Hong Kong has missed chance to set global benchmark, says professor Hong Kong has lost the opportunity of becoming a world-class centre for education in Chinese medicine, while 'sub-standard' university graduates in the field are finding it difficult to find proper jobs, a leading academic says. Leung Ping-chung, chairman of the management committee of Chinese University's Institute of Chinese Medicine, said that by next year, 63 Chinese medicine graduates from the three universities would enter the market. These include 32 second-batch graduates from Baptist University, 11 from the University of Hong Kong and 20 from Chinese University. Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa outlined his resolve to make Hong Kong an international centre for Chinese medicine in 1998. Professor Leung estimated that just half of the degree-holders, each of whom cost taxpayers $250,000 to train, would find jobs as practitioners. If they find work as herbalists, their salaries could be as low as $10,000 a month, he said. 'The planning and arrangements are such that the graduates in the Chinese medicine degree programmes are not up to standard,' he said. 'We lost the chance of being a real world-model for traditional Chinese medicine curriculum.' Professor Leung said government policy for upgrading Chinese medicine centred on registering existing practitioners, and as a result there was no co-ordination between the three universities' undergraduate degree courses. The core problems in the curriculums were weak clinical training and a code of practice that barred degree-holders from practicing western medicine, he said. 'The clinical teaching is extremely weak because Hong Kong hospital practice excludes Chinese medicine,' Professor Leung said. Students spend 12 to 18 months in mainland hospitals with 'no supervision' and coping with unstructured training, he said. He said the Department of Health should discuss with the Hospital Authority the possibility of accepting Chinese medicine graduates into hospitals. Professor Leung suggested drastic reform was needed on education, including a uniform curriculum, allowing clinical training in Hong Kong hospitals and a change in the herbalists' code of practice to permit work in mainstream hospitals. The two other schools, however, painted a brighter picture. Tong Yau, director of the University of Hong Kong's School of Chinese Medicine, said: 'There are only about 90 intakes for the Chinese medicine field to be shared by the three universities every year, which is not a large number for Hong Kong.' She did not think a uniform curriculum was necessary. Of the first batch of Hong Kong-educated Chinese medicine degree-holders - 31 Baptist University graduates - had found positions, a university spokeswoman said. Of those, 22 were in Chinese medicine practices, two were teaching, five were employed as research assistants and two were completing further studies. The second batch was now sitting licensing exams, she said. A government spokesman said the universities had full autonomy to design their curriculums. He said the first batch of full-time students from HKU could be eligible to sit licensing examinations on the mainland. The Hospital Authority said the entry salary for new graduates was 'yet to be finalised'. The Health, Welfare and Food Bureau is responsible for the long-term development of Chinese medicine in Hong Kong. Three Chinese medicine outpatient clinics have been established at three hospitals.