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Extramural Studies

Extramural Studies

Extramural Studies (Pre-Clinical Extramural Studies & Clinical Extramural Studies) is an essential part of a student's veterinary education - please see below for further information on Pre-Clinical Extramural Studies (EMS) and Clinical Extramural Studies (CEMS) and what is required of students completing placements.

Pre-Clinical Extramural Studies (EMS)

Pre-Clinical Extramural Studies (EMS) is an essential part of a veterinary student’s education where they are required to:

  • become proficient in the handling and husbandry of a variety of animal species
  • have good knowledge of the key essentials of the main food production systems (dairy, beef, lamb, pig) at farm level
  • use their placements as an opportunity to explore the equine and companion animal sectors

Please see below for further information about EMS and what is required of students completing placements.

The focus of EMS is to support students to develop the appropriate competencies to safely approach, handle and conduct routine tasks on food producing, equine and companion animals. Students are required to complete up to 12 weeks of work placements of farm, equine and companion animal experience. These practical experiences give students the opportunity to practice and become proficient in competencies and techniques demonstrated during UCD animal handling practical classes. 

Please note: UCD Veterinary Medicine students come from all around the world to study in Ireland, and consequently we have students from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. Some students may not have had prior experiences of rural Ireland. 

To fulfil the requirements of the Veterinary Medicine degree, students are required to become proficient in the handling and management of a variety of animal species. Consequently, the objectives of farm, equine and companion animal experience is to introduce veterinary students to the concepts of animal production systems, husbandry, management and handling that operate on commercial enterprises. This should include learning about normal feeding, housing, management and care of farm animals. The student should get involved in whatever routine husbandry practices are ongoing while on the farm / enterprise.

Tip: As the student gains this experience, the emphasis should not be on disease/veterinary aspects of animal production, which will be covered in detail in later years, but rather on normal animal husbandry and on being able to perform routine tasks proficiently and understanding the basis of good animal management and the reasons for decisions concerning animal production on a commercial farm. 

On completion of EMS, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate basic competency in the handling and management of the major farm, equine and companion animal species
  • Describe the key elements of the main food production systems (dairy, beef, lamb, pig) at farm level
  • Explore the equine and companion animal sector

Click here to view the UCD module descriptor

Students are required to complete a maximum of 12 weeks EMS (see table 1 below). Each student is allocated an EMS supervisor in the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine who supports the development of their EMS plans and approves the farms or animal enterprises proposed by the student. 

If a student has sufficient prior experience in one or more species, the student may apply for an exemption in some of the EMS requirements in that species. This will be considered by their EMS supervisor. 

Enterprise Type

Number of weeks

Recommended Period of Placements for Ireland



Calving, early lactation,

breeding (Christmas / Spring)



Lambing (Spring)



Calving, calf rearing and

finishing (preferably when




When indoors




Companion Animals




12 weeks 


Table 1: Student EMS requirements 

Each student is responsible for locating and arranging their placements. Students must secure approval from their supervisor before attending placements. To obtain prior approval, students need to provide their supervisor with the following information:

  • Name, address, phone number of farm/stud proposed
  • Nature of farming enterprise
  • Number of animals

Each farm placement should provide students with the following experiences:

  • hands-on experience while conducting routine husbandry tasks with food producing animals and horses
  • experiences of the key elements of the main production systems at farm level, such as stocking rates, housing requirements, grazing management, winter feeding, breeding policy, welfare, disease prevention and principles of good husbandry for optimum health, welfare and productivity of animals

Students are advised that in order to get the greatest benefit from their farm experience, they should concentrate on species they have had limited or no contact with previously. The timing of each training period is also important. It should be arranged to coincide with a time of peak activity; for example, peak periods for Ireland are outlined in Table 1 above.

Please note: EMS Placement Providers should be aware that veterinary students may have very little or no practical experience with horses and farm animals.  They are, however, always willing to learn.  

Students who are lacking in experience with companion animals will be required to obtain experience for one week at a small animal hospital/clinic. Here the student is permitted to:

  • handle, feed, clean, exercise and carry out routine tasks on dogs, cats and other companion animals
  • learn how to approach, handle, restrain and examine companion animals in a competent professional manner

This experience will give students who have limited experience with companion animals the ability to carry out routine procedures (such as lifting, restraining, nail clipping, ear cleaning and tablet administration) with confidence before entering their clinical years.

