The Graduate Diploma in Professional and Clinical Veterinary Nursing is a unique distance-learning, advanced veterinary nursing qualification for practicing registered veterinary nurses.

The next application deadline is 12th March 2018. The Graduate Diploma is planned to start with the Contemporary Study Skills module on Monday 14th May 2018 (with the compulsory Orientation Days at the Hawkshead Campus being Monday 4th June to Thursday 7th June).


Course overview

If you are employed in clinical practice and looking to study part-time from home, the diploma will help you develop valuable knowledge and skills to take you to the next level of your career.

The Graduate Diploma is managed and taught by leading veterinary professionals who are recognised by employers both within the UK and internationally. The course focuses on developing critical thinking, using both theory and its practical application, enabling you to become better equipped to care for your patients.

Our learners come from a wide range of veterinary practices around the world. Whether you work in a first-opinion practice, a charity clinic or a large specialist referral practice, you will share an ambition to excel in the veterinary field and a desire to improve animal health and welfare.

The Graduate Diploma in Professional and Clinical Veterinary Nursing can lead to more recognition and responsibility in your field. The flexible award is designed to be completed over a period of 29 months (part-time) and is delivered almost entirely online via the RVC’s online Virtual Learning Environment.

As a graduate of the course you will receive a University of London qualification and will be able to use the letters GradDipVN after your name.


Work placements

There are no work placements for this course, but you must be employed in, or have agreed access to placement in a suitable veterinary clinical environment.

As a guide, suitable clinical environments are veterinary practices which can demonstrate meeting the minimum General Practice standards for small animal practices as set in the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme.

It is advised that you spend a minimum of 15 days per 15 credit module working in a suitable clinical environment (e.g. critical care if the Emergency and Critical Care Nursing module is taken).


What will I learn?

During the programme you will:

  • Benefit from exposure to some of the best clinical specialists in the UK
  • Join a network of like-minded individuals all striving to enhance the professional status of the veterinary nurse
  • Become better equipped to influence the health of animal patients within your care
  • Learn to apply new solutions and approaches to often complex problems at work
  • Have the potential to publish work developed as part of your course studies (see Published papers of previous students)
  • Develop an appetite for lifelong learning.

In addition, your practice will benefit from your motivation and ability to make an enhanced contribution to the workplace.


Assessment and feedback

You will be assessed throughout your course by online assignments. The estimated breakdown of assessment for your final grade is:

  • Written assignments at the end of each module (50%)
  • Unseen examinations (50%) or Participation in online discussion (50%)

Pre-requisite bridging short-course

Contemporary study skills - 15 credits (7 weeks, from May to July)
This module has been designed to prepare you for study at Higher Education using a variety of contemporary teaching and learning methods. During the module we will help you to develop strategies for managing all aspects of your learning and these strategies will form the foundation of your learning on subsequent modules. Some ideas will be new but once you have begun to reflect and understand yourself as a learner you will find that these strategies are transferable to other aspects of your professional, educational and personal life.

Midway through this module, you will attend the compulsory orientation days at the Hawkshead Campus where you will meet your fellow students and course tutors and develop the foundations for an effective and collaborative support group. As you develop and move through the course, opportunities will be provided to help you towards becoming a self-directed, reflective and lifelong learner.


Year One

Evidence-based veterinary nursing - 15 credits (12 weeks, from September to December)
This module equips you with the knowledge and skills to enable you to develop an evaluative and evidence-based approach to your clinical nursing practice.

You will examine and analyse some fundamental concepts of evidence-based practice to include the nursing process and models of care and apply these to review and develop a reflective and evaluative approach to the decision-making processes for individual patients in your care. Building on information searching strategies developed in the pre-requisite Contemporary Study Skills module, you will gain skills in evaluating the validity and relevance of literature in relation to research evidence and veterinary nursing practice. The module will encourage you to challenge current veterinary nursing practice on the basis of up-to-date and relevant evidence.

