• Fri
  • Apr 18, 2014
  • Updated: 9:01am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 January, 2014, 3:57am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 January, 2014, 3:57am

City University's pet project for vets school makes little sense

Bad ideas don't die at City University. They just get recycled every few years until they become reality.

So Hong Kong looks set to have its own vets' school, which is being billed to become a hub for veterinary medicine excellence in Asia.

City University insists on going ahead with the school, persistently rejected as unviable and unnecessary over many years by the government's University Grants Committee. It will be self-financing and start at postgraduate level before expanding to include undergraduate courses in a few years. Committee funding chiefs have said, rightly, that unless there is a future policy change, no further application from the university will be entertained.

Without a cent of public financial support, a student may end up spending a million dollars or two on a full-degree course.

Why persist with the plan? The university says the new school will initially focus on researching infectious diseases and food safety instead of training vets. That would only make sense if Hong Kong had a big agricultural and livestock industry. Such an industry exists - across the border! Perhaps that's the unspoken reason: most of the expected - paying - students will be mainlanders.

So we will have a vets' school that is not, at least initially, for training local vets. That's just as well. Unlike doctors for people, we have more vets in Hong Kong than needed already. There are 690 registered vets in Hong Kong but only 70 per cent actually practise. We have 1,200 pets per vet in Hong Kong, compared with 2,500 in Singapore. How many vets can the Jockey Club hire for its horses?

The problem with City University is that it is always striving and failing to find a dominant niche. It cannot compete with the established industry-training programmes at the Polytechnic University or the heavy humanities tradition at Baptist University. It does not compare as a full research and teaching university like the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University, nor as a research-driven institution like the University of Science and Technology.

Maybe the university will prove everyone wrong and come up with a winning vets' school. At least it's not costing taxpayers.



This article is now closed to comments

Alex Lo shows his ignorance in this article. CityU is well known for its computer and engineering studies (recognized by UGC), and is probably the university which provides the best support to students who are willing to do start-ups. If Alex is writing upon his impression, I do advice him to do better research next time. While other universities are striving to survive in their 'dominant niche', CityU has the vision to innovate and at least come up with new ideas. Alex said initiating veterinary study is a bad idea in Hong Kong - does he know HKU is doing the same thing? If it is a total silly idea, why does HKU follow? CityU has the guts and pays endeavor to try, we should appreciate that.
I think City U has a longer term game plane. Points North. 20 years ago pets were not permitted and now they are. 1.3 billion people with spare cash and 50% with pets makes one very big business and all those wannabe mainland vets have to get trained up! Where better than HK.
If you cared to look a bit deeper, you would realize that (1) none of these vets were properly trained locally, (2) many vets are foreigners who don't even speak Chinese, (3) they charge buttloads of money precisely because vets are scarce.
1) none of these vets were properly trained locally
There is no vet school at present in HK!
(2) many vets are foreigners who don't even speak Chinese,
Many professionals who run this place are foreigners and don't speak Chinese. BTW, animals can't speak Chinese, can they?
3)they charge buttloads of money precisely because vets are scarce.
They charge becasue they have to pay high rent in this city. In fact, the charges are pretty decent if you compare it to the UK or US.
HKU's vet program is privately funded, and simply offers students the option to study vet medicine. If CityU wants to develop an undergraduate veterinary degree then best of luck to them, just don't expect taxpayers to pay for it.
This is/was a pet project conceived under Wong Yuk Shee and CY's time.
They resurrect it annually and give the UGC a hard time because of this. But CY must have changed his mind long ago. Don't know the same about Wong, but he's got big clout in the UGC. He should still be backing it, otherwise they won't talk so loud.
Where is the $$$$ coming from? Just don't allow them to milk taxpayers' funds again. They are already wasting the precious time of UGC officials.


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