The Fiji National University (FNU) would like to respond to recent media articles published regarding its Bachelor of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry programme.
Upon a request by the Fijian Government in 2014, FNU established the Bachelor of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry programme. This was to address the shortage of vets in the country, as there was no veterinary training institution in the South Pacific. The Veterinary degree programme started with more than 40 students in 2014 and has since graduated about 49 local and 4 regional students.
As a stop-gap measure, Fiji has recruited Vets from overseas at a major cost to the economy. The Ministry of Agriculture needs Vets for some of its operations, as do the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji (BAF), livestock producers, and animal clinics.
FNU halted new enrolments into the programme in 2021, mainly because of the limitation in veterinary legislation in Fiji. The University is now running a Bachelor of Science (Animal Science) programme, which is regarded as para-veterinary in nature.
FNU, like other universities in Fiji, is self-accrediting. It offers programmes once they have been approved by the Senate. The programme documents are, however, submitted to the Fiji Higher Education Commission (FHEC) for recording on the Fiji Qualifications Framework.
The registration of professionals like Vets, Engineers and Human Doctors goes beyond the accreditation or recording of the programme. For Vets, it is done by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Whilst the University is undergoing a transition, with the appointment of a new FNU Council last month and a reshuffle in the Senior Leadership Team (SLT), the institution will be meeting with the new Minister for Agriculture in the coming weeks to assist in mitigating some of these lingering issues. FNU plans to propose the following to address the management of veterinary services in Fiji:
FNU has held meetings with the Ministry of Agriculture since 2018, specifically to discuss the registration of FNU graduates. We understand that the Ministry will soon be in a position to test and register the graduates.
We believe that one of the key steps as a way forward is to establish the Fiji Veterinary Council. The Council will consist of appointees from the Ministry of Agriculture, FNU, Fiji Veterinary Association (FVA), livestock farmers, Biosecurity Authority of Fiji (BAF) and members of the community.
The Council will bring all stakeholders under one umbrella to discuss veterinary issues and will be responsible for providing recommendations for veterinary training and registration of vets.
Many of our graduates are currently employed in livestock farms and veterinary clinics and work under the general supervision of senior qualified and registered vets. FNU believes that these graduates have gained sufficient experience to register and practice. The graduates ought to be registered and is something the Ministry of Agriculture should consider.
The University is currently conducting a special internship to prepare our graduates for the qualifying examinations by the Ministry. FNU will continue with this training, particularly to prepare more recent graduates for registration. We have 3 academic vets with PhD and clinical experience conducting the training at FNU and at our stakeholder facilities across Fiji. This is to ensure we prepare our graduates for the registration examination.
FNU is also working with our international partners in the training exercise, particularly the University of Sydney, Australia and Massey University, New Zealand.
FNU Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Unaisi Nabobo-Baba has assured that the University is addressing the matter.
“I take this matter seriously and would like to assure our students, graduates, parents and stakeholders that the University is committed to resolving this issue alongside our Council, management team and partners,” Professor Unaisi Nabobo-Baba said.
“Our graduates are currently working for organisations such as Rooster Chickens, Crest, SPCA, Animals Fiji, private clinics, and other livestock producers around the country, in para-veterinary roles. In addition, the University is also looking at employment options for graduates who are not currently employed.”