Getting closer to funds vetting

Education | Katie Hung 27 Mar 2018

Katie Hung

City university of Hong Kong is striving for the third time to have its currently self-financed veterinary medicine bachelor degree program included as a government-funded one.

Michael Reichel, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences, said he is confident the application will succeed this time.

The previous rejections, by the University Grants Committee, happened in 2010 and 2014. If approved this time, the funding will start in September 2019 at the earliest.

The six-year program is in its first year and being run in collaboration with Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The intake rises from 12 to 20 in the coming year and will include both local and foreign student places.

Compared to hundreds of applications for its inaugural year, the school has received about 100 so far this year.

However, Reichel said the school has received a lot more high-quality applications for admittance in 2018.

Besides the passion for animals, some of last year's applicants may not have realized that the prerequisites included good results in science and mathematics.

"You need to be academically up there," Reichel said. "You've got to be the best, because it's quite a demanding course. It has quite a heavy workload. You need to be able to survive the academic fierceness of the course that's starting to be a little bit more focused on the beginning, looking for high-quality students."

Joey Lam Chun-hei, who achieved 40 out of 42 marks for her best six subjects in the Diploma of Secondary Education exam, gave up an offer to read medicine at the Chinese University.

Her family had preferred she study medicine - given that the fulltime vet program is in its first year at CityU - out of concern about unknown situations and an unclear future career path.

But the young woman's interest in animal welfare helped make up her mind.

"The role of the veterinary surgeon standing in between humans and animals is subtle and also crucial," she said.

Lam said the veterinary program offers different perspectives for how to view the relationship between these two parties, including animal ethics and welfare.

Her classmate, Tse Ming-yi, is more focused on animal issues, citing animal testing as a particular concern.

"Many cosmetic products are tested on the eyes of rabbits to see whether it triggers any allergies," she said.

"Because they don't have tear ducts, it is difficult for them to wash out the chemicals, leading to inflammation. Their pain can be compared to humans, only more serious."

Instead of local field trips, such as visiting a cattle farm, piggery and the SPCA, the students are going to Cornell University for their first husbandry extramural studies for five weeks in June.

There, they're expected to get hands-on experience on how to handle animals in the first and second year, before proceeding to clinical extramural studies at veterinary clinics and on-farm veterinary services.

Student selection is based on both academic results and interview performances.

Local applicants must study chemistry as one of the elective subjects, while a grade 5 in English is one of the minimum entrance requirements.

Starting with the 2020 academic year, biology will become a must for applicants.

Reichel said the interview is more about telling a convincing story about oneself, and sharing why one would like to be a part of the program.

"You can't really make it up," he said. "If you are true to yourself, then you won't need to be prepared."

The tuition fee per year is HK$120,000, with scholarships offered to high-achieving students.

Applications for the 2018 year is open online until Friday.

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