Problem solving in veterinary physiology - 15 credits (12 weeks, from December to March)
Develop knowledge and understanding in applied physiology using a patient scenario problem-solving approach. This module focuses on the integration of knowledge and understanding of physiological processes with daily case management in practice and associated skills. The teaching activities in this module enable and encourage you to source relevant information about basic physiological processes in the body and apply appropriate solutions to the planning and management of nursing care to patients.

Professional studies - 15 credits (10 weeks, from May to July)
Explore the fundamentals of the legal, ethical and professional issues associated with contemporary veterinary nursing practice. You will develop a critical understanding of your professional responsibilities and how the inter-relationship between professional elements can impact your clinical-decision making. This module allows the exploration of incidents in your own area of work and you will develop the skills to support conclusions and recommendations to the provision of future veterinary nursing practice.


Year Two

Elective modules - 15 credits each (12 weeks, from September to July)
Study three elective modules for 12 weeks each. Elective modules will run subject to minimal (and maximum) numbers. You will be informed before the commencement of the module in the event of a particular module choice not being available to you.

Emergency and critical care (including fluid therapy)
Attain an advanced level of knowledge to enable you to have deeper and more critical appreciation of emergency and critical care nursing. You will develop the understanding of the skills required to provide advanced nursing support for an extensive range of conditions within a veterinary hospital or specialist clinic pertinent to emergency and critical care. You will concentrate on integrating theoretical and practical knowledge to equip you with the ability to develop an analytical approach and clinical expertise in advanced nursing skills. The module encourages you to critically assess and evaluate your provision of nursing regimes to patients who are critically ill.

Medical nursing
Gain further understanding of the assessment, diagnostic investigation and treatment of animals with acute or long-term medical diseases. You will concentrate on integrating theoretical and practical knowledge to develop skills in advanced medical nursing. You will develop strategies for critically assessing patient needs, planning appropriate patient management and nutritional requirements. You will also gain skills to provide high quality care to patients with a range of medical disorders.

Surgical nursing (including wound management)
Improve your knowledge, application and practical skills in small animal surgical nursing and wound management. You will concentrate on developing and integrating theoretical knowledge and practical skills in small animal surgical nursing and wound management, which can be used to provide advanced nursing support within a veterinary hospital or specialist practice.

The academic content of this module will cover surgical disease processes and their management, including wounds, and the practical content of the course will include basic surgical and instrument handling skills. You will be encouraged to use the information provided in a problem solving and practical way applicable to clinical practice. You will also be encouraged to develop the necessary skills to build on the teaching provided, to add to your knowledge and skills in this area throughout your career.

Anaesthesia and analgesia
Enhance your factual knowledge and understanding in an advanced range of anaesthetic techniques and develop expertise to apply your knowledge to clinical practice. Substantial time will be devoted during the course critically reviewing current practice, problem-solving and equipping you with the competence to assess future developments and where they might fit into improving the nursing care of your patients.

Diagnostic imaging
Extend your knowledge and increase your role and responsibility in radiography and improve your diagnostic imaging technique. You will develop the skills to obtain high quality diagnostic images using radiography and provide effective support for other more complex imaging techniques such as ultrasound, nuclear medicine and magnetic resonance.

Through the activities in the module, you will gain skills and knowledge to apply critical appraisal of radiography procedures and promote reflective and evidence-based practice. On successful completion of this module, you will be equipped with the skills to play a vital role in supporting a range of diagnostic imaging procedures in veterinary practice.

Teaching and Learning

The Graduate Diploma is delivered through flexible online learning via the RVC’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) – ‘Learn’ and is predominately an online distance-learning course. We aim to keep attendance days to a minimum because we appreciate the challenges of taking time off work and family commitments.

There are some compulsory attendance days at our Hawkshead Campus during the course:
Year One: Orientation Week (normally in June), one exam day at the end of two of the core modules (normally in April)
Year Two: one exam day at the end of your studies (normally in early September)

There are also some optional days throughout the course where you may book into our small animal teaching hospital for clinical enhancement days and two optional exam practice days. As a student of the RVC, you are also welcome to spend time in the library or clinical skills centre.

