Concerns quality vets are being turned away from the industry has prompted Massey University to overhaul the criteria for qualification - essentially making it easier to achieve one of the most sought-after careers.
Many students aspire to a veterinary career but the five-year courses are notoriously demanding and difficult to gain entry into. Students are traditionally selected almost entirely on academic prowess.
But Massey says the industry is calling for the qualification to be less rigid, offer more diversity and entry expectations should no longer be placed solely on study results.
Massey says a nationwide survey of vets three years ago indicated a need to introduce non-academic criteria. As a result, its selection process from 2017 will carve assessment evenly between academic and non-academic performance - placing far more importance on people skills, practicality and opening the career to a wider range of students.
"The most important attribute chosen by the industry was communicative ability, followed by problem solving, and working well with others. As communication and problem-solving skills are essential for veterinarians, then there is a need for the process of selecting our future veterinarians to reflect these," said Eloise Jillings, Associate Dean of the Massey Veterinary School.
Already attracting candidates from New Zealand and overseas, the new criteria will judge a student's grade point average, a special tertiary admissions test and a written communication assessment. The non-academic performance assessment includes "mini-interviews" and situational judgment testing, using both video and written scenarios.
Students must also complete the minimum required work experience of 10 full days in a veterinary clinic, pass all pre-requisite courses and achieve a minimum B grade average.
Jillings says the intention is to increase the diversity of students and provide hope for those who have been previously been "scared-off" attempting selection.
Farmer John Spearpoint is one of the first intake under Massey's new rules.
The 40-year-old mature student says the opportunity in New Zealand has allowed him to take a huge plunge and chase a lifelong ambition - relocating from Australia's Hunter Valley to do the five-year course based in Palmerston North.
Spearpoint said after initially thinking he'd "left his run too late" for a veterinary career, he found the Massey criteria and pulled the trigger on a major move - five years of study in New Zealand while his family carries on running the farm.
"I'm not your average vet student. "It's a bold move, as a husband and as a father it's a tough sacrifice to not to be there for months at a time. I'm fortunate to have a very supportive family.
"The plan is to graduate and get working as a fully qualified vet."