Veterinary Medicine

Everything you are about to read has been written by current and recently graduated students at the University of Cambridge, to give you honest information about what it’s like to be a student at Cambridge.

The VetMed course at Cambridge is six years long, with three years of ‘preclinical’, taught in the centre of Cambridge and focussing on scientific theory, and three years of ‘clinical’, when you’re based at the vet school and integrate science into practice. Contrary to popular belief, you do get a lot of animal contact during the course, and there’re plenty of opportunities to get to grips with animal handling and other aspects of husbandry. In third year, you get the opportunity to study a year of another science subject in order to expand your interests. There are only about 70 vets in each year so we’re a really tight-knit community with loads of social stuff going on throughout each term.

Vet med Credit: Cambridge University

What about the VetMed course at Cambridge appealed to you

Georgie, Veterinary Medicine, Pembroke College, 3rd year
Pembroke College, 3rd year

The Cambridge course has a lot more of a scientific focus in the first few years than most of the other Vet courses around (which really appealed to me because I really enjoyed my science A-Levels) but still contains lots of practical aspects like dissections and animal handling. I liked the fact that the modules were often taught by world leaders in their field who had written the textbooks on the reading list. I also liked how we had an opportunity to explore some other field of science in our third year by intercalating; I’m studying behaviour and evolution in Zoology this year and it’s been nice to mix it up a bit. The clinical school, too, is state-of-the-art, with a working small animal hospital and interesting cases passing through every day. The focus on clinical studies in the second half of the course, with the lecture-free final year, was one of the most appealing aspects of the course for me.

How have you found the structure of the course?

Tamsin, Veterinary Medicine, Girton, 4th year
Girton, 4th year

Honestly, I found the pre-clinical years quite challenging at times. There are quite a few end-of-year exams in not much time which can be quite difficult. The structure of the course means there’s a lot to cover but this does give you a really good, in-depth foundation to start 4th year.

I really enjoyed 3rd year as you have much more time to apply yourself to your area of interest and/or pursue extra-curricular pursuits. 4th and 5th years have modular exams at the end of each term with a big exam at the end of 5th year. We also have rotations in clinical years which allow us to visit different departments at the Vet School to start putting our knowledge into practice. I think everyone is looking forward to the lecture-free final year!

What is your faculty/department like?

Tamsin, Veterinary Medicine, Girton, 4th year
Girton, 4th year

In pre-clinical years, you’re based ‘downtown’. The Anatomy department has a dedicated ‘museum’ where you can revise your anatomy with skeletons, models and an array of textbooks. Combined vet/medic lectures are held in other departments around the city centre.

Clinical years are based at the Vet School in the West Cambridge Site. The Vet School is a referral hospital with lots of interesting cases to learn from. There are computer rooms, a library and the Student Resource Centre - where you can chill out between lectures. All years have access to the Clinical Skills Centre. Here you can practice clinical skills that you’ve been taught such as animal handling/restraint and clinical procedures. We also have stables where you can practise equine handling and husbandry. The best resource at the Vet School is the staff - who are often very keen to help you with any problems!

What types of work do you have to do?

Evan: 1st and 2nd year supervision work is mostly 2-3 essays per week and/or some short answer questions.These can usually all be answered using the handouts and very occasionally a textbook. 3rd year work varies by the sunject you choose to study but generally consists of the occasional essay, though this will often involve reading scientific papers to answer well.You may have to present a paper you’ve read to the other students at journal club and in terms of coursework you’ll do either a dissertation or a practical research project. 4th and 5th years have a number of exams each term, and a lot of content to cover, so you don’t have supervisions and mostly read over/make notes on the lectures. 6th year consists entirely of rotations including case write-ups and presentations.

Do you have career plans?

Evan: I’m keeping a very open mind at the moment. I’m very open to the possibility of going into research and/or academia to give something back to future generations of vets. I’m also interested in a potential career in veterinary public health, as the ability to positively impact the health of both people and animals (on a national and potentially international scale) was one of the deciding factors which made we want to study veterinary medicine over human medicine all those years ago. I think the majority of the rest of my year, with the exception of some people who already have a farming/equine background, are mostly interested in going into small animal practice.

What about your course would you change?

Sam, Veterinary Medicine, Selwyn College, 3rd year
Selwyn College, 3rd year

I have really enjoyed the veterinary medicine course at Cambridge so far, so answering this question is tricky! One thing that sets Cambridge apart from other vet schools is the integration between the vets and the medics, with two shared modules in first year. This has its pros and cons; you will be able to meet new people and make new friends, whilst simultaneously realising how annoying medics can be. A lot of your first year lecture material will be medic-oriented, and this can be irritating, but the content is nevertheless very interesting and can mostly be extrapolated to the species you will actually be dealing with! It would be nice to have a little more vet content in the shared lectures, but we wouldn’t want to confuse the poor medics - they can only treat one species after all.

Typical timetable of a 1st year Veterinary Medicine student

Sam, Veterinary Medicine, Selwyn College, 3rd year
Selwyn College, 3rd year

This is your typical first-year timetable – be prepared to be busy! First year consists of 3 major modules which are examined at the end of the year (Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry) and 2 other modules examined at the end of Lent (Animal management and Statistics). Each module has lecture and practical content, with the majority of practicals occurring fortnightly. Dissections tend to happen every other day, and were the highlight of my week! For each of the 3 major modules, you will also have weekly supervisions. The supervisor will set work for you to do between the supervisions, which is often an essay – you will be well practiced in writing these by the end of the year! Don’t worry though, you will still have time to socialise and take advantage of the great extra-curricular scene Cambridge has to offer.

- Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
9am Anatomy Lecture Biochemistry Lecture Anatomy Lecture Biochemistry Lecture -
10am Physiology Practical Anatomy Dissection Biochemistry Practical Anatomy Dissection Supervision
11am Physiology Practical Anatomy Dissection Biochemistry Practical Anatomy Dissection -
12am Biochemistry Lecture Physiology Lecture - Physiology Lecture Physiology Lecture
1pm Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch
2pm - Animal Management Lecture Supervision Practical Animal Handling Histology Practical
3pm Supervision Animal Management Lecture - Practical Animal Handling Histology Practical
4pm - - Statistics Lecture Practical Animal Handling -

What has been going on at Veterinary Medicine?

- Recent Events -

Offer Holders Open Day

On 4th February, the vet school invited all of this year's offer holders to visit. Students were able to meet others who will be starting with them in October, and to learn more about the next six years.

Southern Veterinary Student Zoological Symposiym

Cambridge recently hosted the Southern Veterinary Student Zoological Symposium - a weekend of lectures, a practical session and a dinner. It focused on exotic species, and it was good to meet students from the other UK vet schools.

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