Going it alone: Hong Kong City University to offer veterinary course in 2017 even though government funding not yet confirmed

Students will have to pay annual tuition fee of HK$120,000 for the six-year course; university is seeking accreditation from Australasian council

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 September, 2016, 6:12pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 September, 2016, 9:22pm

A self-financed six-year undergraduate course in veterinary medicine is set to commence at City University in the next academic year even though government funding has yet to be confirmed.

It is the first such course to be offered in the city. Students now have to study overseas, with about 30 degree holders in veterinary medicine returning every year.

However, the Education Bureau said the university should not “assume” the programme would receive public funding in the long run.

The course, which is being offered by the university’s School of Veterinary Medicine, expects to take in 10 to 15 students annually in its first two years. That number is expected to gradually increase to 30.

Each student will have to pay tuition fees of HK$120,000 a year – the amount which non-government-funded students have to currently pay at the university.

If government funding does become available, the tuition cost will drop to HK$42,100 a year.

The University Grants Committee (UGC) rejected the university’s application for funding for veterinary programmes in 2010 and 2014. In the latter case, it said the institution had overestimated local demand for vets and underestimated the cost of running a veterinary school.

According to the Veterinary Surgeons Board of Hong Kong, there are currently over 700 registered vets in the city. 

The university plans to submit a further application for UGC funding in 2018 at the earliest.

University president Professor Way Kuo said he was confident about the 2018 application.

“The previous UGC task force didn’t reject City University, but gave us four recommendations ... We have been working on the comments made by the government [in the past few years],” Kuo said.

He added that the institution had been working with Cornell University in the US to plan and establish programmes.

Before securing government funding, the university hopes to raise HK$1 billion to support the programme. “Our fundraising has been going pretty well ... We have ­already raised several hundred million dollars,” university vice-president Professor Matthew Lee Kwok-on said. 

The university also said the Education Bureau agreed there was a prima facie case, meaning initial evidence existed for introducing a professionally accredited undergraduate programme in veterinary medicine.

But a spokesman for the bureau said the university should strictly assess its financial ability and the sustainability of the programme, and “should not assume the programme would be supported by public funding in the long run”.

He also said the university should recruit students only after it has met the initial requirements of an international accreditation body.

The university said it was working towards meeting the international standard set by the Australasian Veterinary Boards Council and was expected to gain complete accreditation when the first batch of students graduated in 2023.