September 12, 2013

Hong Kong Univ. Seeks Vet School Partnership With Cornell

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In 2010, the City University of Hong Kong’s initial application to establish Hong Kong’s first veterinary school of medicine — in partnership was Cornell — was rejected in 2010. Last month, the school’s president, Way Kuo, announced that establishing the school would remain the top priority for the university, the South China Morning Post reported.

The planned school, which would offer a joint degree in veterinary medicine with Cornell, has been in the works since late 2009 to early 2010, according to Michael Kotlikoff, Austin O. Hooey Dean of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell.

When City University’s application was rejected by Hong Kong’s University Grants Committee — which advises the government on funding for higher education institutions — Cornell and the City University formed an agreement that Cornell would assist the university in establishing a new proposal, according to Kotlikoff.

“The process has been advising them about what they need,” Kotlikoff said. “We’ve been helping them [articulate] to the government and the UGC why Hong Kong needs a vet school, how we will go about it [and] what kind of vet school we will create.”

According to Kotlikoff, it is important for City University’s proposal to have government support in order to keep the price of tuition within a reasonable range.

“It’s important because if it’s a self-funded endeavor, then the costs for students will be very high relative to other educational programs,” Kotlikoff said. “[It will] probably be something on the order of five or six times more than going to medical school, and we want to make sure that this is on an equivalent basis as going to law school, medical school or other professional schools.”

Kotlikoff said that under the vision of the dual degree program that is being discussed by City University and Cornell, students in the program will study in Ithaca for two or three semesters as part of the curriculum.

“The fact that [students] would come to [Cornell] for some period of time, plus the fact that we would oversee the educational system in Hong Kong with City University, would enable us to give a six-year bachelor’s of veterinary medicine degree to graduates of City University,” Kotlikoff said.

He said that the plan between City University and Cornell is to create a “center of excellence in animal health” in the region, which in turn would affect all of China, where concerns about food regulation are widespread.

“One of the reasons we’re so interested in this program is that Hong Kong is the perfect bridge to China,” Kotlikoff said. “Hong Kong gets most of its food from China, a country with enormous problems concerning food security and safety, [which] relates to agricultural practices and the state of veterinary education and professionalism [there]. [It is also] academically very much western and all of the education is in English, [meaning] that it’s much easier to create a high-caliber program.”

Kotlikoff said he was pleased with the City University’s decision to prioritize the formation of the veterinary school.

“This is a proposal that really requires the university to place a lot of value in having a veterinary college,” Kotlikoff said. “The [other] top universities in [Hong Kong] have medical schools, [but] they don’t really seem to have a desire for a veterinary college. [But], City University does.”

Kotlikoff said he anticipates that City University will report back to the government of Hong Kong by the end of this calendar year. If the report is favorably received, the veterinary school could start enrolling its first class in 2015, he added.