Our introductory Orientation Week (compulsory attendance days, usually in early June) will help ensure that you are confident in using modern learning technologies throughout the programme, and is an essential part of the first pre-requisite bridging short-course, Contemporary Study Skills.

This is a part-time programme and modules split into credit-rated units. The credit-rated units relate to an average number of hours that you are expected to spend on each module. For each 15 credits, you will have spent, on average, 150 hours. This means in a typical week you will need to commit approximately 12-15 hours to your studies. Your time should be spent on reading the weekly course materials, additional reading, partaking in discussion forum activities, and preparing for all of your assessment activities.



Each module has a subject specialist assigned as module leader. They act as your personal tutor, helping you navigate through the module and setting a series of collaborative tasks, assignments and online discussion activities. The programme is led by:

Perdi Welsh BSc (Hons), DipAVN (Surg), CertEd, RVN
Course Director for Graduate Diploma in Professional and Clinical Veterinary Nursing, and Lecturer in Veterinary Nursing

Hayley Carne BSc (Hons) GradDipVN, PGCertVetEd, FHEA, RVN
Deputy Course Director for Graduate Diploma in Professional and Clinical Veterinary Nursing, and Lecturer in Veterinary Nursing

We ask that our learners:

  • Hold a Veterinary Nursing Certificate awarded by the RCVS
  • Are on the current RCVS Register of Veterinary Nurses (or hold a recognised accredited overseas equivalent professional qualification/status)
  • Have a minimum of one-year post-qualification clinical experience
  • Are employed in, or have agreed access to placement in, a suitable* veterinary clinical environment
  • Have the support of their employing/supervising veterinary practice, who will be required to allow time and access for training
  • Successfully complete the Contemporary Study Skills bridging short-course

You will also require access to a computer with broadband internet access.

International: Please contact the RCVS directly to apply for registration and provide a copy of their certificate with the application form.

* Suitable clinical environments must be general veterinary practices which are able to demonstrate a minimum of RCVS PSS tier 2 (or TP standard). A minimum of fifteen days per 20-credit elective module must be spent working in a directly relevant clinical setting (e.g. critical care unit if the Emergency and Critical Care Nursing module is taken).


English language requirements

A good working knowledge of scientific English is essential in order to follow the course, which includes a significant proportion of written instruction and written assessments. Applicants whose first language is not English must have an acceptable English Language qualification:

  • IELTS (Academic) score of 7.0 or above with minimum 6.5 in each component

For those without IELTS, please see our English Language Requirements page for a full list of qualifications we will accept as alternatives.


Pre-requisite bridging short-course

To be eligible to qualify for the Graduate Diploma, you will be required to complete and pass the pre-requisite bridging short-course, Contemporary Study Skills, including attendance at the compulsory Orientation Week at our Hawkshead Campus in Hertfordshire.

This short-course has been designed to prepare all potential learners for study at higher education level using the contemporary technologies employed throughout the rest of the programme. You will develop the study and learning strategies you need which form the foundation of all subsequent modules and which are transferable to other aspects of your professional, educational and personal life.

As a graduate of the course you will receive a University of London qualification and will be able to use the letters GradDipVN after your name.

Our graduates tell us that this qualification has opened many doors for them and has led to more recognition and responsibility at work.

GradDipVNs have used their qualification to further their careers and have gained the confidence in their abilities to enable them to:

  • Become better equipped to care for patients
  • Enhance input into clinical teams
  • Develop critical skills through knowledge and practical application
  • Undertake further study at university
  • Publish journal articles
  • Take on specialist nursing roles
  • Move into teaching and training roles.


"I would definitely recommend the Graduate Diploma in Veterinary Nursing course to others. All of the RVC team were passionate about the course and really supportive!"

