Concerns that students who could potentially be quality vets are being turned away from the industry has prompted Massey University to give the qualification a major overhaul - essentially making it easier to achieve one of the most sought-after careers.

While many students aspire to a veterinary career, the five-year courses are notoriously demanding and difficult to gain entry into, traditionally selecting students 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 based solely on just pen and paper skills.

Massey says a nationwide survey of vets three years ago pointed to a need to introduce non-academic criteria. As a result, its selection process from 2017 will be based evenly on academic and non-academic performance - placing far more importance on people skills, practicality and opening the career to a wider range of students.


Eloise Jillings, Associate Dean of the Massey Veterinary School, said: "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.

"By basing the selection process on aspects of both academic and non-academic performance, we aim to create opportunities for other great candidates to be considered."

Farmer John Spearpoint is part of the first intake under Massey's new rules. The 40-year-old mature student says the opportunity 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.

Let's be honest, you have to be intelligent to be a vet. But you don't have to be a genius.


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 while his family carries on running the farm.

Chief executive Julie Hood says the New Zealand Veterinary Association welcomes Massey's revised criteria.

"We have been very aware for a number of years that criteria for selection needed to be looked at and are absolutely supportive of the changes Massey are making," Hood said.

"We've got great graduates, however, we haven't got the demographic where we would like it, which is an international phenomenon, not just in New Zealand.

"Inevitably, every animal comes along with a human, so EQ [emotional intelligence] is as important as IQ."