Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Leading knowledge platform at the intersection of disciplines and challenges
The knowledge and expertise present at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine make it the leading veterinary knowledge centre in the Netherlands. It is the only institution in the Netherlands that trains students to become veterinarians and contributes, based on a unique veterinary perspective, to addressing Life Sciences-related issues on the campus and in society at large. Our most vital mission is to generate veterinary knowledge and expertise in relation to social challenges. We build bridges between science and society, and provide specialist care in our academic veterinary hospital. We actively pursue multidisciplinary collaborations within Utrecht University and with national and international partners. Our ambition is knowing animals in order to meet tomorrow’s health challenges today. We approach those health challenges based on the One Health principle, which stems from the awareness that the health and well-being of people, animals and their environment are closely interrelated and must be studied in their shared context.
Our most vital mission is to generate veterinary knowledge and expertise in relation to social challenges.
This Strategic Plan builds on the course set out by the 2017-2020 Strategic Plan. Various programmes have been initiated in the recent period, including Vet 2020 (leadership and culture), LEAD (organisational structure) and A4A (positioning of clinics). In the period ahead, we will work to embed these programmes and refine our focus in keeping with the ambitions of the university.
Through our One Health research, we contribute to realising the sustainable development goals set out by the United Nations. Efforts to combat human diseases that originated in animals – such as COVID-19, influenza and Q fever – and the role that our living environment plays in these efforts, illustrate the importance of One Health and are also effectively aligned to the other sustainability goals, such as reducing climate change; making the transition to more sustainable, animal-friendly and circular forms of agriculture; enhancing sustainable food security and food safety; and fighting antibiotic resistance. This concerns research, education and clinical care within the themes of emerging infections, antibiotic resistance, sustainable agriculture and healthy wildlife and ecosystems, but also those of One Medicine and Veterinary Biomedicine.
The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine is growing into a veterinary knowledge platform that operates at the intersection of various scientific disciplines and social challenges. Because the Faculty wishes to further strengthen and expand that platform and network function in the coming years at the regional, national and international levels, it actively pursues connections with stakeholders including alumni, those in the veterinary and human healthcare sectors, businesses, politicians, policymakers and private organisations and interest groups, as well as the general public.
An open, resilient and innovative community
The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine wishes to do justice to the talents of students, employees and alumni and provide them with a challenging, inspiring environment in which they will find sustainable support for their development. Along with an attractive physical environment and innovative technical infrastructure, a social culture is an important aspect of this as well. This culture must prioritise open communication, cooperation, supervision and support, life-long learning and modern leadership.
A new home and impetus for sustainable innovation
In the coming years, Utrecht University will invest in replacing outdated buildings with a single new main building for the faculty.
Lines of action:
- We will take our experiences with COVID-19 into consideration in developing new initiatives in connection with working from home (whether full or part-time) and distance learning, in designing the new main building and in making investments in the area of safe and user-friendly information technology and healthy working conditions.
- Our newly constructed farm animal facility will be linked to the ‘De Tolakker’ farm and will emphasise sustainability, innovation and connection to the public and society. For our poultry and organically-raised cattle, we will realise cutting-edge facilities that will give us a unique, leading international position. At the same time, we are reducing the number of laboratory animals through innovation in our teaching and research and collaboration with external parties.
- Our new faculty building will include facilities that offer optimal space for developing innovative and future-proof veterinary education and research. The new main building and the new Tolakker farm will be used to better facilitate and stimulate our teaching culture, of which knowledge transfer, socialisation and professional development are all essential aspects.
- We will elaborate a plan for CO₂ reduction in order to minimise our ecological footprint by, among other things, requiring that the new construction meet a high standard of sustainability. In addition, we will help employees develop energy-conscious habits and we will promote the efficient use of facilities.
