RCVS news: Have your say on the future of how the RCVS assesses the quality of veterinary degree programmes

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has recently [16 July 2021] launched a six-week consultation on a proposed new set of standards and methodology to be used when accrediting UK and international veterinary degrees, and is encouraging members of the professions to have their say on the future of how veterinary surgeons are educated, trained, and prepared for life as a professional veterinary surgeon upon graduation.

The consultation, which was approved at the June meeting of RCVS Council and runs until 5pm on Friday, 27 August 2021, is asking for feedback on a set of new accreditation standards which the College will use upon assessing the quality of veterinary degree programmes, as well as the methodology which will be used to evaluate whether these standards are being met. Full details about the consultation, including a link to the online questionnaire, are available at: www.rcvs.org.uk/accreditation-consult

Dr Sue Paterson, RCVS Council Member and Chair of the RCVS Education Committee, explains: “These proposed new standards are the culmination of a lengthy review process starting in September 2019 in which we have looked at international best practice, best practice from other healthcare fields and engaged with stakeholders to conduct a root-and-branch review of how we can better assure the quality of veterinary degrees, and the outcomes for our veterinary students.

“We believe that the new standards provide a new approach to assessing veterinary degrees and have the flexibility to apply across different curriculum and programme delivery models within vet schools, and so play a more significant role in driving quality improvement and educational innovation as well as assurance in the regulatory context.

“In addition, the new standards meet some of the key strategic aims of the RCVS around bolstering diversity and inclusion policies in all aspects of veterinary life; ensuring there is appropriate health and welfare support for students and faculty members; inculcating a reflective, learning culture within the veterinary professions; and ensuring that continuous quality improvement is integrated within veterinary schools.”

There are 75 individual standards that are organised around six overarching domains. These are:

  1. The Learning Environment
  2. Organisation Culture and Values
  3. Education Governance and Quality Improvement
  4. Supporting Students
  5. Supporting Educators
  6. Curricula and Assessment

In addition to the standards, the consultation is also asking for feedback from the professions on a new methodology which sets out how the RCVS will determine if a veterinary degree programme meets the standards – from the evidence-gathering and review process before an accreditation visitation, to the visitation itself, to the post-visitation evaluation process.

Dr Linda Prescott-Clements, the RCVS Director of Education, adds: “We are proposing to move from a process previously based primarily on the consideration of ‘inputs’ (such as formal policies and procedures) to a hybrid approach which increasingly considers evidence on the outcomes of the programme when evaluating whether standards are being met. This approach provides a greater degree of assurance, with sufficient flexibility for schools to be able to demonstrate that educational standards are being achieved across different models of programme delivery, including ‘traditional’ university settings, community-based or distributed partnerships and work-based approaches.
“Our new proposals also describe a more risk-based approach to accreditation. This means that established schools which routinely collect and submit robust evidence of quality and clearly demonstrate positive outcomes may have a more focused in-person visit from our accreditation panel, than perhaps a new school which is at an earlier stage in the collection of such evidence. Our annual monitoring data will also allow us to recognise emerging issues early and take action when required.”

The new standards and methodology have been published as separate PDF documents for ease of reference at www.rcvs.org.uk/accreditation-consult with additional information annexed, including RCVS policy and guidance on extra-mural studies, definitions around what is meant by ‘clinical education’ and an accreditation event rubric, which is the table by which the evidence provided as part of a visitation process will be assessed.

Responses to the consultation are welcomed via an online questionnaire not only from veterinary surgeons but also veterinary students, veterinary nurses, other members of the practice team and representatives of veterinary organisations and other stakeholder groups. All individual responses can be submitted anonymously and must be submitted by 5pm on Friday, 27 August 2021.

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