Vet school hopes help is coming

Top News | Staff reporter 20 Aug 2018

City University is hopeful its push to turn its self-financed veterinary school program into a government-subsidized one will come to fruition next year.

The university currently offers a six-year bachelor of veterinary medicine program at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences.

It is self-financed - in which students have to pay HK$120,000 a year, much more than bachelor programs subsidized by the University Grants Committee. Fees in those programs are HK$42,100 a year.

Since 2010 the university has twice asked the committee to subsidize the program but the responses it got was that there were enough vets to serve Hong Kong.

In its latest move, CityU made a three-year academic development proposal covering the years 2019 to 2021. It included a proposal for 20 places under a UGC-funded veterinary bachelor's program starting next autumn, The Standard's sister paper Sing Tao Daily reported yesterday.

Compared to previous years when the UGC only went through documents submitted by the universities, this year it invited the universities' vice presidents to elaborate on the proposals.

During a meeting with CityU, committee members asked about the overall three-year plan and "expressed no major doubts over the program."

This increased the university's confidence that the plan would go through.

If the three-year plan is accepted by the UGC, there would be a big chance for the program to receive government funding.

CityU was thrilled that the plan, which has been on a rocky ride over the past eight years, is finally seeing some hope.

The university earlier received HK$500 million from the Hong Kong Jockey Club to run the school, and will name the college after the club in a ceremony today.

These significant non-government donations show that the program to train local vets is receiving support in society, despite doubts by the UGC and the government, the report said.

The program started last autumn, when 12 students were admitted. The school aims to recruit 20 this year.

The program secured a preliminary certification from the Australasian Veterinary Boards Council.

CityU is confident that by the time the first students graduate, the program will receive full recognition and their students will be registered vets.

Students who finished their first year headed to Cornell University, in New York, for an internship in June. Over five weeks, they took courses as well as worked in farms to learn about the rearing and management of cows, sheep and horses.

The students helped milk and clean the cows, as well as cut the wool of sheep.

The most memorable experience for students was for them to witness the birth of calf and sheep. This experience could not be achieved in Hong Kong, they said.

Following their return to the city, the students will take part in local internships at the Beas River Equestrian Centre, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and farms for fish, pigs and chickens.

According to a consultancy study on the development of the veterinary profession in Hong Kong released last year, the number of registered vets in Hong Kong increased from about 400 in 2005 to more than 800 last year.

During the same period, the number of pet dogs and cats increased from about 297,000 to 511,000.

The study estimated about 289,000 households kept pets - excluding fish - between mid-2015 and mid last year. About 40 percent had taken their pets to see vets during the period.

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