The University of Hong Kong has pledged to make a raft of improvements to its new pharmacy degree after it was accused of being lax in arranging professional recognition for the programme. Its Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine will employ more pharmacy specialists, including one full professor in the subject, with two new specialist academics due to take up their posts shortly, a spokeswoman said yesterday. It will speed up the submission of documents to the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, which is assessing the university's application for recognition of the programme as meeting the requirements of the Registered Pharmacist exam that the board administers. It will also build a suite of new laboratories at the medical faculty's Sassoon Road campus so that pharmacy students have their own facilities rather than sharing them with medical and nursing students. 'The accreditation is an ongoing process,' she said. 'The faculty of medicine has close contact with the Department of Health and we have submitted some of the documents already. But we will speed it up. We are very confident that we will get the accreditation before our first batch of students graduate in 2012.' Faculty dean Professor Lee Sum-ping and Professor Paul Vanhoutte, head of the Department of Pharmacology and Pharmacy, met yesterday with the 25 students on the programme, which began last year, to reassure them and outline the progress of the recognition application. To become a registered pharmacist in Hong Kong, candidates must complete a pharmacy degree of at least three years and one year of professional training as well as pass the registration exam run by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board. Graduates of Chinese University's pharmacy degree are exempted from taking the registration exam after the university won recognition from the board that their programme was of equal standard and covered the same material. HKU is applying for the same recognition for the new degree but it has been criticised for placing the first group of students at risk by starting the process after the programme began. Dr Kwok Ka-ki, practicing surgeon and convenor of the Action Group on Medical Policy, said: 'I am very surprised that HKU has set up a programme without gaining professional recognition before it started.'