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Joint Report of the Council and the General Board on the establishment of a degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine: Notice

22 November 1999

The Council and the General Board have considered the remarks made at the Discussion of this Report on 6 July 1999 (Reporter, 1998-99, p. 882). They note that, although a number of adverse comments were made on particular features of the proposal, none of the speakers opposed the introduction of a Vet.M.D. Degree, and that Dr King, Mr Milner, and Dr Shaw all welcomed the proposal.

1. Dr King and Mr Milner queried the academic status of the proposed degree. Dr King drew attention to the fact that the Vet.M.D. as described in the Report is not directly comparable either to the M.D. or to the Ph.D. In response to this point the Council remind the Regent House that the University's existing research degrees are not arranged in a simple, linear hierarchy; the relationships between them are more complex. In their Report the Council and the Board attempted to explain how the proposed degree would fit into the existing structure; they regret that this attempt has resulted in a lack of clarity, and they think that it may be helpful to restate the case for the new degree as follows.

2. In their Report the Council and the Board drew a parallel between the Vet.M.D. and the M.D., in that both are to be seen as professionally-based degrees, and this is the point on which they wish to lay particular emphasis. The degrees of M.B., B.Chir. together constitute the qualification necessary for entry to the medical profession, and the degree of M.D. marks a recognized level of seniority within that profession. The veterinary profession is in many respects similar to the medical profession; the degree of Vet.M.B. is exactly comparable to the M.B., B.Chir., and in terms of career development the Faculty Board of Clinical Veterinary Medicine see a real need for a professional qualification at doctoral level. As explained in the Report, four out of the other five veterinary schools in the UK offer a doctorate in Veterinary Medicine, and there is nationally great emphasis on the importance of research in this field; against this background the Faculty Board consider it a matter of importance that a doctorate in Veterinary Medicine should be offered by Cambridge.

3. Thus the main thrust of the Report was to emphasize the parallel between the Vet.M.D. and the existing M.D. However, there are two respects in which this parallel breaks down; these concern eligibility for the degree and the form of examination.

3.1 Candidature for the M.D. is restricted to graduates of the University (including those who hold the M.A. Degree under Statute B, III, 6, or who have incorporated an Oxford or Dublin degree); a similar restriction applies to the degrees of D.D., LL.D., Sc.D., Litt.D., and Mus.D. The Council and the Board took the view that under modern conditions there is no reason to impose this restriction on the Vet.M.D., and they therefore proposed that candidature should be open both to Cambridge veterinary graduates and to all members of the staff of the Veterinary School who hold an appropriate veterinary qualification (see further paragraph 5 below).

3.2 In proposing the form of examination for the Vet.M.D. the Council and the Board agreed that it would be appropriate to adopt the general arrangements common to the great majority of postgraduate degrees of the University, including the Ph.D. and all higher doctorates other than the M.D., viz. supervision of the examination arrangements by a Degree Committee, with the Board of Graduate Studies as the ultimate deciding authority. The proposed arrangements thus fall clearly within the University's normal procedures for 'quality control' in the award of degrees. Furthermore, given the nature of the assessment required in deciding on the award of the Vet.M.D., the detailed form of the examination is modelled closely on the examination for the Ph.D. This inevitably means that the proposed arrangements differ from those for the M.D., which are of ancient origin.

4. Mr Milner suggested that the Vet.M.D. should be accorded the same seniority as the M.D. The proposals contained in the Report recognized the academic status of the new degree by including it among the degrees for which candidates are presented separately in the Senate-House. However, the point made in paragraph 3.1 above, concerning the difference in the standing of candidates, led the Council to think that it would be improper to place the Vet.M.D. among the higher doctorates in the order of seniority of graduates (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 183), and for this reason a lower placing was proposed. In this connection, and in relation to the remarks made by Dr Evans at the Discussion, it should be noted that the formal order of seniority which is prescribed by Ordinance for the holders of different degrees does not necessarily reflect academic status. Relative academic status is sometimes difficult to determine (for instance, it is not unknown for research workers to take both the Ph.D. and the M.D., and to do so in either order); moreover, the order of seniority is based in some cases on the date of foundation of the degree, not on any notional scale of academic status.

5. The Council have given further consideration to this matter and, in the light of the questions raised at the Discussion, they have revised their earlier view of the appropriate position for the new degree in the order of seniority. In the Report it was proposed that the Vet.M.D. should be placed after the Ph.D., in deference to the fact that the latter is of earlier foundation. However, it has been represented to the Council that, since candidates for the Vet.M.D. will have undertaken at least five years of study leading to a veterinary degree, followed by five years of professional experience and two years of research while candidates for the Ph.D. can satisfy the requirement for the degree by undertaking a three-year first degree course followed by three years of research, it would be appropriate for the Vet.M.D. to precede the Ph.D. in the order of seniority. The Council accept the force of this argument, and have agreed to revise their original proposal accordingly. They have therefore amended Recommendation III(d) of the Report so as to read:

(D) The regulations for the order of seniority of graduates (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 183):

By inserting after the entry 'Bachelors of Divinity' and before the entry 'Doctors of Philosophy' the entry 'Doctors of Veterinary Medicine'.