- Much like human healthcare, veterinary biomedical research increasingly involves the storage of large quantities of data in various locations. Efficient access to this data serves to accelerate research and innovation, making it possible to realise innovations in care and prevention more quickly as well. In future, we intend to invest in making all relevant data accessible to researchers, physicians, veterinarians and the corporate sector in safe and responsible fashion (FAIRness of data).
An open working environment aimed at growth and development
The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine fosters a close-knit community of students. Attention to socialisation, resilience, well-being and personal development is an integral part of our curriculum.
Attention to socialisation, resilience, well-being and personal development is an integral part of our curriculum.
In 2015, the faculty launched a long-term programme that continues to this day (VET2020 and later LEAD and Leadership), guided by the philosophy and goal of strengthening employee involvement with other departments of the organisation and promoting greater engagement with the faculty as a whole. Its agenda includes policy aimed at quickly providing young employees with development opportunities; encouraging education and training for employees; and promoting leadership without losing sight of the well-being and workload of all employees and students. A balanced operational management will enable us to invest in innovation in the future as well.
Lines of action:
- We will reserve a fixed percentage of our budget for the education and training of our employees.
- We will better facilitate knowledge exchange between employees.
- Temporary secondments and employee exchanges will be encouraged. We will focus specifically on career counselling for employees.
- Deliberate attention will be paid to the topic of workload. This will require a personalised approach based on dialogue between managers and employees and between lecturers and students.
- In 2021, we intend to draft an action plan featuring concrete measures to strengthen equality, diversity and inclusion among our students and employees.
Education for a better future
The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine prepares students to become veterinarians who use their specific knowledge profile and professional attitude to enhance the health of people, animals and the environment. These academics will be effectively launched on their career paths thanks to a good starting qualification as a veterinarian (DVM) and via work experience and further training. They will develop into professionals who operate in a wide range of positions, varying from practising vet to clinical director, researcher, adviser, inspector or policy officer. We also contribute to education pertaining to the Life Sciences themes on the campus, for instance with the One Health Master's programme.
Through their dedicated efforts, broadly educated alumni strengthen the impact of veterinary medicine on sustainable development goals at every level: regional, national and global. A more diverse group of students, including those from other programmes, will promote that broad employability among our alumni. To that end, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine will open its doors for students entering from the Animal Sciences programme at Wageningen University & Research and will partner with the Faculties of Medicine and Science to develop the Bachelor's programme ‘Care, Health and Society’.The Faculty will welcome the outside world in and will encourage students to turn their gaze outward in preparation for their future professional practice.
Lines of action:
- In both the Bachelor's and Master's programme, we will strengthen the cooperation and synergy with other disciplines and fields of study, such as that with lecturers and students from outside the faculty. Achieving multidisciplinarity in education through increased collaboration with other faculties, both at Utrecht University and elsewhere, is an area for attention here.
- We intend, in time, to open our Master's programme in Veterinary Medicine to students from other Bachelors, starting in 2021 with students from the Animal Sciences programme at Wageningen University & Research.
- From 2022, a revised Master's programme will offer students greater opportunities to choose their own profile, while also making the structure of the education more streamlined and efficient for lecturers.
The faculty prepares students for lifelong learning.
The faculty prepares students for lifelong learning: their education begins on the first day of the Bachelor's programme and will continue until retirement. From the very start, we therefore expect students to take responsibility for the direction and content of their own development. We are expanding our range of postgraduate programmes, in part through collaboration with external parties, and will determine the content based on trends and developments in the professional field.
An engaged community of lecturers and a close-knit community of students, due in no small part to the presence of flourishing, diverse and inclusive study associations, ensure students are optimally involved in determining the course of their own studies. In this way, socialisation and professional development – which, in addition to knowledge transfer, are essential components of a strong academic foundation – will be effectively integrated into the study programme.
Lines of action:
- We will forge connections between our education and society, such as through the development of community-engaged learning, an example of which would be establishing a student clinic.
