US and Taiwan study tours to find role models

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 May, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 May, 2001, 12:00am

The first batch of students in Chinese University of Hong Kong's (CUHK) postgraduate e- commerce programmes will have the chance to get a firsthand look at a host of hi-tech companies in the United States and Taiwan.

Those taking part in an optional study tour will spend one week each in California's Silicon Valley and Taiwan's Hsin Chu Science Park.

'The reason for choosing Silicon Valley is obvious - the companies in that area are leaders in IT development, with a lot of success stories,' said Vincent Lai Siu- king, programme director, Master of Science (MSc) in E-commerce (Business Programme).

'We want to take a look at current developments and see if there are any new trends in the West.'

As for Taiwan, Professor Lai thought it might be a useful role model for the SAR. 'Our students are in the e-commerce field. Some of them are owners of IT companies, and they are interested in going to Taiwan to see what is happening there.'

While Silicon Valley has become a sort of mecca among techies throughout the world, Taiwan - once a technological backwater - has emerged in recent years as a centre of technological innovation, strong in both hardware and software development.

An increasing number of graduates of top US universities have returned to the island to set up businesses. Taiwan now ranks as a force to reckon with in the hi- tech world.

'Silicon Valley might not be entirely applicable to us in Hong Kong. Knowing what they are doing will be relevant, but Taiwan is our next-door neighbour, and has been around for a long time. It has also been quite successful, a leader in Asia in terms of IT,' Professor Lai said.

Chinese University set up two postgraduate e-commerce programmes at the start of the current academic year. Both lead to an MSc. They take from five 13- week trimesters to four years to complete.

Complementary in nature, the two programmes draw staff from the university's Faculty of Business Administration and Faculty of Engineering. There are shared courses, with the possibility that students from both programmes will work together on integrated course projects.

The business programme concentrates on the managerial aspects of e-commerce, while the technologies programme focuses on information and logistics technologies that support Internet businesses.

Armed with technical expertise and managerial skills, graduates of the business programme should be able to apply their knowledge to setting up an e- commerce company or working as an executive for a firm doing IT or e-commerce.

'The engineering programme is more technically oriented,' Professor Lai said. 'If they want to become a technical engineer or focus on IT, this programme would be more appropriate. It really depends on their long- range plans.'

Many of the students in the two programmes are first degree holders working in IT, engineering or management. Some are seasoned professionals with many years of experience, while others are fresh graduates. On average, they have been working for 10 years.

Following an initial combined intake of 50 students, the two programmes are now recruiting for their second batch, and already a change in attitude can be seen among applicants. This year's applicants seem genuinely interested in e-commerce, and are not motivated only by high salaries and stock options, he said.