Please note: It is important to note that this companion animal handling experience does not constitute any part of Clinical EMS (see below) and, for the benefit of the student, the emphasis should be on routine basic animal care and husbandry as opposed to veterinary clinical care.

Below is a list of competencies that students are advised to develop whilst on EMS, when appropriate and in consultation with their Placement Provider:

EMS Animal Handling Competencies

Please note: Students are advised prior to starting an EMS placement to review this list of competencies and to discuss with their Placement Provider any competencies they would like to develop, if possible, given the learning opportunities available in the placement at that time. 

UCD uses an online system, called MyProgress, to support students to gather feedback on their learning experiences on placements. At the end of each placement, students will ask their Placement Provider to provide them with brief feedback and any tips to improve their learning in the future. This information is of high value to our students and we would appreciate it if you could take 5 minutes to complete the form on MyProgress, typically on the student’s mobile device. (opens in a new window)Click here to view a video demonstration. 

Placement providers are asked to complete the following sections of the MyProgress student feedback form (Box 1 below). This information is also used to confirm that the student has attended the placement. 

I have reviewed the UCD documentation relating to EMS provided by the student. 





Please rate the student against what you would expect of a student in that year of study


Not observed*




Animal Handling and Restraining Skills


Communication Skills


Collaboration with Co-workers




Organisation / Efficiency


Attitude and Enthusiasm


*Not observed – Please mark this column if you have not observed the behaviour and therefore feel unable to comment.

Please comment on the student’s strengths and suggest areas for future development 


Are you willing to continue to participate in the UCD Extramural Studies Programme?  Yes ☐  No ☐

Declaration:  I declare for the period of the placement indicated in this feedback form, I have been the student’s supervisor, provided educational support and completed Section B of this form.  

Box 1: MyProgress Feedback Form

Students are advised that they should familiarise themselves with the potential risks and hazards before arriving on any farm:

(opens in a new window)https://www.hsa.ie/eng/Your_Industry/Agriculture_Forestry/Livestock/

Please note: Many of our students come from non-farming backgrounds, and have no experience of working in a farming environment. Therefore hazards like working around large machinery, PTOs, moving animals, slurry agitation, electric fences, animal aggression etc may not be recognised by the student.

Zoonotic Diseases

Students are advised of the following information regarding Zoonotic diseases. These guidelines should be reinforced with students while on placement to assist in the development of best practices.  

Zoonoses are diseases transmissible from animals to humans. It is important that from the beginning of a student's involvement with animals, both sick and (apparently) healthy, they adopt standards of hygiene which minimise the possibility of acquiring diseases from animals and / or transmitting them to other people and animals. 

Farm Animal

Cryptosporidium parvum is a common parasite found on farms, especially those with lambs and calves. It is vital that students adhere to strict hygiene measures such as hand hygiene and wearing the appropriate PPE to avoid this parasite if they are in contact with farm animals that may be infected, such as those that are scouring. If handling scouring calves or lambs, students should wear proper overalls/PPE and gloves. After finishing with the animals they should wash their hands thoroughly. Additionally, they should not use mobile phones or other fomites when handling sick animals. Cryptosporidium parvum is a zoonosis and it can be passed from farm animals to humans. 

Lambing / Cats

Toxoplasmosis caught during pregnancy can cause an infection in the unborn baby resulting in eye problems and brain abnormalities. Toxoplasmosis can be caught if you come into contact with cat faeces. If you work with cats, someone else should preferably deal with the  cats’ litter trays while you are pregnant, but, if you do have to do it, buy some heavy-duty rubber gloves and always use them when emptying the litter tray. Wash your hands carefully afterwards. Unfortunately, many cases of toxoplasmosis have no symptoms at all, but if you  develop a fever for no apparent reason, and could be at risk, please see your GP - a blood test can determine if you have contracted the infection. 

Toxoplasmosis can also be picked up from sheep at lambing time, as can Chlamydia abortus, and Listeria sp. infections, which cause miscarriage in ewes. To avoid the risk of  infection, pregnant women should not help with lambing or milk ewes. They should avoid contact with newborn or miscarried lambs or the afterbirth. They should also avoid handling the clothing of others who have been involved with lambing and seek medical advice for any fever or flu-like symptoms if they may have been at risk. 