6. Mr Milner also suggested that the rules governing eligibility for the Vet.M.D. should be widened to include Cambridge graduates in subjects other than veterinary medicine who are not on the staff of the Veterinary School, so as to cover persons who may have followed a Cambridge undergraduate course in some other discipline and subsequently obtained veterinary qualifications elsewhere before going on to practise. The rules of eligibility as proposed in the Report made no provision for people in this position simply because there can be very few such people, if any, in existence. However, the Council and the General Board have consulted the Faculty Board of Clinical Veterinary Medicine on this point, and are satisfied that there would be no objection to including the class of people described by Mr Milner; they have therefore agreed to amend proposed Regulation 2 so as to include such people among those eligible to apply for the new degree. Proposed Regulation 2 in its amended form now reads as follows:

2. Any person may apply to be registered as a candidate for the degree who

either (a) holds a degree of the University,
or (b) holds a University office or an unestablished appointment on the staff of the Veterinary School,

and also holds one of the following qualifications:

either (i) a veterinary degree giving entitlement to provisional or full registration with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons,
or (ii) a degree recognized by the Council of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons for the purpose of full registration,
or (iii) a veterinary degree approved by the Vet.M.D. Committee for the purpose of candidature.

No one shall be registered as a candidate for the degree until five years have elapsed since the date of his or her admission to a veterinary degree as specified above.

7. Dr King expressed disquiet at the prospect that the University might be 'embarking on a whole new family of degrees'. The Council and the Board wish to assure Dr King that there is no suggestion of this, and that in their view the establishment of the Vet.M.D. Degree could not provide a precedent for such a move. The Vet.M.B. Degree is already in existence, and this justifies the introduction of a Doctor's degree in the same field of study. There could be no similar justification for introducing new doctorates in other subjects.

8. With regard to the points raised by Dr King in relation to the presentation of candidates for higher doctorates, the Council will ask the Senate-House Syndicate to consider the difficulties to which he has drawn attention.

9. With regard to the academical dress for the new degree, the Council have given careful consideration to the points made by speakers at the Discussion. They are aware that the scheme proposed is not wholly consistent, but they remind the University that this is inevitable, given decisions about academical dress that have been taken in the past.

9.1 In spite of the similarities between the proposed new degree and the existing M.D., there is a difference in status between them (see paragraph 4 above); the Council consider that this difference should be reflected in the dress prescribed for the two degrees, and for this reason they did not propose that the Vet.M.D. should share the M.D. robes. If doctorates in human medicine and veterinary medicine are to be differentiated by their dress, a difficulty has been created by the fact that there is no such differentiation between the corresponding Bachelor's degrees; both of these employ mid-cherry silk for the hood, and the differentiation is in terms of the amount of fur in the edging of the tippet. The Council were therefore concerned to propose a hood which would employ mid-cherry silk, but without using the same hood as the M.D.; they thought the combination proposed (black corded silk, with a lining of mid-cherry silk) appropriate for the purpose, and they saw no objection in the fact that this hood is also used for the M.Chir. Degree, it being already established (as Mr Milner remarked) that different degrees may share the same gown. However, the Council accept that the alternative suggested by three speakers in the Discussion is preferable, viz. mid-cherry silk with a lining of scarlet cloth (reversing the components of the M.D. hood), and they have therefore agreed to modify the recommendations of their Report by amending the proposed description of the hood for the new degree so as to read:

Vet.M.D.: of mid-cherry silk, lined with scarlet cloth;

9.2 In their original proposals the Council attempted to provide gowns, both black and festal, for the Vet.M.D. which would clearly differentiate it from other degrees. They accept that this resulted in a number of anomalies and, in the light of their revised proposal for the hood, they now believe that it would be appropriate to adopt the simpler scheme for gowns which was suggested by several speakers at the Discussion, i.e. to assimilate the Vet.M.D. gowns to those for the Ph.D. They have therefore agreed to amend the proposed description of the black gown and the festal gown for the new degree so as to read in each case:

Vet.M.D.: the Ph.D. gown;

10. The Council, with the concurrence of the General Board, are submitting a Grace to the Regent House (Grace 1, p. 184) for the approval of the recommendations of the Joint Report subject to the modifications described in paragraphs 5, 6, 9.1, and 9.2 above.

22 November 1999


3 November 1999


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Cambridge University Reporter, 24 November 1999
Copyright © 1999 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.