     --Debbie Nelson, Graduate Diploma in Veterinary Nursing student

"I really enjoyed the anaesthesia module. I found the information on advanced anaesthesia techniques particularly useful.

"Applying some of the practical techniques learned on the course in my practice was very rewarding and has proved to be directly beneficial to the patients. I have already been using lots of the skills learned throughout the Graduate Diploma during my day to day work and have provided training to others in my practice. We have updated many protocols and seen some great results in nursing techniques, especially in regards to in-patient care with critical patients and formulation of surgical safety checklists.

"The majority of the course was delivered online with some practical sessions. The online element suited me very well and I was able to engage in the weekly forums to assist me in developing my submissions for the formative and summative assessments. The feedback was always useful, constructive and timely. The practical sessions were really useful before the OSCE exams and helped me to feel confident in demonstrating my abilities.

"I feel that I have really pushed my original RVN qualification to the next level. The course has inspired me to continue studying and pursue my goal of continuing to write and hopefully see some of my work published in the future."

      --Alison Devonshire, Graduate Diploma in Veterinary Nursing


  • How much time do I need to spend studying? This is a part-time programme. Like many university courses, the modules of our Graduate Diploma are split up into credit rated units and these credit units relate to an average number of notional learning hours (NLHs) that learners can expect to spend on each module. Therefore, for each 10 credits, you will have spent, on average, 100 notional learning hours (NLHs). These NLHs include time spent on reading the weekly course materials, additional reading, partaking in discussion forum activities and preparing for all of your assessment activities. This means you will need to commit approximately 12-15 hours a week to your studies.  

  • What title can I use once I successfully graduate? The qualific  ation our learners receive at the end of successful completion of this course is a Graduate Diploma awarded by the University of London and the Royal Veterinary College.  Graduates are able to use the post nominals GradDipVN after their name.  

  • Can I take breaks in-between modules? Most of our learners complete the Graduate Diploma in a fixed time-frame of 28 months – starting their next module as soon as one has finished.  However, there is the option to formally request to defer your studies and take a break if you need to.  You just need to remember that modules only run once a year and so if you take a break, it may be another 12 months before you can re-join the course to start a particular module. Overall, you have 5 years in which to complete the course.  Deferral will be subject to compliance with the RVC College Regulations and Procedures and you can arrange to discuss your options with the Course Director.  

  • Is there a maximum time by which I must complete my studies? The course is designed so that you undertake and complete each module as they are timetabled.  All core modules must be taken and completed in the order they appear in the timetable.  Elective modules can be taken in any order however, depending on when they run, this may affect the time it takes you to complete your Graduate Diploma studies.  As mentioned above, you may also wish to defer your studies for some reason but you must complete your studies within five years of enrolling onto the course.   

  • Is it ok to be working part-time? It is fine to be working part-time while completing the course although there maybe occasions throughout the course when you find you will need to spend a little more time in certain areas of the clinic.  As a guide, we advise that learners spend a minimum 14 days per module working directly in a suitable clinical environment (e.g. being involved with surgical patients if the Surgical Nursing and Wound Management module is taken).  

  • Do I have to pay for the entire course at the start? No, in fact, the usual way to pay for your studies on this course is on a module-by-module basis just before each module starts.  

  • Are there any other costs to the course? The course fees advertised on our website are the main costs you will incur during your studies although if you require transport to and accommodation for the compulsory Orientation Week and annual exam days, you will need to arrange and pay for this on top. We have a list of on-campus accommodation and local hotels if needed. There are also some optional attendance days throughout the course, which there are no additional charges for, but again, you might need to pay for transport and/or accommodation for these if you don’t live locally.     

