Sunday, March 03, 2019

Where in the world are the top-ranked veterinary colleges?

where are the world's top vet schools

We're used to hearing about Harvard vs Yale, Michigan vs Ohio State, Army vs Navy, and Alabama vs Auburn, but vet school vs vet school?

Social media was splashed with the news last week that the Royal Veterinary College in England had unseated the USA's University of California at Davis as the world's top vet school.

Veterinary schools are ranked by multiple third-party system scores. In the United States, US News and World Reports ranks graduate schools of all types. Last week's announcement came from QS World University Rankings 2019, which considers the entire globe.

veterinary colleges international rank 2019
More than a coup for just the RVC, the list is a hat tip to the United Kingdom, which is home to four of the top ten, and six of the top twenty. The USA scored just three in top ten, but seven in the top twenty, making it the nation with the highest number of vet schools represented. Australia and The Netherlands had two top twenty schools each.

The list does a pretty good job of covering the English-speaking vet schools of the world. Only Utrecht, Ghent, Wageningen and Copenhagen are in countries where English is not spoken. Would a list by a French or Swedish or Japanese or Russian agency see the world differently?

The US News and World Report list of US vet schools is a little more brutal than the QS system. In 2016, it not only chose the University of California at Davis as the top vet school in the USA but also listed all 26 (at the time) vet schools in descending order.

As you can see on this list, the system for ranking US-only schools is quite different and may be subject to different criteria.

US veterinary colleges ranked 2016

In one sense, the QS poll is comparing apples and oranges, since in most countries, vet school is more integrated with an undergraduate education. In the United States, vet school is technically a graduate program that requires a separate admission scrutiny after completing a four-year undergraduate degree. US veterinary students may have attended any number of undergraduate colleges and prepared in different undergraduate majors.

The timing of the QS list was interesting; in the same news cycle, the University of California's 10-campus system announced a plan to break off from subscriptions to publishing powerhouse Elsevier's journals. Research at the University of California campuses accounts for ten percent of all research done in the United States.

Access to research literature is probably a factor in all the ranking systems so it remains to be seen how the California departure will affect its future vet school rankings, although other universities and vet schools may follow suit.

Elsevier is the world's largest academic publisher, disseminating 23% of all scholarly articles published. In the equine veterinary field, formerly independent publications like the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science as well as the Veterinary Journal, published since 1875 in the United Kingdom, are now published by Elsevier.

Subscriptions to journals are sold to universities in packages that are very expensive. For this reason, many vet schools in smaller, less prosperous states and countries have been at a disadvantage because of their inability to pay for wide journal access. For that reason, many small countries self-publish a national veterinary journal that is usually Open Access and university libraries host online repositories where articles and theses produced by staff and students can be read without paying. Nevertheless, scholars strive to publish their work in the larger, more influential "paywall" journals, many of which are closed-access Elsevier or Wiley journals. More critically, many top students are eager to study or do graduate and doctoral research abroad for better access to reference sources, among other reasons.

Just as vet schools have rankings, so do peer-reviewed journals, which are assigned an "influence factor". Open Access is beginning to crack that list, with the decision of the Wiley stable's Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, ranked number three in influence, to go Open Access in 2015, but most authors must choose between submitting to a more influential but controlled-access journal, often owned by Elsevier, and a less influential Open Access platform that will make their article more widely available. However, more "hybrid" journal options and rising influence and submissions in the Open Access arena are changing the publication landscape.

HoofSearch, the index of equine foot science and lameness research, clearly marks each and every peer-reviewed article or thesis with a red or green label; red are subject to paywalls or require university/library access, while green are Open Access or otherwise free to read or download. Percentages of free vs paywall articles indexed by HoofSearch in 2018 ranged from 18 to 77 percent, depending on the month, with an average of 48 percent open.

To learn more:
SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) has information about the disadvantages of the current journal subscription system at university libraries.

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