and organs, and how they’re removed
- Neurobiology and Animal Behaviour – covering the structure and function of the sense organs and central nervous system, and introductions to neurological examinations of live animals
- Veterinary Reproductive Biology – looking at the physiology of fertility, pregnancy, development, birth and the neonate in domestic animals
- Comparative Vertebrate Biology – an introduction to the biology of fish, reptiles, birds, rodents and ‘exotic’ mammals, including practical classes in the handling and husbandry of these species
Read more about Years 1 and 2 on the Faculty of Biology website.
You specialise in one of a wide range of other subjects offered by the University to qualify for the BA degree. Options include:
- a single Part II Natural Sciences subject
- Part II Biological and Biomedical Sciences in Natural Sciences (offering a range of subjects such as Pathology, Physiology, Zoology, History and Ethics of Medicine)
- a subject less obviously related to veterinary medicine, such as Anthropology or Management Studies
This is a feature distinctive to our course and one which offers significant advantages to our undergraduates. As well as considerable satisfaction and enjoyment, this ‘extra’ year has been pivotal to many graduates’ career progression and all benefit from the global recognition of the Cambridge BA. You then continue to the three years of clinical studies at the Department of Veterinary Medicine, which is just a short walk or bike ride from the city centre.
Years 4, 5 and 6 (clinical studies)
The emphasis of the clinical studies is to give you sufficient clinical knowledge and skills to begin to practise veterinary medicine (‘day one competencies’) and also to provide you with the scientific background you need to benefit from future trends and advances in veterinary medicine.
In Year 4, you study topics including:
- animal breeding, nutrition and welfare
- anatomical and clinical pathology
- microbiology and veterinary parasitology
- clinical pharmacology
- respiratory system diseases
- communication skills
- practical clinical skills
You also learn about veterinary public health, including food hygiene, state veterinary medicine and the medicine of rabbits, rodents, reptiles and birds.
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 domestic species, radiography and post-mortem investigation. You also develop a range of technical and practice-related skills in the Clinical Skills Centre.
You continue the different 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
Five mornings every week are again set aside for practical clinical work. This includes visits to external establishments such as the University-affiliated RSPCA clinic, and opportunities to further hone your consultation and 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 clinical teaching, in which groups of just three or four students rotate through different disciplines in the hospital with individual clinicians. The small size of these groups means each student’s caseload is higher and they are given the maximum possible responsibility for the management of clinical cases. This allows you to develop your clinical and problem-solving skills and client communication skills in a real clinical practice environment.
Subjects covered during the year include:
- small animal surgery (soft tissue and orthopaedic surgery)
- small animal medicine (including oncology, neurology and clinical pathology)
- equine studies
- farm animals
- out-of-hours care
- diagnostic imaging
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.
For further information about studying Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge see the Department of Veterinary Medicine website.