Small ruminants like sheep and goats can develop a skin condition called Orf (caused by a Parapox virus). This condition presents as ulcers and scabby proliferative lesions in the mouth and lips but also can be present on the udder or at the hooves. Handling small ruminants with active lesions can cause disease in humans which present as sore nodules or ulcerative lesions on the skin, typically the hands. In all cases, gloves should always be worn when handling farm animals but be particularly cautious when handling ewes or lambs with these typical active orf lesions.  

The Handling of Cats

The handling of any cat is potentially dangerous. That danger extends to anyone involved in restraining the animal, including the veterinary surgeon, support staff and owner. 

Most normal cats carry a variety of aerobic and anaerobic pathogenic bacteria in their oral  cavities, including Pasteurella multocida, Streptococcus species and Fusobacterial organisms. Pathogenic bacteria can also be harboured in the nails and introduced through cat scratches. Bartonella species, now considered to be the cause of Cat Scratch Disease, can be found in a significant percentage of cats. 

A bite or severe scratch can result in the deep implantation of infection. Particularly when a  joint is involved, inadequate treatment can result in permanent disability. Cat Scratch Disease can affect a variety of organ systems with potentially very serious consequences, especially in immunocompromised patients. 

If someone does suffer an injury, the potential dangers should be pointed out and first aid should be administered, preferably by a member of staff qualified in First Aid techniques.  However, superficial cleansing of a wound is often not sufficient and the injured person should be advised to obtain prompt medical attention. Unfortunately, this is sometimes misdirected solely towards prevention of tetanus, which is an unlikely infection following a cat bite or scratch. Some doctors might welcome relevant information about the most likely contaminating organisms.

If a placement provider needs to contact a staff member of University College Dublin with regard to a student seeing farm / companion animal experience, please contact Vivian Gath in the first instance:

  • Telephone: 01 716 6250
  • Email: Vivian.Gath@ucd.ie

Students are advised that if they need assistance or advice urgently, they can call Vivian Gath (087 2481161) or Mark Crowe (087 2856203) at any time. In addition, students requiring advice / information or encountering difficulties with any aspect of EMS are advised to speak to their UCD EMS supervisor, who will treat all problems with sympathy and in confidence.

UCD School of Veterinary Medicine operates a zero-tolerance policy on harassment in all its forms related to any protected characteristic e.g., age, civil status, disability, family status, gender (including gender identity), membership of the Travelling Community, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status.

Students should not be exposed to any form of harassment, bullying or exclusionary behaviours whilst undertaking placements externally.

For more information, please refer to UCD's Equality, Diversity & Inclusion and Dignity & Respect policies: https://www.ucd.ie/equality/information/policies/

Clinical Extramural Studies (CEMS)

Clinical Extramural Studies (CEMS) is  an essential element of a student’s veterinary education. Students at UCD must complete 24 weeks of CEMS during their programme. Pre-Clinical Extramural Studies (EMS) is completed during the first two years of their studies, CEMS takes place during the remainder of the programme.  Clinical Extramural Studies provides students with an opportunity to gain real-life work experience that enhances their university-based studies.

Clinical Extra-Mural Studies (CEMS) is  an essential element of a student’s veterinary education. Students at UCD must complete a 12 week pre-clinical and a 24 week clinical EMS during their programme. Pre-clinical must be completed during the first two years of their studies, clinical EMS covers the remainder of the programme.

Clinical EMS provides students with an opportunity to gain real-life work experience that enhances their university-based studies.

The UCD School of Veterinary Medicine is tasked with teaching the skills that the student needs for general practice when they graduate (the day-one competencies). It is whilst the student is on clinical EMS placements that they get the opportunity to immerse themselves in real life veterinary work and gain as much practical experience in as many areas of veterinary practice as possible.

CEMS helps students prepare for the workplace and introduces them to life-long learning and reflective practice; this is developed as part of on-going professional development practice after they graduate.

Students are required to successfully complete and submit the appropriate electronic forms to support 24 weeks of CEMS, before the end of April of their final year.

