Task force set up to review CityU's veterinary school plan

Expert panel to advise on whether to start city's first such facility amid divided opinion

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 January, 2013, 4:32am

A task force will be formed to review City University's proposal to set up the city's first veterinary school, the University Grants Committee has said.

The panel, which will comprise up to seven local and international veterinary experts, will submit a report on the proposal within the year, committee chairman Edward Cheng Wai-sun said yesterday.

"[The task force] will review the academic, community needs, students' prospects and sustainability of the proposed course," said Cheng.

The committee had in 2011 rejected the Kowloon Tong university's plan to set up Hong Kong's first veterinary school, citing academic and financial concerns.

But the university has since made extensive amendments to its original proposal, Cheng said, and it submitted the revised plan to the committee last month.

CityU's life science programmes director, Dr Howard Wong Kai-hay, welcomed the move to set up the task force.

Under the new proposal, Wong said, the veterinary course will be associated with Cornell College in the US, and a local training farm, animal hospital and laboratory will be built.

The Medical Association last week issued a letter to the university, backing their plan for the veterinary school.

"We are concerned about food safety issues, and need more experts to care for farm animals," said association president Dr Tse Hung-hing. "Most vets in the city are now taking care of pets."

But the Veterinary Association disagreed. The city's veterinary market was already saturated, said its president Dr Tom Mangan, and there are seven clinics in Hong Kong who will perform farm work on request.

"Vets do not work on farms [because] farmers do not want to pay for their services. And the government does not have guidelines to make it mandatory for vets to be used on farms in Hong Kong," Mangan said.

"We have seen a decrease in new graduates' salaries, from HK$30,000 to HK$20,000 a year. Many new graduates can't find work at all," he said.

Veterinarian Ken Thorley, who has had a practice here for 20 years, said the city had no shortage of vets, with some working for as little as HK$13,000 a month.

Data from the Veterinary Surgeons Board showed 600 registered vets in the city.