  • How many times do I need to come to the College? This is predominately an online distance-learning course and we aim to keep attendance days to a minimum because we appreciate the challenges of taking time off work.  There are some compulsory days during the course: Year one: Orientation Week (normally in June), one exam day at the end of two of the core modules (normally in April).   Year two: two exam days at the end of your studies (normally in early September). There are also some optional days throughout the course where you may book into the RVC’s small animal teaching hospital for clinical enhancement days and two optional exam practice days towards the end of your second year studies (usually in July).  As a student of the RVC, you are also very welcome to come any time you wish to spend time in the library or clinical skills centre.  

  • Does this course lead to an RCVS DipAVN? No, this qualification is not the same as the RCVS DipAVN.  On successful completion of our course, you will receive a Graduate Diploma in Veterinary Nursing awarded by the Royal Veterinary College and University of London.  This is recognised by many employers in the UK and internationally as a higher level professional qualification and in addition, this qualification is recognised by universities in the UK which gives you scope should you wish to go on to further study at a university at a later stage.  For example, some of our students have used their Grad Dip VN qualification to gain places at universities to study BSc and MScs.  On successful completion of the course, graduates are able to use the post nominals GradDipVN after your name and are presented with the RVC Graduate Diploma in Professional and Clinical Veterinary Nursing badge to wear on your uniform. 

  • Is this a qualification that is recognised by the veterinary profession and/or internationally? The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is the UK's largest and longest established independent veterinary school and is part of the University of London. The RVC offers undergraduate, postgraduate and CPD programmes in veterinary medicine, veterinary nursing and biological sciences, being ranked in the top 10 universities nationally for biosciences degrees.  It is currently the only veterinary school in the world to hold full accreditation from AVMA, EAEVE, RCVS and AVBC. We are a leading provider of higher education programmes in veterinary nursing. These range from a Foundation degree which is accredited by the RCVS, to a Bachelor’s degree and this Graduate Diploma which is for qualified veterinary nursing practitioners. Our Graduate Diploma students come from a wide range of clinical practices, from first opinion practices, charity clinics to large specialist referral hospitals and institutions both in the UK and overseas. A number of veterinary practices regularly sponsor their RVNs to undertake our Graduate Diploma indicating that they find the course meets their clinical and business requirements. Our Graduates are becoming increasingly recognised in the UK and overseas via their published work and many have taken on more supervisory roles or been promoted in their existing clinical environments as a result of their qualification whilst others have used their Grad Dip qualification to gain places on MSc or BSc courses at other universities.  

  • What level of qualification is this? This is a Level 6 university qualification (as described in the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications)      

  • I already hold a degree in veterinary nursing, is there any point in doing this qualification? Absolutely! If you’ve completed a bachelor’s degree, this Graduate Diploma can really enhance your existing qualification and knowledge base to take you to the next level of your career.  Graduate Diplomas are level 6 qualifications and are designed to provide professional development in a specific area. They can open doors for you in the job market and help prepare you for employment in more specialist areas of clinical practice.  If you wish to develop greater professional knowledge and skills with particular focus on clinical patient care and subject area specialism (e.g. medical nursing, surgical nursing, anaesthesia etc), then this is the course for you.   

  • I have not studied for some years; will I be supported in returning to study? Yes, definitely. The course team fully appreciate some of the challenges that part-time distance learners, who may be new to study at university or who haven’t studied for a while, face.  We provide lots of support for our learners throughout the programme but particularly early on at the start of the course. Our pre-requisite bridging short-course, Contemporary Study Skills, runs for 7 weeks and is not only designed to help those learners who are new to study at university, but more importantly, to prepare learners for study using contemporary technologies whilst balancing part-time study with full-time work.  As an online course, this mode of study is very different to traditional face-to-face courses and for this reason, we have made this compulsory for all learners wishing to undertake the Graduate Diploma. The RVC’s Learning Development Team are also here to help you achieve your academic goals effectively, efficiently and with maximum enjoyment. The team provide support in time management, communication skills, team working, creative thinking and learning, research skills, reading skills, academic writing, numeracy, revision and exam technique (amongst others). Telephone and/or Skype tutorials and learning support sessions can be arranged to suit your needs. The RVC’s Learning Development Team are also experienced in working with students with English as a second language and those with specific learning differences (SpLD) such as dyslexia and dyspraxia. We can also help you access specialist dyslexia advisors and tutors if needed.  