Within the 24 CEMS weeks, a mandatory period must be spent within various sub-disciplines, as follows:

  • Small animal practice – 4 weeks
  • Production animal/mixed practice – 4 weeks
  • Equine practice – 2 weeks (ideally taken as one placement)
  • Meat plant placement – 5 days (3 days meat plant and 2 days assignment)

The remaining 13 weeks may be spent at the student’s discretion. Between one week and 10 weeks can be spent on a single clinical EMS placement. 

5-Year and 4-Year Veterinary Medicine Programme Pathways

Stage Autumn Trimester (1)*
Module title & credit volume
Spring Trimester (2)
Module title & credit volume
Stage 1 MVB
  • Professional Growth 1 (5)
  • Cell & Whole Body Metabolism (5)
  • Intro to the Practical Apps of Veterinary Anatomy & Comparative Topographical Anatomy of the Thorax (5)
  • Veterinary Cardiovascular & Respiratory Function (5)
  • Basic Structure & Function (5)
  • Cell Biology & Homeostasis (5)
  • Practical Animal Husbandry (5)
  • Comparative Topographical Anatomy of the Abdomen & Pelvis (5)
  • The Physiology and Biochemistry of Digestion of Domestic Animals (5)
  • Introduction to Veterinary Epidemiology (5)
  • Elective modules (10)
Stage 1 GE
  • Professional Skills (5)
  • Cells, Tissues, Organs & Development (5)
  • Neurobiology & Structures of the Head (5)
  • Cardiovascular & Respiratory Systems (5)
  • Animal Behaviour and Welfare (5)
  • Cell Metabolism and Dynamics (5)
  • Practical & Applied Animal nutrition (5)
  • Locomotion & Exercise (5)
  • Reproductive Biology (5)
  • Digestive physiology and integrated metabolism (5)
  • Abdomen & Pelvis - Topographical Anatomy (5)
  • Food Animal Systems & Applied Breeding(5) across trimesters 1&2
Stage 2 MVB
  • Head & Nervous System of Domestic Animals (5)
  • Introduction to fluids:blood, plasma, urine & milk with an emphasis on pharmacokinetics(5)
  • Genetics & Animal Breeding (5)
  • Integrated Physiological Communication (5)
  • Animal Behaviour & Welfare (5)
  • Veterinary Food Animal Systems (5)
  • Locomotion in Domestic Animals (5)
  • Introduction to Pathobiology (5)
  • Practical & Applied Animal Nutrition (5)
  • Reproductive Biology (5)
  • Elective modules (10)
Stage 3 MVB/2 GE
  • Professional Growth 3 (5)
  • Applied Anti-pathogen & Anti-inflammatoy Therapies (5)
  • Veterinary Pathobiology (20)
  • Introduction to Clinical Medicine & Surgery (5)
  • Veterinary Clinical Gastrointestinal System (10)
  • Veterinary Clinical Respiratory & Cardiovascular Systems (10)
  • Veterinary Clinical Haemolymphatics (5)
Stage 4 MVB/3 GE
  • Clinical Reproduction (7.5) across trimesters 1&2
  • Veterinary Public Health I (5)
  • Veterinary Clinical Neurology (5)
  • Veterinary Clinical Urology (5)
  • Veterinary Anaesthesia (5)
  • Veterinary Herd Health & Population Medicine (5)
  • Veterinary Clinical Endocrine, Metabolic & Dermatology (5)
  • Professional Growth 4 (5)
  • Veterinary Public Health II (5)
  • Senses, Exotics & Critical Care (5)
  • Clinical Musculoskeletal System (7.5)
Stage 5 MVB /4 GE
(both trimesters)
  • Anaesthesia & Diagnostics Multispecies (10) 5 weeks
  • Equine Clinical Studies (5) 2 weeks
  • Farm Animal Clinical Studies (10) 5 weeks
  • Small Animal Clinical Studies (15) 6 weeks
  • Small & Large Animal Surgery (15) 6 weeks
  • Veterinary Elective Rotation (5) 3 weeks

*UCD has academic trimesters. The veterinary programme runs over 2 trimesters only

All students are expected to graduate with a certain level of day one competencies. The role of CEMS is to complement the training delivered by UCD School of Veterinary Medicine in ensuring students graduate having attained these competencies and are safe to practice after graduation in whichever area of the veterinary profession they begin their career.

