Royal Veterinary College


The Veterinary College of London was founded in 1792 by a group led by Granville Penn, a grandson of William Penn, following the foundation of the first veterinary college in Europe in Lyon, France in 1762. The promoters wished to select a site close to the metropolis, but far enough away to minimise the temptations open to the students. Earl Camden was just then making arrangements to develop some fields he owned to the north of London, and he replied to the College’s newspaper advertisement for a suitable site with an offer to sell it some of his land. The site was rural, but urban developments appeared on all sides in the early decades of the 19th century, creating Camden Town.

Charles Benoit Vial de St Bel of the Lyon establishment was appointed as the first principal of the new college. The first students, just four of them, began their studies in 1792, and the first horse was admitted for treatment in 1793. St Bel died later that year and was succeeded by Edward Coleman, who managed the college for nearly forty six years and established its reputation. Among the first students were Delabere Pritchett Blaine and Bracy Clark. In its early years it was mainly concerned with horses, but the range of animals covered gradually increased. The original building was a quadrangle in a neoclassical style, and there was a paddock on the opposite side of Royal College Street, but this was later sold for housing development.

In 1796 John Shipp was the first qualified veterinary surgeon to join the British Army.

In 1875 college was granted a Royal Charter as the Royal Veterinary College; it remains the only veterinary college in the UK to have its own Royal Charter.

The college celebrated its centenary in 1891 and in that year the Students’ Union was founded. In 1895 the first X-ray machine was acquired.

During the Second World War, the RVC evacuated to Streatley, Berkshire, although the Beaumont Animals’ Hospital remained open at Camden Town.

In 1949 the RVC became a school of the University of London.

In 1958 the Hawkshead field station, in Hertfordshire, was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The London Bioscience Innovation Centre was opened in 2001.

In 2005 the Duchess of Cornwall visited the Hawkshead Campus as new Patron of the Royal Veterinary College Animal Care Trust.


The college provides a number of undergraduate courses, including the Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine (BVetMed) as well as accelerated graduate entry BVetMed and a combined BVetMed, Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BSc) degree. BSc degrees are also provided in veterinary nursing, bioveterinary sciences, biological sciences and veterinary pathology, and a foundation degree in veterinary nursing is also offered.

The college also offers the Gateway course; the first year of an extended six-year veterinary degree programme, created for students who are part of the UK Widening Participation cohort. It is designed to equip students with the knowledge, understanding and skills needed to join a career-building veterinary degree course. This is a widening participation programme for UK non-selective state school students whose parents have not been to university and who receive, or would be eligible for, an Education Maintenance Allowance payment.

There is a distance learning department and the Graduate School provides masters courses, PhD studentships and clinical training scholarships in a wide range of disciplines. The College’s Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Unit is a major academic provider of educational services to the veterinary community.

The RVC has an e-Media Unit which collaborates with other UK veterinary schools on the development of the WikiVet site.


Application to the RVC is competitive, no matter which programme a student is applying to, but they actively encourage students to apply who have the desire to succeed.

They accept a wide range of qualifications for entry onto their programmes and their entry requirements vary by course.

The RVC will be accepting the new A level and GCSE qualifications, and will determine offer levels on an equivalent basis to the current qualifications. Based on the information currently available (as at January 2016), they do not plan to make major changes to programme entry requirements.

The students can read their full admissions policy and details of the qualifications they accept on their website.


Research areas include: Infection and Immunity, Musculoskeletal Biology, Reproduction, Genes and Development, Cardiovascular and Inflammation Biology.

RVC’s learning environment is second to none. The flagship Queen Mother Hospital for Animals, the largest full service referral hospital in Europe, and one of the largest in the world, is populated by Europe’s greatest concentration of 95 veterinary specialists (from over 20 countries) together with specialists in training (75). This allows ‘three-deep’ cover in each discipline and exposure of undergraduates to the world’s leading clinical educators and researchers. In 2014 the emergency and critical care service became the first US-accredited Trauma Centre outside the USA.

RVC was the first UK veterinary school to establish a clinical skills learning laboratory, containing mannequins, simulators and virtual reality devices. Where RVC led, others now follow.

In 2005, RVC established the £4.5M Lifelong Independent Learning in Veterinary Education (LIVE). The only veterinary-themed Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) in the UK, LIVE focuses on capturing and expanding best teaching and learning practice in veterinary education, through inter-professional collaboration and development of teachers internationally.

RVC leads the NEAT consortium: Networking to enhance the use of economics in animal health education, research and policy-making internationally. It includes 60 international partners.

RVC is the only school that requires two research projects from both its BVetMed and BSc students, many of which lead to peer reviewed publications authored by undergraduates.

In 2002, RVC was the first school to offer a non-clinical Bioveterinary BSc programme, an example now followed by the majority of the UK schools. It also offered the first veterinary physiotherapy programme.

RVC’s Bioveterinary BSc is accredited by the Royal Society of Biology, a recognition unique amongst veterinary schools. The programme teaches whole animal physiology, essential knowledge considered lacking in current BSc training (ABPI report).

RVC, with Middlesex University, launched the UK’s first BSc in Veterinary Nursing in 1998. In 2004 the RVC launched a Foundation Degree in Veterinary Nursing, unique among UK veterinary schools.

RVC is unique amongst veterinary schools in having a wholly-owned innovation centre. The London BioScience Innovation Centre, established in 2001, is home to 50 companies including Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson and Cancer Research Technology (Cancer Research UK). The first of its kind in London, it is the second largest, by number of clients, in the UK. The resident companies host RVC student placements.

RVC has the largest Continuing Professional Development programme of any veterinary school and is unique in leading and co-ordinating the CPD programme at the UK’s second largest annual veterinary conference.

In 2012, RVC was designated by the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation as a Reference Centre in Veterinary Epidemiology training and delivery, one of only four worldwide.

In 2015, the Society of College, National and University Libraries recognised RVC’s joint 4th position for student satisfaction (96%) with library resources in the NSS.

RVC is the only UK veterinary school subject to full institutional QAA review, recently (February 2015) receiving a positive report. With commendation for ‘enhancement of student learning opportunities’, the review also identified a number of examples of good practice: integrated approach to student support, which enables a wide range of student needs to be met; wide use of external expertise across all aspects of the management of standards and quality; effective contribution the Lifelong Independent Veterinary Education Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning makes to the enhancement of student learning.


In 2015, at institutional level, RVC was ranked 8th of all higher education institutions in the UK for student satisfaction, an achievement not attained by any other HEI with a veterinary school.

The RVC’s bioscience programmes are accredited by the Society of Biology.

51% of academic staff are fellows or senior fellows of the Higher Education Academy, out of a sector average of 24%.

The only higher education institute outside Russell group to offer a widening impact summer school for both students and teachers funded by the Sutton Trust.

In 2013–14, 51% of RVC academic staff were Fellows or Senior Fellows of the HEA, (sector average 24%).

All 4 National Teaching Fellows in veterinary medicine have been nominated while working at the RVC; 3 are current staff members.


The RVC’s careers service offers advice on:

  • One-to-one guidance discussions to help the student with career decision making and queries
  • Guidance on preparing CVs, covering letters and job applications
  • Practice interviews and tips on how to handle assessment centres
  • Support to help the students identify their transferable skills
  • Access to a range of resources via the University of London, including the UK’s largest careers information library and Job Online
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