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Education

With incoming public funds, Hong Kong’s only vet school prepares to nearly double its student intake

  • Dean says job prospects are good for locally trained vets
  • But one representative of the sector says that might not be the case
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 November, 2018, 9:34am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 November, 2018, 9:34am

The city’s only vet school is preparing to nearly double its student intake from the next academic year, saying job prospects remained bright for locally trained vets.

City University aims for an intake of 30 students next year, up from 17 this year, when its six-year Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine programme becomes publicly funded.

Professor Michael Reichel, dean of the university’s Jockey Club College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences, said rising local demand meant vets’ job prospects were good.

“There are generally expectations, and there’s evidence, that there are more and more jobs for veterinarians in the world. But also locally [there is a] trend of increasing jobs for veterinarians. It has never dipped in the last 20 years,” Reichel said, adding there were about 50 new jobs a year.

In four years when the school’s first 12-strong intake graduates, he said: “There should be plenty of opportunities.”

But Dr Tom Mangan, president of the Hong Kong Veterinary Association, said that might not be the case.

He pointed to a 2016 study by the Veterinary Surgeons Board showing that “the number of pets is actually levelling off and the number of vets is actually rising”.

The study found 18.7 per cent of vets in Hong Kong said they were very optimistic about their prospects, while 23.7 per cent reported pessimism.

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Those who were optimistic said that was because pet owners were willing to spend more on their animals’ health. The pessimists said the Hong Kong market was too small, or that there were too many vets. There are 978 registered veterinary surgeons in Hong Kong.

CityU will get up to HK$32 million annually from the government for the six-year course, having fought for public support for the past decade.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in August the government would endorse the University Grants Committee’s recommendation of public funding for the course from 2019. It was yet to be officially tabled at the Legislative Council.

Reichel said the veterinary graduates could find jobs in private pet clinics and government units related to regulatory control and food inspection, as well as the Jockey Club’s horse hospital and a new horse training facility in Conghua, Guangzhou.

Their graduates could look at opportunities in Australia, New Zealand, Britain and South Africa, as the programme is internationally accredited by the Australasian Veterinary Board Councils, he said.

Joey Lam, a Year 2 student, said he and his classmates had “broad and diverse career prospects”.

“There could be a lot of areas that require vets’ expertise in addition to companion animal practise. For example, vets play an important role in ensuring food safety and public health. We might work at slaughterhouses or government departments for the control of [diseases passed from animals to humans],” Lam said.