In 1999 a dedicated problem-based learning course was introduced into the lecture-based preclinical veterinary curriculum of the University of Pretoria. The Introduction to Clinical Studies Course combines traditional lectures, practical sessions, student self-learning and guided tutorials. The self-directed component of the course utilises case-based, small group cooperative learning as an educational vehicle to link basic science with clinical medicine. The aim of this article is to describe the objectives and structure of the course and to report the results of the assessment of the students' perceptions on some aspects of the course. Students reacted very positively to the ability of the course to equip them with problem-solving skills. Students indicated positive perceptions about the workload of the course. There were, however, significantly lower scores for the clarity of the course objectives. Although the study guide for the course is very comprehensive, the practice regarding the objectives is still uncertain. It is imperative to set clear objectives in non-traditional, student-centred courses. The objectives have to be explained at the outset and reiterated throughout the course. Tutors should also communicate the rationale behind problem based learning as a pedagogical method to the students. Further research is needed to verify the effectiveness of this course in bridging the gap between basic science and clinical literacy in veterinary science. Ongoing feedback and assessment of the management and content are important to refine this model for integrating basic science with clinical literacy.