In 1787, after five years of hesitation and court intrigues as to the position of the future institution and who should be its director, a small department was established to teach veterinary medicine at the Medical Faculty of the University of Pest. Since basic veterinary medicine was part of the medical curriculum, Sándor Tolnay, a former medical student and a graduate in veterinary medicine of the new veterinary faculty at the University of Vienna was appointed chair and professor.
The challenge Sándor Tolnay had to face was enormous. All together 25 years had elapsed since the founding of the world’s first veterinary school in Lyon, so there was little experience in university-level veterinary education. In addition, circumstances in the city of Pest were hard. Tolnay had to read lectures in three languages: Latin, German and Hungarian. He had to translate and write basic textbooks, make anatomical preparations, raise money to purchase equipment, and train co-workers. In addition, intrigues never ceased as to the viability of the school. Nevertheless, the enthusiasm and persistence of Tolnay helped the department to survive the critical initial years.
After decades of hard work by Tolnay and his successors, the veterinary department developed into a flourishing school demanding more independence. In 1851 the Veterinary Department was detached from the Medical Faculty as the “Royal Institute for Veterinary Medicine,” the name soon being changed to the “Royal Academy of Veterinary Medicine,” then, in 1899 to the “Royal College of Veterinary Medicine.” The College received the right to issue the diploma of Doctor Medicinae Veterinariae. In 1934, a new University of Technology and Economics was organized in Budapest into which the College was integrated as a Department of Veterinary Medicine. In 1945 it became for a short time a Faculty within the University of Agricultural Sciences, then, in 1952 its College status was reinstituted until 1962, when the school, in recognition of its educational and scientific achievements and conforming to Central European traditions of veterinary education, obtained the status of an autonomous University of Veterinary Science. The institution was the Faculty of Veterinary Science of the Szent István University from 1st January 2000 to 30th June 2016.
In spite of different names and organizational forms, the institution pursued its basic mission to educate veterinarians equally capable to serve both agriculture and public health. Continuous was the strive for academic excellence. In the first hundred years of the school, the professors were preoccupied with local matters such as introducing a fully Hungarian-language curriculum and securing the facilities for an international-standard veterinary education. The second hundred years brought about the emergence of several internationally renowned figures of veterinary science. The world’s first comprehensive textbook of veterinary medicine was written by Hutyra and Marek, professors of the school (then under the name of Royal Veterinary College). This book became basic reading for students and practitioners for the first half of the 20th century. Its numerous updated editions were translated into all major languages which boosted the reputation of the Budapest veterinary school, no matter which name it actually carried. Contributions to science were marked by the discoveries of Marek, Aujeszky, and more recently, Bartha.
Another important element of continuity was the historical campus. After some temporary locations, between 1871-1881 the school moved to its present campus. Buildings erected then are serve veterinary education even today. Modern blocks were added to the historical buildings in the 1970’s.
The profound political and economic changes of the 1990’s also affected veterinary education. As a result of a general privatisation, in Hungary small, medium, and large-sized farms coexist. Veterinarians must be trained to meet all demands, should it be a preventive, herd-health-type practice needed by large farms, or the more medically minded approach towards the animals of small farmers. In the cities, the number of companion animals (mainly dogs and cats) is rapidly increasing. Moreover, a new wealthy stratum can afford to keep valuable animals, e.g. sport or racehorses and exotic pets. In the recent years importance of food hygiene, food safety and veterinary public health received more emphasis in the market economy. To meet all these requirements, the curriculum has been revised in parallel to the necessary reorganization of some departments. Since 1989, in addition to a yearly enrolment of about 100 Hungarian students, international students have been continuously enrolled in the school. A full veterinary program has been instituted and is offered in English with the pre-clinical section also in German. Currently, more than 650 international students from all over the world are studying veterinary medicine in Budapest. Recognizing the growing significance of protecting our living environment, Applied Zoology has been introduced as a new major.
To take our place on the international stage, accreditation was requested from the European Association of Establishments for Veterinary Education (E.A.E.V.E.). The visitation by an expert committee of the above organization took place in 1995 with a positive final outcome. The Committee Report concludes:
“…the University of Veterinary Science, Budapest can claim a proud position among its European counterparts. Its young graduates need not be afraid to compete with their European colleagues with their knowledge and practical skills.”
The accreditation was successfully repeated in 2014.
The University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest, owing to its rich heritage and continued efforts to improve and adapt, has thus developed into a trilingual, internationally acknowledged European educational institution. Its new Mission Statement reflects the increasing social demand that today’s veterinarian should not only care for the health and welfare of animals utilized in any way by us but also should be a learned protector of the living environment.
In 1881, the veterinary campus was situated on the boundary of a city of 300.000 inhabitants. In the three economically booming decades that followed, the population of Budapest increased to over a million, and today is at about two million. The territorial expansion of the city engulfed the campus and the once peripheral site became a central district. The advantages of a central location are utilized in companion animal medicine because a large caseload is available for practice and demonstration at the University Polyclinic and the Small Animal Departments. On the other hand, there is a reduction of farm animal patients, partly due to difficulties in transporting them through metropolitan traffic. Before this unfavourable trend could have affected veterinary education, the first unit of a new Large Animal Clinic was opened in an ideal rural environment of the University Field Station area, 30 km from the city. The historical campus remained the centre with the Office of the Dean, the Basic Science Departments and the Small Animal Clinics, while the new Large Animal Clinic is a centre for farm animal and equine practices. Both sites are equally equipped with up-to-date diagnostic and therapeutic facilities and will provide increased opportunities for teaching, practical training, and research.