Skip to content

The role of the RCVS

We aim to enhance society through improved animal health and welfare. We do this by setting, upholding and advancing the educational, ethical and clinical standards of veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses.


As a statutory regulator we are responsible under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 for keeping the register of veterinary surgeons eligible to practise in the UK, setting standards for veterinary education and regulating the professional conduct of veterinary surgeons.

We also exercise powers under our Royal Charter to award Fellowships, Diplomas and Certificates to veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses and others. You can find out more about this under our Royal Charter and legislation section.

RCVS Knowledge is a separate charity established to promote and advance the study and practice of the art and science of veterinary surgery and medicine, by providing the RCVS Library and Information Service and a range of grants largely to support educational and research activities.


The RCVS was established in 1844 by Royal Charter (visit the RCVS Knowledge website to see The history of the RCVS) to be the governing body of the veterinary profession. Our statutory duties are currently laid out in the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966.

We safeguard the interests of the public and animals by ensuring that only those registered with us can carry out acts of veterinary surgery.

RCVS Council & Committees

Our statutory and Charter duties are steered and governed by a Council of 26 members that meets at least 6 times a year.

The breakdown of Council members is as follows:

  • 15 members elected to Council by the profession itself (in May of each year)

  • 3 Veterinary Schools Council appointed members for the 8 UK universities with veterinary schools

  • 6 appointed lay members

  • 2 appointed veterinary nurses

Council is supported by a system of Committees. Our policy issues put forward by working parties or the secretariat go first to Committees for recommendation and, if recommended, on to Council for approval or rejection.

The terms of reference are laid out in the Meeting Procedure Rules 2019. Some decisions are delegated to Committees, but Council does receive reports of all Committees.

View Council members and Committee members.

Presidential Team

The RCVS President is elected by Council from its number, and serves a year as Vice-President, a year as President and a further year as Vice-President. At any one time, therefore, the Presidential team comprises the President and two Vice-Presidents.

Officer Team

Read more about the Officer Team