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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘Across five years, I have to self-fund over €50,000 for tuition fees alone’ – vet student (26)

That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Jess Varney (26), from Essex, in part two of her interview, as part of this week’s Student Focus series. She studies veterinary medicine and surgery at Harper and Keele Veterinary School and holds a BSc (Hons) in Animal Science from Hartpury University. Read part one of her interview, via this link.

“Getting through vet school is difficult. Getting through vet school as a graduate is almost unrealistic.

I wish there was more financial support for those who do vet med as a second degree.

Across the five years, I have to self-fund £46,250 (over €50,000) for tuition fees alone; that is without accommodation, bills and EMS-related costs, etc.

Due to this financial burden, many graduates are put off, but money should not be the barrier preventing perfectly capable and passionate students from embarking on a career in veterinary medicine.

I have been lucky enough to have secured two bursaries from charitable trusts, which have helped relieve some of the stress, but there Is a long way to go.

My pathway

If I could turn back the clock, I would not change the pathway I took to be here. While it is very hard trying to self-fund this degree, I gained so much from doing another degree first and even the year out. I felt more prepared for vet school when I started.

I had a good base knowledge of the modules; I knew how I studied best and I had a good amount of veterinary work experience that helped me to apply lecture content.

Moreover, I had more life experience, met some amazing people along the way and had saved up money to put towards my tuition fees. So, I felt I was ready more than ever to take the degree on.


If you desire to become a vet, try and get a variety of work experience placements to really give you an insight into what veterinary is.

While it is very rewarding, there are also difficult times, and I think work experience is invaluable in its ability to show you many aspects of the job.

Remember that if you do not secure the right grades, it is okay.

Firstly, it is definitely worth calling the vet schools up as I have heard of students getting places through clearing – it is worth a try.

Secondly, If that does not work, then it is still going to be okay. It is worth considering your options – take the extra year to re-sit exams and gain some more work experience or consider the graduate route (however, this is very expensive).

In terms of the graduate route, there are some courses at some universities that will let you swap onto vet med after the first year.

Do not let your exam results deter you from fulfilling your ambitions.

I love animals, obviously, but I also enjoy talking to people. I want to be an advocate for animals and to help owners/keepers. Also, I desire to make a positive difference to both the animals and their owners’/keepers’ lives.


When I graduate, I hope to take a short holiday and then get stuck into my first vet job. I am hoping to be based around the midlands, as I love it here.

I have always liked the idea of being a mixed animal vet, but I know that when I graduate, I will probably need to have chosen small or large.

I know of a few mixed practices that have been bought by companies and have changed to small only.

Also, I think there is so much to know that focusing on small or large could be better by knowing more depth of the species rather than spreading myself across them all.

When I graduate, I will have spent a total of eight years at university, so that is enough education for me for a while!

Sometimes I do think that if I did apply to vet school from college, then I could be graduated a couple of years by now.

However, I would not change a thing, and I am happy where I am and how I got here.

Life as a vet student is a busy one, but it is fun. The things we learn are fascinating, and the lab practicals are also really cool.”

To share your story, email – [email protected]

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