City University veterinary medicine degree to get HK$32 million in funding after 10-year campaign for support
Tuition costs will drop to HK$42,100 a year when government funding becomes available
City University will finally receive up to HK$32 million (US$4.08 million) in public funding each year to launch a six-year veterinary medicine degree course after fighting for government support over the past decade.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Monday that the government would be happy to endorse the University Grants Committee’s (UGC) recommendations, which will be officially tabled later this year, to subsidise the programme.
Lam said the course was “timely”, as at least 75 per cent of emerging human infectious diseases originated from animals.
“I am happy to say that we are willing and happy to endorse the UGC’s recommendation.
“Good public health is the cornerstone of any safe and liveable city,” she said, expressing her hopes that the city’s first bachelor programme in veterinary medicine could build a local pool of expertise alongside that of overseas veterinary surgeons.
Lam was speaking hours after the UGC announced its support for the degree course, which is set to enrol 30 students each year and may involve up to HK$32 million in public funding per year after 2024/25, with initial financial arrangements to be discussed with the government.
Lam gave her blessing at the naming ceremony for the Jockey Club College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences at CityU, which has offered a self-financed six-year undergraduate course since 2017, in collaboration with Cornell University in the United States.
The students are now paying tuition fees of HK$120,000 a year – and the cost will drop to HK$42,100 when the government funding become available.
The current self-financed course – supported by the Jockey Club with a HK$500 million donation – attracted an overwhelming 1,000 applicants last year and only 12 were accepted. CityU earlier said the quota would be increased to 20 this year.
The chairman of the UGC, Carlson Tong Ka-shing, said the green light was an investment that was conducive to people’s health and the long-term development of Hong Kong.
“If zoonotic diseases emerge in Hong Kong in the future, a local veterinary college can quickly provide appropriate facilities and manpower support and conduct related research work,” he said in a statement announcing the approval.
CityU president Professor Way Kuo, speaking at the ceremony with Lam, said he was honoured to lead the school’s “10 year-long veterinary marathon”.
“This could not have happened without the vision, teamwork and perseverance of the campus
community and the staunch support of Hong Kong society,” he said.
It was CityU’s third application to introduce such a degree since 2009. The UGC earlier rejected its funding application and said the institution had overestimated local demand for vets and underestimated the cost of running a veterinary school.
After receiving the third proposal from the university in 2016, the government advised that the ideal veterinary school for Hong Kong should have a small professional veterinary medicine training programme and a top-heavy postgraduate and research programme.
The university submitted the latest proposal in October 2017 and the UGC formed an international task force to examine it.
Tong added: “The most important consideration … is to ensure that graduates will be able to practise veterinary medicine in Hong Kong.”
CityU expected the programme to obtain full accreditation from the Australasian Veterinary Boards Council, allowing graduates to register and to practise as veterinary surgeons in Hong Kong.