Press release issued 2 July 2012
Nearly 60 years ago, the first veterinary students graduated from the Bristol Vet School. Ten of the graduates, who went on to make major contributions to the veterinary profession and society, will come together for a reunion at the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences tomorrow [Tuesday 3 July].
The course started with a small group of students who were selected on academic qualifications and at interview. First year subjects included biology, physics and chemistry, which were taught with the medical and dental students.
In 1950, 23 students, including six women, the maximum allowed, began the main BVSc degree programme in Veterinary Science. The students were inspired and enthused by those who taught them. Anatomy and embryology were taught in the new vet school in Park Row but physiology, biochemistry and pathology were still taught with the medical students.
The students completed the course in the summer of 1954 but their finals, which included written papers with questions, such as “describe a grazing pattern to control worms in a flock of sheep”, together with practicals and oral questioning, didn’t take place until September.
Finally, the 23 graduates, the ‘Class of ‘54’, received their degrees in the Wills Memorial Building in October 1954.
During their time at Bristol the students set the standard for years to come. They participated in the RAG (Raising and Giving) week annual procession by building an impressive papier-mâché Pegasus on their float. They also established the Centaur Society, the student society that acts for the students of the School of Veterinary Sciences, presented the University in a variety of sports and produced the first final year pantomime ‘Les Folies Veterinaries’.
Professor Sarah Baillie, Chair in Veterinary Education in the School of Veterinary Sciences, a Bristol graduate and who has researched the ‘Class of ‘54’, said: “While researching and writing about the students it became clear they have had outstanding achievements in practice, in the ministry, industry and overseas services and through distinguished careers in research and academia.
“They are an extraordinary group of high-achievers who have contributed so much to society and the profession. They have capitalised on their time at the University in their lives and careers and shared a passion for Bristol that echoed my experiences as a student during the 1980s.”
A number of the ‘Class of ‘54’ have been commended through honours including a CB (Companion of the Order of the Bath), MBEs and FRCVSs, received Professorial appointments and became Deans (in Zambia and New Zealand).
The material collected during this project has been digitised and is being archived by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Charitable Trust as part of the history of the veterinary profession in the UK.
About the School of Veterinary Sciences
The School of Veterinary Sciences at the University of Bristol is based in the Faculty of Medical and Veterinary Sciences and has educational and research links with the Schools of Medicine and Dentistry.
The School has been training veterinary surgeons for over 50 years. It is highly rated in both teaching and research activities, has excellent links with the veterinary profession and is a fully accredited Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) School.
Graduation photo of the 'Class of '54'
A papier-mâché Pegasus on the RAG procession float
Image by Dr Bill Watson
While researching and writing about the students it became clear they have had outstanding achievements in practice, in the ministry, industry and overseas services and through distinguished careers in research and academia.