  • What does my practice need to do? Studying part-time whilst working is a big commitment and we hope that your practice will be understanding and supportive of you during your studies. Ultimately the course is aimed to enhance and develop your existing knowledge and skills and enable you, the RVN to reflect on your practice. This skill enhancement and development will benefit the practice in the long-term and we’ve seen that learners who receive help and support from their employers are more likely to be successful.  In practical terms, this may mean that on occasions, you may seek support and guidance from members of your veterinary team at work. We encourage you to select someone from work who can act as a mentor for you during your studies on the Graduate Diploma and you find it helpful to set aside a few designate times for you to meet up and discuss your progress on the course.  If this is not possible, even arranging times to discuss and review practice workload to best accommodate your studies at certain times of year might be useful.  

  • How will I be assessed? Throughout the course a range of assessment activities is used.  All assessment activities have been selected to promote deep and effective learning, leading directly to your improved understanding of the subject and application of your learning.  Assessment tasks include a combination of: 
  1. Written assignments throughout and at the end of each module ·        
  2. Participation in online discussion        
  3. Unseen examinations
  4. Formative assessment is a type of assessment to help you with your studies and learning. The formative assessment activities in this course have been designed to enable you to assess your progress and help you identify and plan your further learning needs.  Dialogue between you, your tutor and your peers via on-line formative assessment and discussion, provides you with individualised feedback, to help reinforce good practice and importantly, help show where and how your work can be improved.
  5. Summative assessment is the type of assessment used for certificate purpose usually at the end of a period of instruction.  The summative assessments are used at the end of each module and at the end of the programme to ensure that you are able to demonstrate the baseline competencies required from the range of knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for the veterinary nurse practitioner at Graduate Diploma level.  

  • I am a UK Resident, but live and work abroad at the moment.  Can I study for this course and will I be charged the overseas rate? You can see a brief run-down of how fee status is determined here, or in more detail on the UKCISA website. If, after applying, we require more information in order to determine your fee status, you will be sent a fee status questionnaire. It would be useful, when you return this, to include copies of documents such as temporary visas, fixed term contracts, or anything which shows continuing ties to the UK. 

Our course fees are highly competitive. Over half of our learners are sponsored by their employer, while the remainder fund their own studies.

The Graduate Diploma comprises the pre-requisite bridging short-course followed by three core modules and three (out of a choice of five) elective modules.

If you complete the full programme of core and elective modules*:

UK/EU tuition fees (2018 entry): £5,880
International tuition fees (2018 entry): £7,420

Modules are paid for on a module-by-module basis. Individual module costs stated below are for 2018 entry and are subject to annual increases in-line with inflation.




Module type



Contemporary Study Skills (pre-requisite bridging short-course)





Evidence-Based Veterinary Nursing





Problem Solving in Veterinary Physiology





Professional Studies





Anaesthesia and Analgesia





Emergency and Critical Care Nursing (including Fluid Therapy)





Surgical Nursing (including Wound Management)





Diagnostic Imaging





Medical Nursing






£5,880 £7,420



Funding Options

BVNA Bursaries

The BVNA work alongside some companies and institutions to award a number of bursaries each year with the aim of assisting students or qualified Veterinary Nurses. A number of Grad Dip students in the past have successfully applied for and gained BVNA bursaries.

Helena Kennedy Foundation

The Foundation exists to overcome social injustice by providing financial bursaries, mentoring and support to disadvantaged students from the further and adult education sectors, enabling them to complete their studies in higher education and move on successfully into employment or further studies.

Professional and Career Development Loans

We are a Professional and Career Development Loans registered Learning Provider, registration number PCDL02902.

A Professional and Career Development Loan is a commercial bank loan that you can use to help pay for work-related learning.

Top of page