Land of pomp and study
Home to both the Queen and cutting-edge pop music, the United Kingdom has always mixed tradition with forward thinking. With the origins of Oxford University going back 1,000 years, and with several British universities dating from the 13th to 16th centuries, the excellence of the country's education system has ancient roots.
But this is also where the first television pictures were transmitted, the life-saving properties of penicillin were discovered and the idea of the World Wide Web was born. The quality of research work of UK institutes is exemplified by the fact that Cambridge University has produced more Nobel Laureates than any other in the world.
In the field of business, the Association of MBAs (AMBA) - an organisation that monitors the quality of MBA programmes across the world - reports that a third of the 126 business schools offering courses accredited by the AMBA are located in the UK.
'Students can gain hugely by travelling to the UK for their MBAs,' says Katherine Forestier, senior education consultant with the British Council in Hong Kong. 'They can enjoy a larger variety of courses with different specialisms, build networks with students from across the world, forge valuable links with industry in Europe, and enjoy the cultural experience of studying in the UK, with its historic cities and famed universities.'
According to the British Council, at any one time, about 9,500 international students are studying full-time on MBA programmes at UK universities and business schools, filling approximately 90 per cent of the total available places. In 2010-11, there were 85 Hong Kong students enrolled on UK MBA programmes.
Joe Sze Ching-chung, 27, had been working for three years as a customer relationship manager in Fubon Bank's wealth management unit when he left to take up a place on the one-year MBA programme at Warwick Business School.
Sze is clear about his reasons for leaving bustling Hong Kong to study in the historic geographic heart of England. 'UK master programmes are generally short, intensive and valuable,' he says. '[The Warwick MBA] can give me a fast track to career enhancement.'
Although he was well prepared for living and studying in the UK, Sze did still have to make some adjustments. 'The programme is a little more intensive than I expected, especially in the first two terms. I also expected more assignment-based modules than exam-based ones. Other things have matched my expectations, including syndicate group work, networking and alumni events, and the career service.'
The British Council reports that the costs of the various MBA courses offered in the UK vary greatly, with tuition fees ranging from GBP7,000 (about HK$84,000) to more than GBP30,000.
Most of these full-time programmes last one academic year, although some, such as those offered by Manchester Business School and London Business School, may be longer. They also all tend to follow a standard format, with three distinct stages.
The first consists of a general (or core) programme giving students an introduction to a broad subject area - for example, finance, economics, marketing, human resources or business strategy.
This is followed by electives, allowing students to choose those areas that interest them most. These may be drawn from options such as corporate responsibility, innovation, employment relations or entrepreneurship.
Last is a project or dissertation, usually based on original research, possibly from an in-company project undertaken in conjunction with a work placement.
Sze does have some words of advice for anyone in Hong Kong contemplating pursuing an MBA programme in the UK.
'Think about what overseas experiences you are looking for,' he counsels. 'A one-year programme is very intensive and you may find the rest of your life is a bit overwhelmed by your studies. However, the UK is still the best place for studying because of the high-quality teaching, strong atmosphere and friendly environment.'
Sze says potential applicants should 'try to contact some alumni before their interview, and accept any offers from those willing to share their experience [of studying in the UK]'.
Number of HK students enrolled on MBA programmes in the UK in 2010-11 - out of about 9,500 international full-time MBA students in the UK