The Council of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has recently voted to introduce more flexibility into the requirements for English language testing of overseas-qualified veterinary surgeons wishing to join the RCVS Register in order to help boost the number of veterinary surgeons eligible to practice in the UK.
Until recently, any overseas-qualified veterinary surgeons wishing to sit the RCVS Statutory Examination for Membership or to apply for full registration to practice in the UK would need to have achieved Level 7 in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or Level B in the Occupational English Test (OET), across all components, ie listening, reading, writing and speaking.
While this requirement reflected those of most other professional regulators in the UK, RCVS Council agreed with the recommendations of the College’s Registration and Education Committees that it would be acceptable for veterinary surgeons to achieve IELTS Level 6.5 / OET Level C+ in any one of the four test components, so long as the average score across all components remained at least Level 7 / B.
The council also agreed that this small degree of flexibility would facilitate access to the RCVS Register for more overseas-qualified veterinary surgeons – an important consideration in light of current workforce shortages brought about by the combined effects of EU Exit, the pandemic and increased pet ownership – without compromising the overall standard of English language proficiency that vets need to be able to communicate properly with their clients.
This decision follows one that RCVS Council made in March 2021 to approve proposals from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) that would temporarily allow veterinary surgeons on the RCVS Temporary Register to undertake certain specific functions as Official Veterinarians – particularly the provision of meat hygiene controls in abattoir settings – and to reduce their English language testing requirement from IELTS Level 7 to IELTS Level 5 (OET Level D). It is understood this decision was welcomed by the meat hygiene industry and has been used to good effect since.