Vet school delayed

$46M in funding secured

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The provincial government this week announced nearly $50 million in operating funding to start up the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, though the faculty's opening date has been delayed for a full year.

The announcement came two days after the American professor recruited to head the vet school publicly resigned and criticized the project for being fraught with politics and pushing ahead without secure funding. Dr. Peter Eyre, former dean of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine resigned his post as U of C vet school dean and returned to the US. He was unavailable for comment.

"It's really just a coincidence in terms of the resignation of the dean," said Alberta Advanced Education spokesperson Cam Traynor. "Obviously the vet school funding has been talked about for quite awhile."

The $46.8 million will pay operating costs for the school's first four years. The announcement comes on top of $16 million pledged last month for initial start up costs.

"The timeline for getting the vet school up and running isn't just about the dollars," Traynor said.

Traynor mentioned hurdles like attaining accreditation from the American Veterinary Medicine Association and hiring faculty and staff remain even though funding is now secured.

U of C Vice-President External Relations Roman Cooney said the decision to push the original start-date of Sept. 2006 to Sept. 2007 was important in ensuring the success of the school.

"Although I know they are disappointed at not being able to enroll students next year, at the end of the day it was the right thing to do," said Cooney, stressing the decision to delay the project was made for academic reasons.

Cooney agreed challenges remain, but was optimistic the school can make the new 2007 start-date.

"At the best of times it's difficult to get faculty," he said. "So that's going to be a challenge. I think with the funding in place we will be able to move forward much more quickly with the people we need. Part of Dr. Eyre's frustration was that uncertainty."

Currently the search is on for a new dean and faculty to staff the school, said Cooney.

The U of C vet school will be the fifth in the country but is unique in its focus on diseases which spread between animals and humans.