UCD aligns our CEMS objectives very closely with that of the RCVS who have developed a wealth of resources in this area. Following a major review, in 2020 the RCVS has published an updated comprehensive resource on day one competencies for veterinary students.

For more information please see: (opens in a new window)RCVS Day One Competences

For further information on the aims and objectives of CEMS, please click on the relevant section below:

Aims of CEMS - for Veterinary Students

CEMS Guidance - for Practitioners or Other Placement Hosts

Students may only undertake placements if prior approval is granted from the CEMS office under the MyPlacements portal on SISweb. Students are expected to adhere to the health and safety policy of the practice or placement establishment in which they are working, it is expected that their attention is drawn to this health and safety policy in the placement establishment at the commencement of a placement. 

UCD veterinary students are advised to have fully read the CEMS handbook and to have their own private health and travel insurance in place whilst on CEMS placements.

A health and safety guideline for students has been developed by the RCVS, please see EMS Health & Safety Guidelines (RCVS)

Practice by Students - Regulations

As veterinary students are required to undertake acts of veterinary surgery as part of their clinical training, the acts that they can undertake are set down in the Veterinary Practice Act 2005 and the Veterinary Practice (Amendment) Act 2012.

For the Veterinary Practice Act 2005 see: (opens in a new window)http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2005/act/22/enacted/en/html see page 43

For the Veterinary Practice (Amendment) Act 2012 see: (opens in a new window)http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2012/act/25/enacted/en/html 

“The student of veterinary medicine referred to at paragraph (a) shall do or perform the act matter or thing if—

(i) it is required to be done or performed as part of the approved programme of education in which the student is participating,

(ii) it is done or performed under the direct supervision and in the presence of a veterinary practitioner, and

(iii) the act matter or thing is, in the opinion of the person providing that approved programme of education and the veterinary practitioner, appropriate to the knowledge, skill and competence of the student.” 

The UCD School of Veterinary Medicine are pleased to announce that we have a new free webinar available called Train the Trainer: An Educational Resource for those supporting students on Clinical Extra Mural Studies (CEMS) in clinical settings.

The webinar is 90 minutes in length and is presented by Dr Catherine McAloon, the CEMS Module Coordinator and Dr Liz Chan, a renowned speaker in Veterinary Education who is currently a reader of Veterinary Education at the Royal Veterinary College in London.

To access the webinar, sign up to our online CVE portal: https://www.ucd.ie/vetmed/study/continuingveterinaryeducation/

If you require more information, please contact the School of Veterinary Medicine at (opens in a new window)ems@ucd.ie

  • On the last day of the placement, students will ask their placement supervisor to complete a form (via the Myprogress app) in order to provide feedback and critical appraisal on the progress and performance of the student
  • Practices should not be inhibited from providing honest feedback to and about the student; the form the student will ask you to complete cannot be amended by the student and is designed:
  • To verify the placement occurred
  • To provide an opportunity for feedback
  • The student will receive a copy of the completed feedback form for their personal development, and so we recommend to students to view the feedback as a learning tool
  • If placement supervisors would prefer to fill in the form and submit it directly it can be downloaded from here (CEMS Clinical Placement - Supervisor Feedback Formand submitted to (opens in a new window)myprogress@ucd.ie or (opens in a new window)ems@ucd.ie within 30 days of completion of the placement (please note that if you  as a placement supervisor complete the form on the students Myprogress App at the end of the placement you do not have to do anything further)
  • If for any reason placement supervisors wish to provide feedback indirectly to the student or wish to discuss a particular student in more detail, please contact the CEMS Coordinator: (opens in a new window)catherine.mcaloon@ucd.ie

What is Myprogress?

Myprogress is an app and website that will support students in capturing feedback and attendance. It will help the student to gather evidence about their learning and it will support the student competency development. 

Myprogress allows you (the placement host) to complete and submit placement forms on the student’s mobile device or on a laptop / desktop. The app can work offline, which is an important feature when the student is on a placement with no internet access.

The most common form you will be asked to complete for a student attending CEMS at your practice is the CEMS Clinical Placement Supervisor Feedback Form. Section A of the form is completed by the student and you have to complete Section B. (opens in a new window)Click here to view a video demonstration.

Contact the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine

UCD Veterinary Sciences Centre, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
T: +353 1 716 6100 | Location Map(opens in a new window)