Alberta pulls funding for Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon

The Alberta government decided to end a 54-year partnership with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon. Tyler Schroeder / Global News

Students from Alberta will soon no longer be able to attend the veterinary school at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

A 54-year-old partnership between the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) and the province of Alberta is coming to an end.

The Alberta government announced on Thursday it will not renew its participation in the inter-provincial agreement after 2020.

READ MORE: Learning more about veterinary medicine at Vetavision

The decision equates to more than $8 million per year in financial support for the regional college based in Saskatoon.

The college accepts 78 veterinary students annually. Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan support 20 seats each and Manitoba supports 15.

In a media release, the WCVM dean, Dr. Douglas Freeman said, “one province’s decision doesn’t erase all that we have built and accomplished together in the past five decades.”

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“We will not let the loss of support from one partner jeopardize our college’s value to all western Canadians,” said Freeman.

After the 2019-20 academic year, Alberta will only fund veterinary student seats at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

“The University of Calgary’s veterinary program has grown into a world-renowned institution, and with this new funding we will now have the capacity to train all of our students right here in Alberta,” Minister of Advanced Education Marlin Schmidt said.

The Alberta government said it is reallocating $4.7 million per year to the U of C’s veterinary program. The province said the move takes effect in 2020 with incremental increases of 20 seats per year, allowing current students in the University of Saskatchewan program to complete their studies.

The switch in funding will allow the U of C’s vet program to increase capacity from its current 130 seats (30 to 32 students per year into the four year program) to over 200 by 2023, the Alberta government said.

“The partnership with the other provinces worked for many years, but by focusing our support on one Alberta-based program, we will achieve provincial cost savings and increase access. This will make life better for students, families, and communities,” Schmidt said.

As a result, students from Alberta will no longer have the choice of completing a doctor of veterinary medicine degree at the WCVM.

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WATCH: University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine students speak at the Vet-U-Can 2016 open house.

Click to play video: 'University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine opens its doors to the public' University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine opens its doors to the public
University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine opens its doors to the public – Sep 23, 2016

The WCVM was established by the four western provinces in 1963, with an inter-provincial agreement, which explains the terms for provincial enrolment quotas, residency status of applicants and the cost-sharing formula for funding the regional college at the U of S.

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According to WCVM, within the past four years, 97 WCVM-trained veterinarians accepted jobs in Alberta, with 60 per cent of those positions being in mixed animal or large animal practices.

Canada has five veterinary colleges, according to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association:

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