- In addition to our sister faculties, we will involve parties from professional practice in designing our academic and postgraduate education; in doing so, we will reinforce the ongoing exchange of new and existing knowledge between faculty and alumni.
An innovative teaching culture
The innovation and digitisation of teaching offer many advantages for the future of our education. We will deploy digital teaching for improved knowledge transfer and smarter testing based on solid educational principles. Innovations such as Skills Labs, virtual reality as a tool for teaching anatomy, plastination, digital microscopy and virtual multidisciplinary consultation yield possibilities for more modern and effective teaching. Such innovations also offer opportunities to further reduce the use of animals in research and teaching, specifically within the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. Innovation and digitisation can present additional benefits in terms of efficiency, thereby reducing the teaching workload.
Lines of action:
- We intend to further integrate digitisation and teaching innovation within our faculty. To that end, recent experiences with online distance learning will be taken to account.
The innovation and digitisation of teaching offer many advantages for the future of our education.
Ample scope for internationalisation
As in other disciplines, the ‘global village’ constitutes the professional field for veterinary medicine. Greater diversity among employees and students will help both students and the faculty to better align themselves to global networks and career options.
The faculty participates in international networks of veterinary-medicine programmes and promotes knowledge exchange between lecturers and international student exchange programmes. These and other forms of internationalisation will remain key priorities for the faculty.
Lines of action:
- We will make it easier for students at sister faculties in other countries to take courses in Utrecht. Conversely, we want to provide our own students with more opportunities to gain experience abroad. Potential means to do so include the creation of exchange opportunities within the curriculum and the expansion of course offerings taught in English in both our academic and postgraduate programmes. We intend to continue exploring possibilities for the exchange or co-creation of international online education as well.
Impact of research and innovation
Research carried out in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine is an integral part of the Utrecht University multidisciplinary research theme, Life Sciences. Together with other faculties, we are identifying possibilities for further collaboration in order to add further depth to the research, particularly as our society-oriented themes are well-suited to this goal. Our research focuses on, among other things, issues of animal health and well-being as they exist in mutual relation to the health of people and our environment. It includes both fundamental and more applied research, clustered into three sub-themes: One Health (which focuses on the interplay between animals, humans and the environment), One Medicine (which concerns the parallels between human and veterinary medicine) and Veterinary Biomedicine (focusing on the emergence, diagnostics and treatment of animal diseases).
The faculty is rich in scientific talent.
Focus on quality and talent
The faculty is rich in scientific talent, as evidenced by the leading positions held by its researchers in the Exposome NL gravitation programme (financed by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) and research consortia such as RegMedXB (regenerative medicine), as well as in various national and European research partnerships. The faculty wants to offer its researchers the scope and support they need to qualify for competitive grant programmes in the Netherlands and Europe, and by doing so, attract new talent as well.
Lines of action:
- We will make use of our refined research profile in order to attract resources and talent from the Netherlands and abroad.
- The quality of our research will be evaluated annually based on the Standard Evaluation Protocol of the Dutch universities. The principles of Open Science figure prominently in that protocol.
A strong focus on collaboration and multidisciplinarity
Research at the faculty extends from the molecular through the population level and includes multidisciplinary collaboration at each of these levels. This is reflected in the numerous alliances present in the faculty. Examples of regional and national partners are the Hubrecht Institute for Developmental Biology and Stem-cell research, the RIVM and our alliance partners Eindhoven University of Technology, Wageningen University & Research and University Medical Center Utrecht. The faculty is also an active partner in multidisciplinary consortia such as the Netherlands Centre for One Health (NCOH), the Regio Deal Food valley and the Data and Knowledge Hub Healthy Urban Living.
Lines of action:
- We will strengthen and expand the existing alliances in the coming years.
- In the years ahead, we will also seek out new possibilities for entering into strategic partnerships with public, private or public-private parties in the region, throughout the Netherlands and beyond.
