Subcontinental shift?

In a previous blog I stated that, while the Brexit process may throw up plenty of challenges for the next two years and beyond, there will also be plenty of opportunities to forge closer links with countries that we, perhaps, have ignored over the years in favour of our nearer neighbours.

One of these countries is India where I, along with the President Chris Tufnell, recently embarked upon a fact-finding mission to better understand their veterinary industry and regulatory system, visiting the various veterinary bodies in Delhi including the Veterinary Council of India and a vet school in Chennai.

It is a pretty well-known fact that India is on track to becoming the world’s most populous country by 2030, but it also has one of the biggest ‘veterinary populations’ in the world (not to mention the largest cow population!) with some 90,000 names on the Veterinary Council of India’s Register as well as 44 vet schools. As we look to expand the ‘global brand’ of the RCVS, therefore, India must be one of our key targets – not only because of the size of population but also its long-standing historical ties to the UK.

Chris and I flew first to Chennai (formerly Madras) in the south of the country where we visited the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, meeting Vice-Chancellor and heads of departments to get a sense of how veterinary education works in India. As in the UK the degree courses are longer than most others with five-and-a-half years of education and training – many of them focused on regional agricultural species.

Over the course of 2017 we will be looking to better understand…how we can develop a framework for a pilot project around accreditation of Indian vet schools.

We then travelled to Delhi where we met with the Veterinary Council of India, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, the veterinary department of Jawaharlal University and the President of SAPAC (the equivalent of the BSAVA) as well as the British Council and British High Commission.

While it was something of a whirlwind tour there were two overwhelming impressions that Chris and I came away with from our discussions with key people and our own observations. The first is that, understandably, veterinary medicine is still very focused on agriculture – but that, with the burgeoning middle class, there is an ever-increasing demand for companion animal-focused vets. The second is that it seems to be a slightly lower status profession in India than the UK but that, like here, it is highly trusted by the public.

In terms of what we want to do in India, we will be looking to build on the links forged during our visit and, over time, possibly look to the country as a potential source of veterinary graduates, as the medical profession does in this country. There are also opportunities for UK students and graduates and for the sharing of knowledge and best practice.

Although some preparatory work has been done, building these links will not be without challenges – the regulatory system is quite different from ours. For example, registration and professional conduct issues are handled by the state branches of the Veterinary Council of India with only educational standards falling under the remit of the central body. As would also be expected of a country of more than one billion people with 29 states, there is also a dizzying array of agencies and organisations and stakeholders so it is difficult to know who to talk to about what.

Over the course of 2017 we will be looking to better understand where the power lies and how we can develop a framework for a pilot project around accreditation of Indian vet schools. This will involve making contact with those key stakeholders – a task that the British Council in India has kindly offered to help us with.

So – we look forward to seeing how this will develop over the coming years and updating you in due course!