A joint Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and Veterinary Schools Council (VSC) Working Group on how to better support Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students at UK veterinary schools recently had its first meeting where it confirmed its areas of work.

The group was formed following an RCVS Diversity and Inclusion Group (DIG)/VSC joint roundtable discussion held last autumn, which brought together students, faculty and members of the profession, to identify areas where students required additional support and to discuss some of the discriminatory incidents that they had encountered.

Three priorities had come out of the roundtable:

  • Developing clear discrimination reporting structures, particularly for students on extra-mural studies (EMS);
  • Developing and supporting a group of role models within the vet schools amongst both the student body and faculty;
  • Developing support structures for BAME students, with faculty being trained on how to do this.

The group will also be looking at guidance for the wearing of religious clothing within a clinical context. The new Working Group is co-chaired by Prof. Rob Pettit, who represents the VSC on the RCVS Diversity and Inclusion Group, and Stephanie-Rae Flicker, a final year veterinary student at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) who also took part in the roundtable discussion last year.

The group also includes other BAME student representatives, Vet Futures Student Ambassadors, UK vet school representatives, RCVS president Mandisa Greene and senior RCVS staff.

Inaugural BAME meeting

At the inaugural meeting, which took place on Monday, March 15, 2021, it was decided that its immediate priority would be around the reporting structure for discriminatory incidents encountered on EMS or other work placements.

It was agreed that further options will need to be considered, and a legal expert with experience on reporting mechanisms would be invited to the next meeting, so that the group could consider different options with a view to making recommendations.

Prof. Pettitt, as co-chair of the Working Group, said:

I co-hosted the roundtable last year and found it fascinating and insightful, but also recognised the considerable frustrations that the students felt and that’s why I am excited that this group has now got underway, so we can focus on making progress and finding solutions to the issues that were raised.

"It’s vitally important of course, that these decisions are not made for the students, but by them, and that’s why I am very glad to have Stephanie-Rae as my co-chair, as someone who can voice the concerns of her peers, and help articulate the issues," Pettit concluded.