University of Melbourne drops ag and vet faculty

The university is assuring Victorians there will be no negative impacts from the change and it should improve the quality of courses and staff conditions.

Former Agriculture, Food and Vet Faculty dean Professor John Fazakerley is leaving the university.

Faculty of Science dean Professor Moira O’Bryan said the decision was aimed at lifting the scale and impact of research.

“We strongly believe this integration will enable us to achieve new levels of excellence and make an even greater contribution to solving the most pressing challenges facing the nation and the world,” Prof O’Bryan said.

“Our goal is to lift output in research and improve teaching outcomes.

“I would like it to be very clear, that the integration of the School of Agriculture and Food and the Melbourne Veterinary School into the Faculty of Science is absolutely not driven by a desire to cut costs or support.”

Asked if this was going to be a downgrading of the status of agriculture, a university spokesperson said the structure of the organisation didn’t determine the importance of the disciplines and the university was committed to agriculture and all courses would continue.

“Veterinary medicine and agriculture are very important disciplines and will be further enhanced by the opportunities that this integration will deliver,” the spokesperson said.

They said the university would become home to one of the most comprehensive faculties of science in the world following this move.

The spokesperson said there would be no change to campuses — including the Dookie campus.

A decision by the university to also close its teaching animal hospital at Werribee, U-Vet, has attracted a protest by staff.

The University of Melbourne said it was a proposal only.

“If the proposal goes ahead, clinical placements would be delivered under a fully distributed model, which would see students study alongside university staff embedded in commercial hospitals in defined clinical areas,” a spokesperson said.

“This change would enhance clinical training and student experience by ensuring access to a greater quantity, type and breadth of caseload for acquisition of clinical competencies in high quality, industry-relevant clinical environments.

“This is a model used by other veterinary schools around the world and is a recognised framework for delivery of clinical teaching by accrediting bodies.

“The university is committed to continue delivering our highly regarded Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program.”

Under the proposal, clinical placements would be delivered under a fully distributed model, which would see students study alongside university staff embedded in commercial hospitals in defined clinical areas.

“This change would enhance clinical training and student experience by ensuring access to a greater quantity, type and breadth of caseload for acquisition of clinical competencies in high quality, industry-relevant clinical environments,” the spokesperson said.

“This is a model used by other veterinary schools around the world.”

Students, staff and community members held a sit-in and protest to save the U-Vet Animal Hospital last week.

U-Vet veterinary nurse Taylor Reader said students, staff and the community had come together in a coalition that was determined to fight the closure and see U-Vet remain open for the community.

“U-Vet is the only veterinary teaching hospital in Victoria, where students can gain hands-on experience providing veterinary care to animals of all shapes and sizes,” Ms Reader said.

“The closure of U-Vet will result in the job losses of over 100 highly skilled veterinary staff which provide 80 specialist skills not available anywhere else in Victoria.

“Victoria is currently facing a shortage of vets and U-Vet’s ongoing operation is absolutely critical in training the quality vets we need for the future.

“We call on the University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Duncan Maskell and head of Melbourne Veterinary School Josh Slater to immediately halt the imminent closure of the U-Vet Animal Hospital.”