- Those working within each research theme will elaborate a plan for community-forming and, where possible, seek out further connections with other research groups in the Life Sciences cluster at Utrecht Science Park.
Research at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine is firmly grounded in current social issues and challenges that emerge in connection with the sustainable development goals.
Impact on society
Research at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine is firmly grounded in current social issues and challenges that emerge in connection with the sustainable development goals. Such challenges include combating diseases that originated in animals or have animal reservoirs, such as COVID-19, influenza, Q fever and many others. Yet the research also focuses on other topics relevant today, such as the health and well-being of companion animals, horses, wild animals and animals in commercial farming; the quality of our rural and urban living environments; sustainable livestock farming; and the production of safe and sufficient food, all of which have a direct link to veterinary research.
Lines of action:
- We intend to further strengthen the focus on relevant research themes and multidisciplinary approaches and, through our research, contribute to knowledge and technology that will prove valuable in efforts to achieve sustainable development goals.
- We will further refine our research profile, such as by organising the clinical research being conducted with the Veterinary Biomedicine theme into clusters around a number of priority areas. The organisation of research into larger units will enhance cooperation and interaction while preventing fragmentation.
- We will strengthen our own research ecosystem by devoting greater attention to talent policy and systematically supporting research groups through the Research Support Office, which will enable us to strengthen our external fundraising efforts.
High-quality care in the academic veterinary hospital
In addition to education and research, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine has a third task as well: to provide healthcare in its academic veterinary hospital. Like human academic hospitals, this hospital combines three interconnected tasks – patient care, teaching and research – each of which supports and strengthens the others. The academic veterinary hospital offers its students a safe and representative learning environment while also acting as a national centre for referrals. It fosters collaboration with large and small veterinary clinics in the region and elsewhere in the Netherlands and with sister facilities throughout Europe as well.
The manner in which veterinary care is organised in the Netherlands and beyond is changing rapidly. In 2019, the faculty therefore developed a vision for the positioning and profile of the hospital in the years ahead.
The new vision positions the veterinary hospital as a sustainable, modern, flexible and innovative academic educational institute.
The new vision positions the veterinary hospital as a sustainable, modern, flexible and innovative academic educational institute and clinical centre of excellence within an extensive veterinary network. It is a broad veterinary hospital that effectively represents current veterinary practice, and which offers basic disciplines at a specialist level in volumes that are sufficient to meet the educational needs of the faculty. As a result, students in Utrecht can obtain the relevant and scientifically sound starting qualifications that will be vital to the veterinarian of the future. In this way, the clinics continue to make important contributions to good veterinary care and the health and well-being of animals in the Netherlands while also playing a leading role in Europe.
The hospital will apply its expertise and innovative capacity in order to develop a specific profile based on a limited number of specialisations, making itself an attractive partner for referring veterinary practices and – through its academic approach to the patient population – a natural partner for parties who conduct clinical and translational research, such as universities and businesses in the Netherlands and abroad.
The emphasis on a combination of education and research within the network of veterinary care providers positions the Utrecht veterinary hospital at the heart of veterinary medicine. Thanks to its independent academic status, however, the hospital has a role that is clearly distinct from that of commercial healthcare providers.
Lines of action:
- In the coming years, we will reposition ourselves as both an academic training centre and a centre of excellence within a large veterinary network.
- Through our patient care, we will invest in our network function in both the relationships with those who refer patients and in other partnerships with external parties in the area of teaching and providing clinical services. To that end, strong client retention and cooperation with external veterinary chains are vital.
- Based on business cases, we choose research affiliated specialist care in a limited number of distinctive priority areas, such as locomotion, reproduction, oncology and the Animal Genetics Centre of Expertise.
- The approach taken in patient care will shift from traditional, disciplinary care to a modern and multidisciplinary approach characterised by collaboration, efficiency, flexibility and innovation.
- The collaboration with the University Farm Animal Practice will be further elaborated.