Princess Royal opens Sparsholt College Animal Health & Welfare Research Centre

Sparsholt College Group was delighted to welcome HRH The Princess Royal and distinguished guests to its Sparsholt Campus on Tuesday 1 November to officially open The Animal Health & Welfare Research Centre (AHWRC).

HRH The Princess Royal, escorted by College Group Principal and CEO Julie Milburn, toured new housing for companion animals and enclosures for zoo animals as well as the refurbished Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons accredited Veterinary Nursing Training Centre. The AHWRC, first established in 1997, offers training and research facilities for students doing post GCSE (16+) courses, apprenticeships, DMZAA (Diploma in the Management of Zoo and Aquarium Animals), degree and Master’s level qualifications.

Along the route HRH The Princess Royal had the opportunity to meet students and staff in situ in their practical learning and research environment. From Uniformed Protective Services students lining the arrival route to Veterinary Nurses and Foundation Learning students all showcasing their skills. The Princess Royal was able to visit the new Ringtailed and Black Lemur enclosure, before heading to see the Meerkats to learn about research projects and seeing other species in the Collection such as Red Pandas, Porcupines and Pademelon. The tour concluded with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque for the Animal Health & Welfare Research Centre in front of invited distinguished guests, students and staff.

Julie Milburn said: “The animal health and welfare research centre facilities which we are here to open, comprise a combination of new build and refurbished buildings. This has enabled the small animals to be housed in the new companion buildings, creating space and opportunity to extend the collection of zoo mammals on site. In addition we have a new animal hydrotherapy suite, a facility at the forefront of animal welfare.

“This facility now delivers qualifications in animal management, zoo and veterinary nursing to approximately 1500 students on an annual basis studying from entry level up to level seven, that’s post graduate study. Some 25% of these students are undertaking a higher level qualification, that’s Level 4 and above. This simply would not have been possible without the investment made by the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership and we are extremely grateful for their support.”

The opening of the Animal Health and Welfare Research Centre represents Phase 5 of the development of facilities in which Sparsholt’s further, higher, DMZAA (the official qualification for zookeepers) and apprenticeship students are trained for their careers in this highly competitive industry.

Sparsholt holds a BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums) licence and the Centre houses species of conservation importance, domestic, exotic and large farm animals. Students are given the opportunity to gain theoretical and practical experience as well as higher level research skills at University Centre Sparsholt.

The brand-new state-of-the-art Animal Health and Welfare Research Centre at Sparsholt facilitates advanced welfare practices and the use of digital technology, whilst adding to the range of techniques, skills and industry know-how of graduating students. The £2.5 million development was supported with funding from the EM3 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and is home to the National Zoo Academy – the gold standard for anyone aspiring to enter, already employed or wanting to develop their skills in the zoo industry. Sparsholt has an extensive and growing collection of zoo and native species, including both exotic and companion mammals, an extensive bird collection, and the extensive reptile and amphibian department.

EM3 Joint Managing Director Stephen Martin said: “Enterprise M3 is delighted to have played a key role in helping to fund the Animal Health and Welfare Research Centre at Sparsholt College, from the Local Growth Fund (LGF).”

“Animal health is an important and growing, high-value sector in the EM3 region, and has been recognised by the Department for International Trade (DIT) as a High Potential Opportunity (HPO). It is fantastic that Sparsholt, over the next five years, will grow the numbers trained at its Animal Health & Welfare Research Centre and provide facilities for 600 more high skilled learners over and above its current student numbers including at least 250 apprentices.”