Vet school delayed, again

Prospective veterinarians will have to wait before they are able to study the science of animals at the University of Calgary.

For the second time in less than a year, the opening of the university’s veterinary medicine program has been delayed, this time until fall 2008.

While the decision follows a consultative visit from members of the American Veterinary Medical Association in June, veterinary medicine dean Dr. Alastair Cribb stressed the change of date is not a result of the visit.

“It wasn’t that we changed our minds because of what they told us,” he said. “It just so happens that our feeling was the same as theirs. We know that there are going to be students who are going to be disappointed, but really it’s the quality of the program that’s the most important thing.”

The veterinary faculty must receive accreditation from the AVMA to become official, but first the university needs to secure funding. In addition to the $46.8 million the provincial government committed toward operating costs, the university initially asked for $16 million dollars to cover the cost of infrastructure.

This cost has now risen more than four times to $80 million, but Cribb is confident the government will pull through.

“We expect to get that funding,” he said. “We need the funding to go through the process and build the buildings. The government has indicated to us that it’s a top priority.”

While a detailed request for additional funding was sent to the advanced education minister in August, Cam Traynor, spokesperson for the minister, was unable to say exactly when or if the funding will be approved.

“The proposal came to us in August and it is now being considered for the 2007 budget,” he said. “We’re working with the university as the program develops, but the project itself is still evolving.”

Construction has already begun, and assuming the additional $64 million comes through in time, the majority of the buildings should be ready by summer 2008, said Cribb.

“Our plan is to open in 2008,” said Cribb. “It is set in stone as far as we’re concerned, but we still have to go through the accreditation process. We have done everything we need to do to meet the accreditation standards, so I see no issue with that.”

The school, which will be the fifth veterinary college in Canada, will initially accept 30 applicants per year. Applicants must be Alberta residents, a decision which is linked to provincial funding.

While the program was originally planned to follow a three-year curriculum, it will now take four years to complete. This change was another recommendation made by the AVMA, but Cribb insists, again, that the faculty was already thinking the same way.

“When we assessed it internally, we decided that having a four-year program would provide the best experience for the students,” he said. “If we felt very strongly that a three-year [program] was superior to a four-year [program], we could have gone ahead with that.”

Application packages will be posted sometime next fall and evaluation of applicants will begin in spring 2008.

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