United Kingdom


Veterinary medicine is regulated by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, based in London.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) was established by Royal Charter in 1844, and this was updated with a new Charter in 2015.  The RCVS regulatory function is authorised by the Veterinary Surgeons Act (1966).  In the UK the term “Veterinary Surgeon” is the general description for all veterinarians, the preferred term in most other countries.

Veterinary Specialist Recognition

European Veterinary Specialists, Diplomates of Colleges recognised by the AVMA American Board of Veterinary Specialties, and Fellows of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists can apply to the RCVS to join the UK Specialist Register.

The RCVS also lists holders of its own specialist Diplomas (at European Qualifications Framework level 8) and Fellowship who continue to meet its requirements for revalidation.  RCVS Diplomas have been discontinued where equivalent European College Diplomas now exist, meaning that this legacy national system is now being superseded by the European system.

Advanced Veterinary Practitioners

The RCVS recently established a “middle tier” qualification, between basic clinical level and specialist level based on its professional Certificates. Separate lists of these nationally recognised Advanced Practitioners are available from the RCVS.  Advanced Practitioners are not allowed to call themselves specialists based on this listing or Certificate qualifications.

Continuing Education of Veterinary General Practitioners

Compulsory continuing education requirements are in place for all veterinary surgeons, as mandated by the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons.  Where this is achieved through formal qualifications, veterinarians are allowed to use recognised abbreviations after their name.

Veterinary Education 

There are seven veterinary schools in the UK that offer a full veterinary curriculum leading to a veterinary qualification.  All are approved by RCVS and EAEVE.  The schools are the Universities of Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Nottingham, and the Royal Veterinary College, which is a part of the University of London. A new school, the University of Surrey, started admitting students in 2014.

Although the clinical veterinary degree in the UK is benchmarked to the European standard but the use of the courtesy title of “Doctor” was only approved for use by the RCVS in 2015. Individual veterinarians can now choose whether or not to use the courtesy title of Doctor.

Membership Organisations

The main membership organisation for veterinarians is the British Veterinary Association. There is also a membership organisation for UK based veterinary specialists, the British College of Veterinary Specialists.  These membership organisations do not have any regulatory functions.