DAERA have announced exciting new plans for higher education in horticulture and apossibly for veterinary medicine.

They have commissioned an analysis of option is to deliver a more secure long term supply of vets for Northern Ireland including looking at providing third level veterinary education.

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots commented: “I have been concerned for some time that Northern Ireland may not attract sufficient veterinary surgeons to meet the needs of the local agri-food industry in the future, and I have been keen that my Department continues to explore options for a more secure supply of vets for Northern Ireland on a longer term basis.

“Northern Ireland is particularly exposed in this respect. It is the only region of the United Kingdom that does not have its own indigenous veterinary education facility.

“Whilst in post, my colleague Gordon Lyons met with the Vice-Chancellors of Ulster University (UU) Professor Paul Bartholomew and the Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), Professor Ian Greer, to discuss the potential and the possibility of developing a veterinary school for Northern Ireland.

“An analysis of options to deliver a more assured supply of vets for NI into the long term, including consideration of the various models for third level veterinary education has now been commissioned.

“This analysis will be taken forward by officials working with the Strategic Investment Board, under the joint oversight of the Department’s Chief Veterinary Officer and senior representatives from the two universities. The analysis and identification of the best potential options is expected to be complete before the end of the year.”

Queen’s University Vice-Chancellor Professor Greer said, “The engagement with DAERA was a key step for the development of a Veterinary School in Northern Ireland, which has always depended on veterinary graduates from GB and Ireland. Being able to produce our own vets would be transformative for Northern Ireland and particularly our agri-food industry.

Professor Carol Curran, Executive Dean, Faculty of Life and Health Sciences, Ulster University said: “Ulster University is supportive of proposals to consider the establishment of a Veterinary School in Northern Ireland and interested in discussing this concept more fully to develop a preferred way forward with the Steering Group which includes the relevant government departments and stakeholders.”

A decision has however been made to allow horticulture students to study for an honours degree in Northern Ireland.

The degree, which is the highest level of horticulture qualification available here, will be delivered at CAFRE’s Greenmount campus and is validated by Ulster University (UU).

Up until now the highest level of horticulture qualification available here has been the Foundation Degree. From September 2021, students who have completed the Foundation Degree at CAFRE will be able to progress through bridging studies, to a one year full time course to then achieve an Honours Degree in Horticulture. The programme will also be available part-time over two years.

For further information on the new Honours Degree, e-mail the CAFRE Higher Education Course Manager for Horticulture, David Dowd at: david.dowd@daera-ni.gov