Unique mix of global and local education
HK and mainland institutions team up to offer a joint MBA programme that cultivates internationally competent elite managers with Asia-Pacific expertise
An ideal management professional in today's business world should have knowledge about doing business globally as well as locally. About 2,000 business students will have completed the master of business administration (international), or IMBA course that is jointly offered by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and Fudan University in Shanghai, by next year, equipping them with comprehensive business and financial accounting skills to continue successful management careers in the region.
'By having a joint programme with Fudan, we have roughly half the courses taught by teachers from the University of Hong Kong who have expertise in business strategies in international markets and the other half of the courses are taught by Fudan professors, who have inside knowledge about doing business in China,' said Gary Biddle, dean at HKU's faculty of business and economics.
Set up in 1998, the IMBA was the first joint programme between a Hong Kong and mainland Chinese academic institution, he said.
'Our programme merges the strengths of two of the top universities in the world and is a combination of the best of international and local programmes. We are always introducing innovations and ideas and that keeps our content, format and delivery cutting edge. There is nothing better than research-based teaching informed by deep understanding of cutting edge practices, East and West,' Professor Biddle said.
Professor Biddle, Tao Zhigang, associate dean and IMBA programme director at HKU's faculty of business and economics, Lu Xiongwen, dean of the School of Management at Fudan University, and Sun Yimin, associate dean [MBA and EMBA programmes] also at Fudan University's school of management proudly attended the graduation ceremony on November 18 of the eighth batch of students, predominantly from the mainland, but also Hong Kong.
'In 1998, most of the Asian economies were in recession in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis. But the mainland Chinese economy was booming due to the strong fiscal policy of the central government,' Professor Tao said.
'After 20 years of economic reform initiated in 1978, the Chinese economy was already showing signs of its increasingly important role in the world economy. But there was a lack of professional managers. By teaming up with Fudan University, the University of Hong Kong has been able to fill that void and provide much-needed business education of the highest quality.'
The IMBA is a two-year part-time programme with 16 modules covering business, finance and strategy. Among them is a required course on business ethics.
'The establishment of the joint MBA programme is to cultivate internationally competent elite managers to facilitate economic development in China,' Professor Lu said.
'As part of our curricular arrangement for the programme, the University of Hong Kong faculties concentrate on providing cases and experiences which are mainly focused on the Asia-Pacific region, while the Fudan professors are more dedicated to educating the students about what's happening in the Chinese business market, with the aim of teaching the students about contemporary management philosophies and methods from different perspectives.'
The students taking part in the programme are typically around 30 years old, are in middle management and have seven years of management experience, sometimes in disciplines such as medicine, but often with an engineering background, due to China's production-based economy.
'After a few years, they are keen to have management responsibilities. We also want them to have proper business ethics,' Professor Tao said. 'We bring them to Hong Kong for a week or 10 days to observe business practices. We take them to the ICAC [Independent Commission Against Corruption], and they attend speeches by the Hong Kong police. It is not easy to teach business ethics.'
While establishments such as Harvard University are regarded as the premier academic institutions for a master's in business administration, Professor Tao said he felt this partnership offered a mix of international and regional education that was unique.
'Case studies are very important in business education,' he said. 'Most universities use business cases that are simply available from Harvard Business School, which is the leader in case building and writing. But in Hong Kong we started researching and writing our own case studies about 10 years ago. So with support coming from the community and the University of Hong Kong we have a case centre called the Asia Case Research Centre. These have involved more than 300 case studies involving cases in Asia.
'By using cases in Asia, students know what is really going on in this part of the world. Previously, business schools used the ones from Harvard, but they involve business cases in the United States and Europe, which may not be comparable to situations in China. So this is our strength. We are actually putting a lot of resources behind this research centre.'
Among the case studies used in the course are ones involving the MTR Corporation, the Hong Kong Economic Times, the Hong Kong Jockey Club and Phoenix Television. The centre has also written extensively on problems faced by companies in China, with increasing competition, including Shanghai General Motors, and how the company has had
to change to face diminished market share.
As the reputation of the course had built over the years, more international students had joined the programme, Professor Lu and Dr Sun said.
'As our joint programme has gained a higher reputation, we have had more students coming from the United States, Britain and South Korea, bringing elements of diversity and internationalisation to our programme and helping to create more multicultural communication opportunities,' Dr Sun said.
While the 16 modules were important to create better business managers in China, Dr Sun emphasised the networks that could be created between the students, who learned from the textbooks and videos, and from one another's experiences.
The programme was also the first to get approval from the national Academic Degree Committee of the State Council, of all such joint programmes by universities in China co-operating with academic institutions in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, she said.
Professor Tao said: 'Our students have excellent jobs and responsibilities in the best corporations operating in China. About half of our students and alumni work for multinational corporations. We also have alumni working in the best Chinese firms - often publicly listed. We are proud of their achievements.'