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Vet school to accommodate more students

Recognising the ever-growing importance of food security and competent veterinary specialists to contribute in terms of animal husbandry and diseases, among others, the University of Pretoria’s veterinary science faculty has added accommodation for another 216 students.

This brings the total number of students who can be accommodated at the Onderstepoort campus, northwest of Pretoria, to 604. Faculty spokesperson Chris van Blerk said the new accommodation was for students (144), postgraduate students (48) and 24 doing post-doctoral work.

“Our accommodation availability makes us the second largest on the entire university campus with only Tuks Village able to house more students.”

The expanded accommodation is part of the university’s plans to expand the veterinary science faculty “significantly”, Tuks vice-chancellor and principal Prof Cheryl de la Rey said.

“As the only faculty of its kind in South Africa, the university has a special responsibility to ensure veterinary science serves all groups and geographic areas of South Africa.

“Food security is at risk if there are rural areas without the services of veterinarians and there is already a shortage of these specialists in particularly our rural areas.”

She said discussions between Tuks and the Department of Higher Education were “positive” and the university was hoping to increase its BVSc degree intake by more than 30% next year.

“This increase will require further infrastructure development, including teaching laboratories,” said De la Rey.

“Additionally, a healthy and safe living environment is conducive to a good study environment and promotes students’ academic experience.”

Work on the R90m accommodation project started in May 2010.

Onderstepoort’s history as a veterinary training institute goes back to 1908 when Swiss-born vet Prof Arnold Theiler started working from there after his disinfection station and vaccine factory at Daspoort, also in Pretoria, became unsuitable.

In 1930 Theiler, by now knighted, was named director of veterinary education and research. He served as the first dean for the first students enrolled for a degree in veterinary science at Onderstepoort under the supervision of the then Transvaal University College, forerunner of Tuks.

The faculty’s first residence opened in 1924, the same year as its first students, all eight of them, graduated. Intake remained small, below the 20 mark, until 1956, with the first batch to exceed 40 qualifying in 1967. Numbers fluctuated around the 40 mark until 1978 with 69 graduates in 1979. It remained around the 85 students a year mark until 2007. But 2008 saw 99 students graduate and this grew to 119 in 2009.