The Faculty of Veterinary Science Budapest, is the only veterinary school in Hungary. It is a state institution supervised and financed by the Ministry of Education and Culture and is accredited to issue the diplomas of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.), Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Biology and the postgraduate degree of Philosophiae Doctor (Ph.D.) in veterinary sciences. The Faculty has a fundamental role in teaching in the course of Master of Science (MSc) in biology, too. The Faculty has an uninterrupted teaching record for more than two centuries, making it thus one of the oldest veterinary schools in the world.
Hungary, owing to its plain territories particularly suitable for extensive animal breeding, has always been a large-scale producer and exporter of animals and animal products. From the late middle ages, large herds of cattle and other livestock were driven to the markets of Vienna, Nuremberg, Munich, and the North-Italian municipalities, where Hungarian livestock, particularly horse and cattle, sold well. The several weeks-long migration to the market places was rather trying for both the animals and the accompanying mounted herdsmen who knew where to find pastures with fresh grass and water on the way. They were also experienced warriors capable of defending their valuable goods (and the money on the way back) from the attacks of robbers. This traditional kind of trading lasted until the 16th century, when the expanding Turkish Empire turned the territory of the Hungarian kingdom into a battlefield for the next 150 years.
When the Turks were expelled, a devastated country was left behind. In the late 17th century, Hungary became a condominium with Austria under the Habsburg Emperors. The old commercial routes were revitalized but this time, Hungarian livestock and their warlike herdsmen were needed also for the Imperial Army: meat for supplies, horses and horsemen for making the core of the famous Hungarian light cavalry, the "Hussars". To this end, enlightened sovereigns of the multinational empire found it necessary to develop a basic infrastructure in Hungary, the domain where their meat, corn, good horses and soldiers came from. A part of these developments was the implementation of a countrywide educational system. New universities were opened and, in 1782 Emperor Joseph II decided to establish a school for veterinary medicine in the city Pest (now part of Budapest).
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. Altogether 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 is the Faculty of Veterinary Science of the Szent István University since 1st January, 2000.
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 practicioners 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 race horses 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 of 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 2004.
The Budapest Veterinary Faculty, 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 case load 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.
Comparing the splendid neogothic House of Parliament and the utilitarian buildings of the veterinary campus, one may be surprised to learn that they are the works of the same architect: Imre Steindl. Upon a closer look, however, it turns out that in spite of their utilitarian approach, 19th century builders could not dispense with decorating elements of extremely fine craftsmanship. The proportionate, moderately ornamented buildings make an architectural entity exemplifying university-building of the age. For this reason the Veterinary Campus stands under the protection of the Board of National Heritage.
Amidst large block-houses and busy streets in one of the most densely built districts of the city, the campus garden is an oasis with its old trees, green bushes and colourful flower beds. The garden is surrounded by an iron fence with ornamented supporting columns, 37 of which are capped by cast-iron animal heads. At the entrance stands the statue of the indigenous Hungarian grey cattle, a breed found now only in national parks. The statue is a life-size reproduction of the famous bull "Csatlós," once upon a time the pride of his owner, and a winner of dozens of exhibition medals. This sculpture has become the school's emblem.
All the 19th century buildings were erected in the "red-brick" style typical for schools of that age. Under the eaves, each building was decorated with a strip of renaissance-style ceramic tiles from the Zsolnay manufacture. Unfortunately, World War II and subsequent neglect ruined many of the tiles, so that the decorative strip can be seen in its original form only on some of the buildings. From the same manufacturer, several decorative elements, however, remained intact throughout the campus.
The old central building (now the Central Library) originally contained the Assembly Hall and the Rector's private apartments. At its sides the Anatomy/Pathology and the Physiology Chemistry Blocks form a square with the Clinic of Internal Medicine. This square contains the finest part of the garden. Next to the square, the Phamacology Building, and the Clinic for Surgery are found. The latter was the first building on the campus to receive patients.
Of the old buildings, the Library and the Clinic of Internal Medicine have remained in their original form, while new wings or floors were added to others. Nevertheless, all reconstruction was carried out under the supervision of the Board of National Heritage, thus the uniform style of the old buildings has been preserved. In the place of the former Large Animal clinic a well equipped Small Animal Clinic was opened.
In spite of enlargements and internal modernizations, the old buildings could not accommodate the increasing number of students, staff, and equipment so in 1976, a new complex (architect: László Elekes) was completed on the north-eastern side of the campus. This comprises the Central Administration Building, three clinical and departmental buildings, an Aula Maxima where 500 people can be seated, a gymnasium, the canteen, and workshops. The builders of the modern block did their best to live up to the standard of their 19th century predecessors. For example, the walls of the Aula, the office of the dean and two minor conference rooms are covered with wooden plates, and the canteen-wall is decorated with reliefs. The floor of the entrance hall, the Aula, and the staircase of the central building are covered with red marble from the Danube-bend area, a material used for 1000 years in the region.
In spite of substantial enlargements, the campus cannot accommodate all the departments, many of which were recently organized in response to the rapid advances in veterinary sciences.
The Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases is separated from the campus owing to the fact that its laboratories work with infectious materials.
Another fine old building close to the campus houses the Centre for Zoology and two more Faculty departments.
The most distant external site, the Faculty Field Station is a huge, 1300-hectare area, 30 km from the city. The landscape is typical of the Hungarian plains, the "puszta," so that it immediately acquaints the student with the environment of the local agriculture. Around an old manor house which serves as the central office, the station comprises a reservation of old Hungarian breeds of farm animals, horse stables with a riding school and hippodrome, and the Large Animal Clinic. The clinic is an impressive building designed by Imre Makovecz, a leading figure of contemporary organic architecture.
A few underground stops from the campus, a 300-bed modern dormitory also belongs to the Faculty. (It is available for Hungarian students only.)